Despite the fierce rains and deadly mudslides that have struck California, water officials are concerned about the possibility of a renewed drought. But they caution that is too early to tell. Frank Gehrke, chief of the California Cooperative Snow Surveys Program, measured snowpack levels with a team last week in the bare Phillips Station area of the Sierra Nevadas, about 90 miles east of Sacramento. He didn’t find much
Archive for date: January 11th, 2018
When a rainstorm slammed California’s Russian River watershed in December 2012, water rushed into Lake Mendocino, a reservoir north of San Francisco. The cause? An atmospheric river, a ribbon of moisture-laden air that can ferry water thousands of miles across the sky. When the tempest hit, the state was on the brink of an exceptional drought. But instead of storing the surge the storm brought for the dry days to come, the reservoir’s owner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, let it run downstream.
The recent fires and rains in Southern California have led to mudslides, debris flows and rock falls along the Santa Barbara County coast. At least 17 people have died, dozens of homes have been destroyed and, in the coastal village of Montecito, the water system was severely damaged. With extreme weather becoming the norm in California, Take Two reached out to Stanford University earth science professor, Noah Diffenbaugh, to learn more about the state’s infrastructure and its level of preparedness for natural disasters.
The six engineers and geologists who studied the debacle at Oroville Dam are at the pinnacle of their professions. They were responsible for reviewing the work of others who also were at the top of their fields. Having spent decades analyzing obscure aspects of hydrology and geology, Independent Forensic Team members produced an impressive 584-page report focused on esoteric aspects of the science of dams, written for others versed in such science.
“The people in Western Chula Vista and National City are getting ice age, prehistoric water that is incredibly good,” said Michael Garrod, the engineering manager at the Sweetwater Authority during a tour of the Richard A. Reynolds Groundwater Desalination Facility. “It’s 16,000-year-old water that hasn’t been touched by man’s hands. No pesticides. Nothing in it.”
Over the holidays, I had a chance to get out my crystal ball and look at water issues for the year ahead. Of course, it’s impossible to know exactly what will happen, but here are my predictions about the water-related topics to watch 2018: The return of the water tax proposal. Last summer, an 11th-hour effort emerged in the Legislature to impose – for the first time – a new statewide tax on residential and business water bills. The “water tax” was part of a bill that aims to improve access to safe drinking water for disadvantaged communities.