All things freshwater: news, analysis, humor, reviews, and commentary from Michael E. 'Aquadoc' Campana, hydrogeologist, hydrophilanthropist, Professor of Hydrogeology and Water Resources Management in the Geography Program of the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences (CEOAS) at Oregon State University, Emeritus Professor of Hydrogeology at the University of New Mexico, Past President of the American Water Resources Association and Past Chair of the Scientists & Engineers Division of the National Ground Water Association. He is founder and president of the nonprofit Ann Campana Judge Foundation, an organization involved with WaSH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) in Central America. CYA statement: the opinions expressed herein are solely those of Michael E. Campana and not those of CEOAS, Oregon State University, ACJF, AWRA, NGWA, my spouse Mary Frances, or any other person or organization.
Texas Agriculture Law Blog Don't let the name fool you - there are lots of water issues in agriculture and Tiffany Dowell of Texas A&M University does a fabulous job with this important Internet resource. Give it a read - I do every day!
The Way of Water Oregon State University Geography PhD Student, Jennifer Veilleux, records her fieldwork, research, and thoughts about transboundary water resources development in the Nile River and Mekong River basins. Particular attention is given to Ethiopia's Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam and Laos' Xayaburi Dam projects.
Thirsty in Suburbia Gayle Leonard documents things from the world of water that make us smile: particularly funny, amusing and weird items on bottled water, water towers, water marketing, recycling, the art-water nexus and working.
This Day in Water History Michael J. 'Mike' McGuire, engineer extraordinaire, NAE member, and author of 'The Chlorine Revolution', blogs about historical happenings in the fields of drinking water and wastewater keyed to calendar dates.
WaSH Resources New publications, web sites and multi-media on water, sanitation and hygiene (WaSH).
Water 50/50 From Jay Famiglietti at UC-Irvine. Fifty lectures in fifty weeks: The 2012 Birdsall-Dreiss Distinguished Lectureship. A global lecture tour delivering the message about our changing water cycle, groundwater depletion, and the future of freshwater availability.
Water For The Ages Abby, another PNWer, writes about global water issues with passion and concern.
Watering the Desert Aptly-titled blog by CJ Brooks, a lawyer-hydrologist-geologist from Tucson, AZ.
Watershed Moments: Thoughts from the Hydrosphere From Sarah Boon - rediscovering her writing and editing roots after 13 years, primarily as an environmental scientist. Her writing centres around creative non-fiction, specifically memoir and nature writing. The landscapes of western Canada are her main inspiration.
WaterWired All things fresh water: news, comment, and analysis from hydrogeologist Michael E. Campana, Professor at Oregon State University.
Watery Foundation Tom Swihart, formerly of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, tells all about water management in the Sunshine State.
Western Water Blog The 'mystery blog' about Western USA water issues. What more can I say?
Wisdom in Water, Please... Kate Wilkins-Wells , who manages the Northwest Kansas Groundwater Management District No. 4, provides her wisdom on water issues.
xAnalytical Doug Walker's xAnalytical blog:Turning Data and Information into Knowledge
Q. In your opinion, what are the most important climate-related issues facing Salt Lake City?
The most important issue is water resources. By that I mean supply, quality, quantity, and demand. To give you some context, we — as most water utilities do — plan for our water resources needs for 30 to 50 years into the future. The last big planning that we did as a community was during the 1930s/1940s, when most of our big infrastructure projects were planned and being constructed. Then we did a water supply planning out to the year 2030 about 10 years ago. We’re constantly trying to align our projections of supply and demand.
The biggest role climate change plays for us is that it adds another significant component into the balance of supply and demand. Whether demand is what people put on their yards, or whether it’s manufacturing, or energy needs, or any of those types of water uses, we feel that climate change will affect demand patterns in particular because of the increased rate of evapotranspiration, for instance, in vegetation.
Q. The study you were involved with found that every degree Fahrenheit of warming in the Salt Lake City region could mean a 1.8 to 6.5 percent drop in the annual flow of streams that provide water to the city. What does that mean for Salt Lake City’s water utility?
For us it means a couple of things. First and foremost it means that our working assumption that increasing temperature will reduce the amount of available water supply in our free-flowing streams was validated, at least in the model we used for this study. It also gave us a scale to work with as a possible scale of severity. But we’re also using the results as a springboard for other types of studies or information that we need to refine our decision making. We don’t feel like this study answers all of our questions, but it gives us a really good place to start and say, “Okay, so in a warming climate we can expect the hydrology to change this way.”
This study really just tried to isolate this one variable—stream flows--but there are other important variables. We have variables such as changes in vegetation in our head waters and whether or not that makes us more vulnerable to catastrophic fire, which would affect water quality and water supply. We also have more questions on the demand side because much of water management is really matching the supply to meet the demand (or vice versa). What does an increase in temperature, or a change in weather patterns, or a deepening of drought, or other extreme weather events — especially with climate change — do to the patterns of water demand? And that, to us, is a really compelling question because it may change how we look at water conservation programs, for instance. We may want to adjust those programs to adapt to the changing climate around us.
Q. You said this report answered one specific question. It used NOAA stream flow forecasting models that provide information for Salt Lake City’s current water operations and management. What other climate tools or information do you think would be useful in Salt Lake City’s long-term planning process?
We are still continuing to do studies. We partner with Western Water Assessment frequently as well as different departments at the University of Utah — engineering, areas looking at green infrastructure, planning. We’ve also partnered with Brigham Young University and Utah State University to look at the different components of the watershed I was talking about earlier.
One tool we are excited about is a local dendrochronology (tree ring) study that gives us a sense of the longer-term history of wet and dry periods. Essentially, we’ve been making decisions based on the last 100 years of recorded climate data to plan our water supplies, and that is a great big assumption. If you look at tree-ring records, they tell a much broader story about more intense droughts and how long they lasted. That’s a huge tool for us. In the tree ring record for instance, there’s evidence of an 18-year drought, and we’ve never experienced that in our recorded history. So this is something that we could look into: the deeper historic records of the tree rings and apply them forward assuming that climate change patterns will impact us in that type of extreme event.
Other tools that we’re looking at have to do with models that relate the natural infrastructure to the built infrastructure. In much of our water resource management, we have a diverse set of water resources. The biggest component are these free-flowing streams that were part of the study in Earth Interactions, but we also have water storage [systems], and so each year we try to manage those systems to optimize not only for that year but also for future years.
Q. Does the city plan on making any near-term changes based on climate information or is it being compiled for future implementation?
We’ve already made near-term changes, but those changes are more operational. We haven’t produced a stand-alone climate-adaptation plan, but what we have done is taken the information that we develop with all of these partners — the modeling and the science — and institutionalized it into our current and ongoing operational planning processes.
For instance, we had an extreme rain event over Independence Day last summer and what we noticed during that event was, in our watersheds and our headwaters, the intensity of the rain event brought down an unprecedented amount of sediment from the road cuts that went through the watershed. Basically, we had to bypass that very turbid water from our treatment plants because our plants just can’t process it. Well, that’s getting us thinking about anticipating those events and changing our operations to better handle extreme events like that; or, doing things in the watershed itself to make the watershed and natural infrastructure more resilient to events like that.
Q. Do you have any climate-related advice to other public utilities managers in your region or in other big cities across the U.S.?
Yes, I do. What I’ve noticed — because we talk to a lot of utilities across the West — is that there are larger utilities and smaller utilities, and there’s a varying amount of resources available to them to address an issue as big and complex as climate change.
The first part of my advice is not to get overwhelmed by the complexity of everything that’s happening, and just start your process of understanding your vulnerabilities. Just a first step — start it simply and use your partners. Develop partnerships. I would say we’re a mid-sized utility with some available resources, and what we found is we could never do this on our own. It really took networking with the scientific and academic communities, communicating the practitioners’ needs and the water management needs to the scientists and academics involved, and developing those relationships. It really does take a network to identify where to start and where to keep going in your assessment.
The second piece of advice is you’re never done with this assessment. It just becomes part of your water resource planning process.
So why am I posting this report? I still have a great fondness for New Mexico where I lived almost as long (17 years) as I did in my home state of New York (18 years - excluding four years of college in Virginia). It's a beautiful, if somewhat quirky, place to live.
I was also heavily involved in the early phases of water planning in the Middle Rio Grande region - during the late 1990s. The MRG region - metropolitan Albuquerque for the most part - was one of 16 delineated by the state, each of which was directed to develop a water plan. I liked the idea of a regional, bottom-up approach, which provides a greater measure of acceptance and ownership than a 'one-size-fits-all' plan.
Check out the 'Forward' - yes, that's right, 'Forward', not 'Foreword'. C'mon, folks!
We have prepared this report to document the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission’s 2013 Review of the 2003 State Water Plan. Based on this Review, we con- clude that it is necessary to prepare an update of the 2003 State Water Plan. We anticipate having a full update of the plan by December 2015.
Extreme precipitation variability dominating New Mexico’s semi-arid climate has fueled struggle and conflict over water throughout the State’s history. The weather events of 2013 provide a perfect illustration of these extremes. Yet opportuni- ties exist even within periods of drought and flood to optimize water use, embrace innovation and build a stronger economy.
We will work with our communities, our leaders and our water users to build a healthy economy while strengthening our current water infrastructure, prioritizing goals for water development and management projects and maximizing efficient use of taxpayer dollars spent on water projects.
This document is the first of many steps to update and strengthen the State WaterPlan so that it contributes to a viable and resilient economy.
For someone who's been gone from the Land of Enchantment for almost eight years, I found the report informative. An inveterate New Mexico WaterWonk might think otherwise, but not I.
Interesting note: nowhere could I find the word 'climate' preceding the word 'change'. In fact, the only times I found the former was when it was preceded by 'semi-arid' or followed by 'professionals'.
But there is a drought.
And some really neat pictures.
"Every calculation, based on experience elsewhere, fails in New Mexico." -- former Territorial Governor Lew Wallace, 1878
With the topic of The Future of Water Resources in the United Statesand 18 articles [Note: there are 21, actually] on topics ranging from water law and pricing to floods, drought management and agriculture, and authors such as Gerald Galloway, Debra Knopman, Ben Grumbles and Brenda Bateman, this is already being called one of Water Resources IMPACT's best issues ever.
Smith omitted some other heavy hitters: Denise Fort, Joan B. Rose, Ari Michelsen, G. Tracy Mehan III, Jeff Kightlinger, Eric J. Fitch, Ken Lanfear, et al. Dick Engberg, AWRA's Technical Director, served as Guest Editor.
“Water policy is no longer a luxury for the United States; we cannot continue the theatrical spectacle in which academics and water professionals bemoan our lack of progress to be met by the stony silence of political leaders.” - Denise Fort, 'The Future Is Here: The Nation Can No Longer Avoid Its Water Challenges', from the issue
I found it fascinating, and it got me thinking about various incarnations of the hydrologic cycle.
Here's the abstract:
This paper examines the historical claims made in support of the hydrosocial cycle. In particular, it considers how arguments advancing the hydrosocial cycle make historical claims regarding modernist conceptions of what water is (i.e. H2O) and its fit with society. The paper gives special emphasis to the society/nature dualism and to the notion of agency as key sites of contest in arguments regarding the hydrosocial cycle. It finds that, while several versions of the hydrosocial cycle seek to advance a political ecology more sensitive to non-human actions, these same accounts often do not address the robust account of non-human agency in the historical record. Evidence is presented regarding water’s agency amongst late 19th and early 20th century architects of key water management norms in the United States. This evidence troubles accounts of the hydrosocial cycle that critique the US experience and suggests new directions for rethinking the role of historical and institutional norms in water policy.
The hydrosocial cycle is based on the concept of the hydrologic cycle, but modifies it in important ways. While the hydrologic cycle has the effect of separating water from its social context, the hydrosocial cycle deliberately attends to water’s social and political nature.
Makes sense, right? We hydrologists and engineers are wont to draw hydrologic cycles with stocks and flows of water but no humans or much of anything else (okay, maybe a tree to indicate transpiration). Jeremy indicates this in his introduction:
It is an interesting exercise to have students draw, or at least imagine, the hydrological cycle. The results are usually fairly uniform: arrows linking evaporation, transpiration, groundwater percolation and precipitation amongst oceans, land and freshwater rivers and lakes. Sometimes the odd glacier makes the cut. Often, the cycle proceeds in one, big, circular pattern. And almost without fail, the cycle is devoid of people, cities, other species, or life in general. This shared mental model provides a point of departure for asking whether the hydrological cycle really exists 'out there' as a natural backdrop for human activity: doesn’t water flow otherwise? Isn’t it entangled with biogeochemical processes, other species, and the practices that different societies have developed to support alternate forms of life? If so, how should we conceptualise the multitude of forces acting upon water?
I use Kate's cycle in some of my classes. But after reading Jeremy's paper, I think I'll use it more often, and perhaps add some more 'social' features. I do like Kate's dollar signs and will keep them; to me, they speak volumes.
"The relationship between water and society has come to the forefront of critical inquiry in recent years, attracting significant scholarly and popular interest. As the state hydraulic paradigm gives way to modes of water governance, there is a need to recognize, reflect and represent water’s broader social dimensions." -Jamie Linton and Jessica Budds
Hard to think about water shortages here in western Oregon today - here is a current picture of my yard as the snow is coming down - perhaps as much as 6 inches (15 centimeters) in the mid-Willamette Valley. For us, that amount will shut the place down and make Atlanta seem like Boston when it comes to managing snow. Oregon State University is closed today. I have an inquiry from a reporter to discuss the California drought. I called her back but no return yet; I guess she found someone else. So it's time to move on to the title of this post.
I've gone on (and on...and on...) about the lack of regulation and statewide oversight of California's groundwater (my two most recent posts are 24 November 2013 and 10 September 2013). I focus on the Central Valley because of its subsidence and sustainability issues.
Two recently-adjudicated basins are not shown on the map: the Santa Maria Valley Basin and the San Jacinto Basin. Both of these are in Southern California, where virtually all these basins are except the Scott River basin.
Interesting fact from the publication alluded to above:
Huh? That's what happens when judges and lawyers decide boundaries. Not good, folks, not good at all.
Another interesting fact: no adjudicated basins are in the Central Valley, where irrigators are now turning on the groundwater pumps to supplant meager surface water supplies because of the drought. This is the region where land subsidence has reared its ugly head again, where it has been known for about 75 years.
What this means is that subsidence and unsustainbable pumping will be exacerbated by the drought because irrigators, unregulated and unmanaged by the state, will pump more groundwater. Why? Because they can.
Adjudicated basins? They might not help the Central Valley. What is needed there is valley-wide groundwater management and oversight, with groundwater basin boundaries discerned by hydrogeology, not political or legal considerations.
"Good judgment comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgment." - Unknown
Circle of Blue Circle of Blue uses journalism, scientific research, and conversations from around the world to bring the story of the global freshwater crisis to life. Here you’ll find new water reports, news headlines, and hear from leading scientists.
Drink Water For Life The idea is simple. Drink water or other cheap beverages instead of expensive lattes, sodas, and bottled water for a set period of time. A day, a week, a month, Lent, Ramadan, Passover, or some other holiday period.
eFlowNet Newsletter From the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) this newsletter has lots of information about environmental flows and related issues.
Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable Since 2002, the Sustainable Water Resources Roundtable (SWRR) has brought together federal, state, corporate, non-profit and academic sectors to advance our understanding of the nation’s water resources and to develop tools for their sustainable management.