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California's Water Crisis

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Arwon, Mar 23, 2015.

  1. Crackerbox

    Crackerbox King

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    We're in a historic drought, the kind that doesn't typically happen but every thousand years. The problems though are that much of the USA wasn't intended for agricultural use, but was prarie grass. Those grasses either were created by GOD to be within those ecosystems or Nature evolved those grasses to develop and take hold there.

    As soon as we relocated the populace through Manifest Destiny, then urbanization required regular piping of water from aquifers in order to handle the basic water needs of those citizens but also the incredible amount of water for agriculture.

    California produces something akin to 1/3 of the produce for the USA. There is insufficient water to last more than a year. Scientists have been complaining for nearly four years now. The populations have been on some water restrictions, but not nearly what would be necessary to get past a year more of it.

    If interested, look up the long term effects of the Great Drought. They included diverse things like the effect on water transportation of river barges. As the water levels plummeted, the Army Corps of Engineers has to remove debris such that the bottoms of the river barges can pass. The straits are narrower. The amount of displacement by the weight of the payload means less can be transported.

    Not only very expensive added on cost to food and materials, but it means delays to those materials.

    In addition, the drought has historically caused a rise in coccidioidomycosis. This is a multifactorial disease in which soil erosion is inhaled, causes fungal spores to become permanently lodged in the alveoli, and causes numerous long term health issues. It killed children during the Great Depression Dust Bowl.

    When soil is so dry, then the natural microbes that fix nitrogen are lost. The humus dries up. The soil becomes sterile. Many species die. The long roots of trees can die, and these trees are used for windbreaks. Worse erosion then occurs. What once was fertile becomes terribly lifeless, and it takes an enormous amount of time to create new soil.

    Try looking up the US Drought Monitor if interested in the full state of this drought. If it persists, it means displacing people to the East, and it's not just in California, though they have the worst of it.
     
  2. Wolfbeckett

    Wolfbeckett Jerkin' and nonsense.

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    I'm curious to see how much of an impact the desalination plant that's being built here in Carlsbad will have. Certainly not enough to save the farmers but I wonder how much it will do for residential use, and if it works out, we may start to see a lot more of these go up. It's taken years of regulatory hoop jumping for this one to get going but when things start to get really desperate I bet local municipalities will speed the regulatory process up significantly.
     
  3. Sommerswerd

    Sommerswerd I never yielded

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    Does the water taste salty? Do you have to use water-softening treatment processes in your homes? Does the water have a pleasant NYC/Orlando Florida sulphur/rotten-eggy aroma or is it the normal clean, fresh, chrlorine laden goodness that everyone else gets?

    I shouldn't complain, New England water is known to be among some of the best tasting in the US.:p
     
  4. Crackerbox

    Crackerbox King

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    It's expensive. Talk to Middle Eastern countries who are trying it. One possible solution seems to be graphene. It can be both utilized for desalination and for water purification.

    The amount of water needed for crops is very high, but realize that much water runs off, and much evaporates off. Under current conditions, it's doubtful that the next year will offer much abatement for this. The aquifers are very low. We'd need entirely new ways of growing things. On very small scales, Hugelkulture has been utilized to act as a soil sponge to catch the water and reduce irrigation needs.

    But livestock is an entirely different matter. That requires a ton of water.

    One of the dirty secrets has been that certain intelligence facilities use an enormous amount of water for cooling. In addition, fracking uses an immense amount of water as well.
     
  5. Wolfbeckett

    Wolfbeckett Jerkin' and nonsense.

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    No, it's not salty, that's the whole point of desalination, and no filtering is needed on the consumer end, that's all done at the plant. As to the taste, I can't say, as A.) it doesn't open until later this year and B.) even when it does, I don't live in the area, only work here, and while at work I drink filtered water provided by my company. They say that those who have toured the facility and tried it reported that it tasted like normal water.
     
  6. Crackerbox

    Crackerbox King

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  7. Wolfbeckett

    Wolfbeckett Jerkin' and nonsense.

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    Cracker: The company that's doing it says that the costs have come down dramatically in the last 10 years or so. This particular project is not government funded at all, it is 100% being done by a for-profit company, so clearly they must think it's cost effective enough to be worth doing.
     
  8. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Quad B

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    I've consumed plenty of water produced by (small scale) desalinization plants. It's just water. Whether you desalinate it in a plant or the sun does it for you and drops it on your head it is all the same. Point of fact, having it not drop through dirty air and run down dirty stream beds is probably better.
     
  9. Crackerbox

    Crackerbox King

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    I believe that graphene could significantly help with both desalination and water purification. The later is a big deal worldwide, particularly in African countries. It's not enough to drill a well, local agricultural runoff and fecal matter can contaminate it.

    With desalination, one of the problems is trying to irrigate pretty sterile soil such that crops can grow on it. There's already salt accumulation in these soils without adding the desalinized ocean water, so it may ultimately be pouring money down a hole.

    California has a lot of people living there, so if the drought persists, and without a serious political focus to remedy it, then it will affect all Americans. Not only that, but the inevitable refugee situation should it persist. Try resettling 39 million citizens and countless illegal immigrants.

    There's a long list of California communities that are running out of water, but many are in a very precarious state with water security.
     
  10. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Quad B

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    How exactly does adding desalinized water aggravate the problem of salt accumulation in the soil? Water from a desalinization plant has to meet the same salinity limits as any other water that goes into a public water system.
     
  11. Crackerbox

    Crackerbox King

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    Do you want an education on the high salt content of arid soils? Are you aware that this was a historic way of extracting usable salt? It has nothing to do with the ocean water's salt content. Sigh.

    Moderator Action: This posting style is contributing to what appears to be a multi-thread ongoing dispute between you two. Please stop. It is disrupting multiple threads

    http://www.salinitymanagement.org/Salinity Management Guide/lz/lz_2.html
    http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/crops/00503.html

    These arid soils allowed for the evolution of short shrubs and grasses. Longer irrigation allows new plant species. These draw up the salt from the arid soils and make the problem worse by that irrigation. Those soils were never intended for agricultural usage.
     
  12. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Quad B

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    These soils not being intended for agricultural usage is fine. However, we are talking about soils that are already used for agriculture. There is a clear implication here:

    that using desalinized sea water is somehow different from using water from other sources.

    I think that you are confusing arguments against irrigation in previously not irrigated middle eastern desert (which would use desalinated water) with arguments against desalinization (the topic at hand).

    I'm not asking you to educate me about the soil, I'm asking you to explain why you are implying there is some difference in desalinated water that makes it somehow a contributor to this problem.
     
  13. Crackerbox

    Crackerbox King

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    It has nothing to do with the salt in ocean water, Tim. If you're really interested, study some history of agricultural use of arid soils in America as the pioneers moved west. I have no more interest trying to explain it to you.

    Science is about inquiry and critical thinking. What seems apparent is not the whole answer. The whole point of desalination is to remove salt from the water to make it potable. That is not the only source of salt but the soil itself by irrigating practices where typically insufficient water failed to arise to support agriculture.
    ...
    Let's bring it back to the topic. California cannot ever produce enough water through deslination to supply both the necessary water for drinking and sanitation PLUS agriculture. It's not possible by human engineering.

    If one were to do some simple calculations on the amount of water that hit one roof alone during a rainstorm, you'd see an enormous amount hit, but drained off. To desalinate that much water for livestock and crop needs would be enormous versus just drinking water.

    These kinds of rainwater catchment calculations are done here.
    http://rainwaterharvesting.tamu.edu/calculators/

    If you do that, to estimate how much rainfall would be necessary for say a garden, it's an immense amount that naturally falls. If you looked at the energy requirements alone to produce that vast amount of desalinized water, it's cost-prohibitive.

    Note that because the drought is so severe and has been happening for so long, that new Federal and State laws have been written to restrict rainwater cachement. As such, it's impossible for a farmer to do this to save their farms, or for many folks who garden or have extensive landscaping. They may be only harvesting rainwater, have a shallow wellpoint for agricultural use, and that's illegal in some states.
     
  14. Wolfbeckett

    Wolfbeckett Jerkin' and nonsense.

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    Yes, California's agriculture is going to have to drastically change to growing crops that are more sustainable in our water system. But the estimates I find online only peg CA's agriculture as anywhere fro 2-5 percent of our economy, so I don't think those changes are going to be a disaster by any stretch of the imagination. Making sure we have enough water for home and business use is far more important, the economy will definitely tank if people start leaving the state in droves. We can survive the drastic restructuring or even removal of the agribusiness, we can't survive half the population bailing.
     
  15. Crackerbox

    Crackerbox King

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    2-5 % of the national economy for agriculture, but 1/3 of the agriculture for the entire country. You might want to look at the real statistics for California agriculture, not just looking at a percentage of the total national economy.
    http://www.stuffaboutstates.com/california/agriculture.htm

    Inevitably, the Great Drought that is harming California, then affects all American consumers. It affects all shipping as the drought spread throughout West of the Mississippi River. Only in the last year or so has Texas' drought abated some. The drought is long lasting and not just affecting California, as rainfall has been extremely low West of the Mississippi plus water is shipped from one part to Cali.

    Or look here at the ongoing concern of the USDA.
    http://ers.usda.gov/topics/in-the-news/california-drought-2014-farm-and-food-impacts.aspx
     
  16. Farm Boy

    Farm Boy The trees are actually quite lovely.

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    If you don't relocate and re-source that agriculture before simply saying, "boo, get out of here you bums!" there will be prices to pay. But, if you're pretty well off and can afford luxury foods regularly then I guess I wouldn't worry. It'll mostly hit other people. Depending, the federal government might actually step in if it feels a strategically important resource/industry is threatened. If it will with railroads and airplanes, you better believe it will with food stuffs.
     
  17. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Quad B

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    I never said it did. That was you.

    I just pointed it out because it seemed like you were trying to say that desalinated water was unsuitable for agricultural purposes because of some 'it salts the earth' myth.

    Now that that has been dispatched as irrelevant myth let us move on.
    -------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Can desalinization be done in the quantities needed in California? Simple answer, of course. If you are willing to bear the costs of building and operating a sufficiency of desalinization plants to do the job, the job can be done. The job at hand is actually fairly small, as there is a manageable deficit of supply (note: no one, anywhere, is suggesting California ignore all other sources and supply itself exclusively through desalinization).

    Unfortunately, humans have demonstrated that no matter how much additional water source is provided to California, there will be sufficient migration to California to maintain a constant excess of demand. Ultimately, this isn't a drought problem, it is a California is apparently too attractive problem.
     
  18. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Quad B

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    While California agriculture is only 2-5% of our state economy, it is thirty to forty percent of the food supply to the entire nation. Pointing out that our state economy can take the hit neglects the fact that the rest of the nation would start considering roast Californian as a meal substitute. We would likely all end up being served at McDonald's, so I think the 'just let agriculture die' option needs serious examination.
     
  19. Timsup2nothin

    Timsup2nothin Quad B

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    I took the "our economy" in the referenced quote to refer to the California state economy, not the 'national economy for agriculture'. If you go simply with agriculture revenue California accounts for well over ten percent of the national total. But you are correct that the significant issue is the one third (or more, depending where you look) of the actual food that is the big issue.
     
  20. Crackerbox

    Crackerbox King

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    Wrong, Tim.

    When you irrigate arid soils, the species that normally lived there evolved to live in a low water environment. Then you introduce crops which have a higher water need. They bring up salt from the arid subsoils. Why is that so difficult to understand? It has nothing to do with the desalination process for the ocean water, but it has everything to do with the impossibility of desalinating enough water (it would be too costly) and if it were possible, then likely would result in making the soil higher in salt.

    Persisting in growing crops where Nature never intended for crops to grow, leads to ruining the soil eventually.

    See this which discuss the eventual rise of salinity in arid soils by using agriculture. That soil was never intended for that purpose.
    https://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/pocketk/31/default.asp
    Spoiler :
    Salinity and Agriculture

    High salinity in agricultural fields has been a problem since the beginning of cultivation practices, since the evaporation of irrigated water of poor quality leaves behind salt solutes which accumulate in the soil over time. While irrigation has made it possible to extend agriculture to semi-arid and arid areas of land, and has been partly responsible for the large increases in food production of the last 40 years, it has also resulted in large-scale water lodging and salinity. Land degradation due to increased salinity presently affects about 20 percent of world’s area under irrigation, without taking into account arid areas or deserts, which comprise a quarter of the total land of the planet (1). Most crops are very sensitive to salt, which severely affects yield; increases the severity of other stresses, diseases and pollutants; and can be lethal to the plant. The excessive presence of salt also has a very negative effect on the soil structure, affecting porosity and water retention properties, and can eventually render fields unsuitable for agriculture.

    A more rational and sustainable use of natural resources- land and water- is therefore essential to reverse the degradation of the environment and to ensure sustained productivity. Changes in farming practices, such as the selection of suitable species and varieties for cultivation, and the use of mixed cropping systems to mitigate the accumulation of salt in soils are all needed.
     

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