The American West is in the midst of a serious drought – which compounds the underlying water crisis that stems from overdevelopment, misuse, and political maneuvers carried out long ago. This documentary examines the causes and consequences.
Archive for date: August 4th, 2016
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California’s ambitious $15 billion plan to tunnel below the largest freshwater estuary on the West Coast in hopes of fixing its water woes will “minimize” effects on endangered salmon, state officials said Tuesday — though environmentalists doubt it. The California Department of Water Resources said the controversial project will give officials more flexibility in monitoring and controlling water temperatures in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, and protect juvenile Chinook salmon from river pumping stations. The department released its latest biological assessment of the project, which must be approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Marine Fisheries Service.
California has never been a stranger to environmental justice problems – at one point or another our communities, including farmworkers, families and students have had to fight against the health impacts caused by poisons in pesticides, persistent industrial contaminants produced by refineries, decades of urban oil drilling and toxic battery recycling operating next to their homes and schools, as well as fracking and poor air quality, to name a few..
Water once an abundant necessity is now a scarce and complex commodity. Many efforts have been made to curb excessive water use in the West, but will taking shorter showers and ripping out lawns really make a difference? While recent drought conditions have diminished the once-mighty Colorado River – the source of the vast majority of the West’s water, experts are now wondering whether the most severe shortages have been caused not by weather or consumer choices but by short-sighted policies and poor planning. Did we engineer our way into this crisis? Can we engineer our way out?
A cellphone video that has been seen more than 5 million times after KCRA 3 shared it on Facebook Tuesday. It shows a mother bear and her two cubs swimming at Pope Beach in Lake Tahoe, near Camp Richardson. It’s not every day you see a family of bears playing in a public lake — unless you’re a biologist. “At Lake Tahoe, we get bears down at the lake frequently,” said Jason Holley, a supervising wildlife biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
California’s drought is taking its toll on wildlife. Years of sub-par precipitation have cut the amount of water available for wildlife refuges that supply critical habitat and food for waterfowl and other migratory birds. Reduced river flows are pushing endangered fish species to the brink. Riparian forests have also been impacted by the drought, as well as by groundwater over-pumping. As well as the drought, increased development, population growth, pollution and other pressures have almost eliminated most of the vital riparian and wetland habitat that a number of endangered species need to survive.
Last week, University of California Davis Professor Geoff Schladow broke the news gently before a crowd of residents and scientists that Lake Tahoe is still getting warmer, regional winters are still getting shorter, and overall snowfall is still on the decline. “Hopefully you’re not like me where you’ve been investing in skis each year,” said Schladow. The news — highlighted by the fact that 2015 was the warmest year yet for Lake Tahoe — came with the release last week of the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center’s 10th annual “Tahoe: State of the Lake Report.”
Researchers have uncovered previously hidden sources of ocean pollution along more than 20 percent of America’s coastlines. The study, published online Aug. 4 in the journal Science, offers the first-ever map of underground drainage systems that connect fresh groundwater and seawater, and also pinpoints sites where drinking water is most vulnerable to saltwater intrusion now and in the future. Audrey Sawyer, assistant professor of earth sciences at The Ohio State University and leader of the study, said that while scientists have long known that freshwater and seawater mix unseen below ground, until now they hadn’t been able to pinpoint exactly where it was happening, or how much.
Understanding California’s balance sheet for water—how much there is, who has claims to it, and what is actually being “spent”—is key to effective and sustainable water management, especially during droughts. But the state’s system of accounting is outdated and ineffective for managing some of our biggest water challenges, according to new research from the PPIC Water Policy Center. A group of water management experts gathered to discuss the topic at a PPIC event last week. These weaknesses make it harder to manage groundwater, water for the environment, surface water allocations, and water trading, he said.
It doesn’t take a whole lot of common sense to understand that the proposed desalination project in Huntington Beach is going to harm the environment. The marine life that inhabits the marshland by the smoke stacks along PCH will be impacted by the construction of the plant, causing hundreds, if not thousands, of habitats to be destroyed. Aquatic life will experience the harmful effects of the plant once the facility is operating and sucking water out of the ocean, killing plankton and other crucial microscopic life.