Drought Amid Plenty

12 thoughts on “Drought Amid Plenty”

  1. Yep. The distance LA tap water travels is crazy. With the exception of Marin County (https://ww2.kqed.org/science/2014/02/28/bay-area-do-you-know-where-your-water-comes-from/) The Bay Area is not much better.

    A SHTF-minded Californian Kunstler-ite might look towards Sacramento though. There’s a 1/2 mile wide year round river. Right downtown! And miles of productive farmland just outside city limits. Well, before it’s swamped by armed hordes driving Priuses (Prii?) from the Southland during CA Water Wars, 2050 edition. Let the games begin.

    1. I don’t see a Zombie Apocalypse. Instead people will migrate away one U-Haul at a time over forty years in the same way that Cleveland and Detroit contracted piecemeal for decades.

      1. On the other hand, what uses more energy – getting water to LA or heating/feeding Chicago during the long winters? Every area has different challenges. Humans have been dealing with arid conditions since prehistory yet Northern Europe languished for ages..

        1. You sound like Grady Gammage https://granolashotgun.com/2016/04/16/sustainable-phoenix/comment-page-1/

          I agree with you. Different places have different challenges. The problem is that everyplace around the world currently compensates for its unique deficiencies by leaning on the same pair of crutches – cheap abundant energy and easy credit. The future isn’t going to be able to supply those things as freely as the recent past would suggest. Sooner or later we’re all going to have to adapt to a new set of arrangements where the strengths of our particular region are optimized and the effects of local shortfalls are confronted for real. As a society we’re not ready to have that conversation yet. But external reality will persuade us all to adapt over time – one way or another. Could five million people live in Greater Phoenix without constant supplies of fuel, food, and water? Maybe. But it wouldn’t look like the Phoenix we know today. Could Chicago keep itself warm all winter on local sources of energy? Well, there are all those aging Midwestern nuclear power stations that could be held together with duct tape and dental floss for a few more decades. What could possibly go wrong?

  2. In many cities, the streets are much wider than they need to be. This is where rain gardens and bioswales could be built to retain water. If they are designed in a low-cost, low-maintenance way, then these features would reduce the infrastructure liabilities for the city, with less asphalt and less street-surface to maintain. Furthermore, rain gardens reduce the amount of pollution going into streams and rivers, while alleviating the strain on municipal sewer systems.

    With regard to walkability and urban stormwater retention, it seems that there are often spaces that are striped or paved that may be greened. For instance, in the area between bike lanes and vehicle lanes, or on the edges of bump-outs.

    1. 320,000 acres of Jiffy Lube parking lots is a huge amount of pavement. I’m all in favor of rain water swales, but you need to be realistic about how much help that kind of Band-Aid on a tumor is likely to provide.

  3. Part of the plan to fix the LA River is allowing it to catch more water and store under ground. Also, there are large spreading grounds along the San Gabriel River. Additionally, enhancements to the Tujunga spreading grounds were recently completed.

    New LA County rules require storm water retention on site.

    “Low Impact Development, or LID, is a design strategy using naturalistic, on-site Best Management Practices to lessen the impacts of development on stormwater quality and quantity. The goal of LID is to mimic the undeveloped runoff conditions of the development site with the post-development conditions. In 2014 the County of Los Angeles revised LID requirements for development occurring within unincorporated portions of the County.”

    All is not lost!

    1. I’m not a huge fan of on-site storm water retention for new development. It basically mandates large lots and/or adjacent ponds that minimize the amount of actual building that can occur and forces buildings to be spaced out far from each other. On-site water management enforces a dispersed auto-oriented suburban land use pattern. This is just another set of regulations that’s being layered on top of the minimum parking regs, height limitations, and blah, blah, blah that make good walkable urbanism illegal.

      Traditional towns were built over many centuries and worked out all the kinks by trial and error. All over the world the same solutions emerged from Italy to China. Tightly packed slender buildings were constructed on high ground surrounded by productive farm land and nature. The towns were compact enough that they didn’t impact the hydrology much. LA has already sprawled so it has to manage with the crap it’s got.

      1. “I’m not a huge fan of on-site storm water retention for new development. It basically mandates large lots and/or adjacent ponds that minimize the amount of actual building that can occur and forces buildings to be spaced out far from each other. On-site water management enforces a dispersed auto-oriented suburban land use pattern.”

        Not necessarily. Green roofs, underground water storage, etc. doesn’t require unbuilt land. I think the best solution would be grey water reuse on site, which would reduce their water demand and reduce the need for the stormwater infrastructure.

  4. The city averages 15 inches a year. But not in the last few years! The nature of averages is to be below averages half the time. This is not Lake Wobegon, where the rainfall is above average every year so the lake doesn’t dry up.

    1. You are correct. “On average” the rains will be greater in some years and lesser in others. If water is captured and stored in the aquifer under the city as well as surface reservoirs and such the surplus from one year could be tapped in future dry years.

      Keep in mind, the dry years also limit water availability from external sources like snow pack in the Sierra Nevada or the flow of the Colorado River. At this point there’s no choice but to build more storage capacity in distant locations and buckle down for more fights over who gets how much.

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