Western USA Drought

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cmonkey
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Western USA Drought

Post by cmonkey »

I am wondering if there is anyone on here that is living in the middle of the drought on in California/Nevada region? I have been watching Lake Mead levels for about a year now and use it as personal indicator of how things are fairing out there.

To sum up, it looks pretty bad. - http://lakemead.water-data.com/

We just got done with the "wet" season which is when Lake Mead usually rises. It didn't rise very much this year.

If you look at the past 3 years we are about the enter the time when water levels drop precipitously.

http://graphs.water-data.com/lakemead/


I did some rough calcs and based on an average decline rate of between 20-25 feet per dry cycle from the peak of the wet cycle, Lake Mead should drop to around 1065 feet or so.

Based on outlet pipe levels of 1050 and 1000 feet, if decline rates hold steady going forward, pipe 1 will go dry next year and the second pipe in 2018-2019 timeframe.

http://chanceofrain.com/wp-content/uplo ... 001fD.jpeg


Oh but of course they are building a third pipeline at ~875 feet. The only problem is that this project was started in 2008 and is expected to finish by the end of this year. 8 years to build.


Even with all that effort, Lake Mead supply will be cut by at least half when the second pipe goes dry. It really astounds me the lack of long-term thinking and the efforts to preserve the status quo that are being taken here.


Anyone living in the Lake Mead water shed? How's it affecting you?

Chris
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by Chris »

I don't live out there, but there was a recent EconTalk podcast regarding water management in the western US and elsewhere. I found it to be enlightening.

theanimal
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by theanimal »

I don't live there either but it's of great interest to me as well. This article is pretty interesting.

http://www.hcn.org/articles/is-las-vega ... ill-go-dry

Is the pipe at 875 feet the same pipe that the Southern Nevada Water Authority is building that's discussed in the article?

jacob
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by jacob »

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperie ... us-plains/

Last time dust bowl conditions existed in the US (1930s), it caused mass emigration from the plains. A lot left for California.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dust_Bowl#U.S.

Given the severity of the predictions (after all the dust bowl only lasted 8 years), we could be looking at a reverse migration at some point in this century.

DSKla
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by DSKla »

I'm living in CA, though not on a reservoir. It's looking pretty bad. I am considering my exit strategy. Hopefully I can scoot out before the mass exodus.

The unfortunate part is I just found ERE around the new year and have no money, though I did manage to dig out of debt. So I'm starting at zero--no money to move, no job prospects out of state. It's still better than if I hadn't made the turn and were doing this with debt and larger living expenses, though.

cmonkey
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by cmonkey »

theanimal wrote: Is the pipe at 875 feet the same pipe that the Southern Nevada Water Authority is building that's discussed in the article?
Yes it is. I was wrong about the level though, it is actually 860 feet.

Nearly 900 million dollars and 8 years of work for a lifeline that will just continue draining the Colorado. :o

This article has some photos, they are quite impressive and show the level of effort that has gone into this project.

http://www.popsci.com/article/science/l ... -lake-mead

theanimal
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by theanimal »

For anyone interested in learning more about the background history of private/public water development out west and how they got themselves in the water predicament they're in today, I highly recommend checking out Cadillac Desert.

http://www.amazon.com/Cadillac-Desert-A ... 0140178244

cmonkey
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by cmonkey »

Mandatory water restrictions in California

http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-m ... tml#page=1

It's gonna be an interesting year.

jacob
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by jacob »

An interesting century.

Given that El Nino was declared in 12/2014 (which would help 2015 set another global heat record, like 1998), they might get some relief next year.

daBenjaminW
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by daBenjaminW »

I worked for the National Park Service for a few years and was involved in the new intake at Lake Mead. Living in that area, the most amazing part to me was the general lack of discussion related to falling lake levels. Nobody really seemed to take issue with the strategy, everyone just wanted to figure out how to build an intake structure below the existing intakes while waiting for an impending wet cycle (??) to refill the lake.

It sort of reminds me of my general thoughts on deficit spending in the U.S. Surely if we keep down our current path the environment we exist in will change in our favor (be it banking on rain or a stronger economy/more tax revenue).

I now live in a part of California where our significant water resources are exported to the southern part of the state. Grass is all dead and trees are dying...unless you go over to a wealthier suburb.

jacob
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by jacob »

@dBW - This kind of thinking is pervasive in practically all institutions. It's a kind of past-oriented third-party techno-optimism. "They will think of some technology; because so far so good". It's fundamentally extrapolating the near-past experience (for lack of further study/thinking) into the far-future. If I had to blame an MBTI personality type, I'd blame the SJ-type. It works all the way until it suddenly doesn't.

Expect society/most humans to operate on the "future = recent past trend" to dominate social behavior because SJs run our institutions (capitalism and democracy). IOW, uninformed trends persist at all levels. Form your strategy based on this.

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Jean
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by Jean »

I went on the official california drought website, and one of the drougth fighting tip was "don't water your lawn more than necessary".
Selbershuld.

jacob
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by jacob »

http://www.amazon.com/Water-Knife-novel ... 385352875/

Grapes of Wrath for the 21st century. Very dark.

George the original one
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by George the original one »

Until further notice, Oregon and Washington have restricted fishing hours in streams & rivers. Salmon, trout, steelhead, & sturgeon fishing are off-limits after 2pm.

Essentially this temporary rule protects fish accidentally hooked from being killed by heat exhaustion. In practice, this will have little effect as fish usually aren't biting when the water is too warm.

Dragline
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by Dragline »

If I lived in the Southwest, I'd be looking for someplace else to live, long term, and would avoid actually owning any property.

As alluded to in some of the links above, the history of water distribution in the area is that some places are intentionally water-starved so that others can have more water. This is nothing new. When they start separating the winners and the losers again this time, its going to get ugly because the population is much larger. Expect lots of that Silicon Valley and other California cash to be heavily invested in keeping certain places watered to the expense of others. If you don't have lots of cash, you probably will be on the short end of this stick.

anomie
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by anomie »

Are Arizona and New Mexico included in this Western US drought situation?

Thank you. (They are on my to-visit, maybe retire to wish list..)

jacob
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by jacob »

California is the front line. Nevada and Arizona comprise the second line. Eventually (some time between 2050 and 2100), the area between and including California and the Central Great Plain states will more likely than not be fully enveloped in a megadrought (given business as usual; continuing the current emission trend lines).

Another problem is water from elsewhere. Anything touched by the Colorado River basin ... and possibly other rivers are governed by an intricate mish-mash of legacy water rights from a wetter time with fewer people giving a lot of senior rights to farmers. Of course now there are way more people and less water, so that will have to be ... "worked out" somehow. It's possible that junior right holders won't be satisfied with the suggestion to "just eat cake".

Third problem is that aquifers are being mined in an unsustainable manner as a temporary band-aid for the failure to solve the other two problems (population pressure and climate change) allowing politicians and utility companies to kick the can down the road for now.

TL;DR - Yes, definitely, but not yet to the same degree as California.

anomie
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by anomie »

Thanks for the reply, Jacob.

One of the short videos at the top of this Weather.com link (an interesting, if ad-driven, series of topical videos on the western drought) mentions the chance of megadrought as well.

http://www.weather.com/climate-weather/ ... ght-states

New Mexico and Arizona are on this list.

Guess I will have to factor water shortage into my future retirement plans... :(

Riggerjack
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by Riggerjack »

WA DOE has put well drilling moratoriums in place in rural stretches of western WA. They do this by watershed, so, no drilling in Kackman creek watershed, etc. Most of the area along HWY 9 north of HWY 2 is under these moratoriums. The "drought" has been used as part of the justification for this. Of course, here, 40 inches of annual rain is drought. Or not enough snowpack. Or the river is low... we've been in drought my full adult life.

Their reasoning is that creeks need a certain volume of water for salmon, so if we stop the increase in ground water removal, we will have more salmon. If we assume every residence uses 350 gallons a day, we can calculate how much lower the stream is by counting houses.

The reality is these are places with no central sewage processing, so all the water used that isn't for irrigation, or washing cars, etc is returned to the ground near the place it was removed. Even the majority of the irrigation/wash water is returned to the ground. We are in a cool enough climate that evaporation isn't a serious concern, most of the time.

This is bureaucratic practice runs for politicizing water rights. There are factions in Western WA who will use any excuse to stop people from living further out on their rural land. There are factions interested in environmental protection, who believe you should live in your urban condo and shut up. There are factions who want to get a bigger slice of the salmon restoration pie. And they all consider DOE a fine tool for achieving those goals.

Mind you, once you have your land, and your well, you aren't likely to care what DOE does at all.

jacob
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Re: Western USA Drought

Post by jacob »

@Riggerjack - For the next hundred years, you guys up north are only going to be inconvenienced by the lack of snow spacing out the stream flows during the summer. (It's not how much that's the problem ... it's when). A few dams here and there may solve it. If the drought makes it up there, we're all screwed.

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