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Notice to the Southwestern United States: the drought may worsen and last much longer than anticipated.

A new study by the University of Arizona, Cornell University, and the U.S. Geological Survey is disquieting. The researchers looked at the deep historical record, such as tree rings and the latest climate-change models to estimate the likelihood of major droughts in the Southwest over the next century.

"The results are as soothing as a thick wool sweater on a mid-summer desert hike," says the publication Mother Jones.

The odds of a decade-long drought are at least 80 percent, say the researchers. Worse: the chances of a mega-drought, or one lasting 35 or more years, are between 20 percent and 50 percent. The prospects of a 50-year mega-drought — one worse than anything in the past 2000 years — are 5 percent to 10 percent. Among cities most likely affected are San Diego, Phoenix, Tucson, and Albuquerque.

The Mother Jones article also cites an early-August study of the Colorado River by the University of California-Irvine and NASA researchers. Conclusion: 40 million people, especially from San Diego, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Phoenix, and Tucson, rely on the river's water.

Over the past decade, the region's aquifers have undergone a much larger than expected drawdown. There is little prospect that these aquifers will refill anytime soon, according to the study.

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ImJustABill Sept. 3, 2014 @ 9:56 p.m.

There has been recent legislation to regulate groundwater usage. http://www.sacbee.com/2014/08/29/6665672/historic-california-groundwater.html So at least the CA government is starting to at least do something to address water usage. Probably too little, too late IMO. But at least it's a start.

Maybe we should all do our rain dance.

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2014 @ 5:58 a.m.

ImJustABill: Much more can be done. A moratorium or at least a sharp cutback on residential development is necessary. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill Sept. 4, 2014 @ 7 a.m.

80% of the water in CA is used by agriculture. Maybe that number is a bit lower during a drought but I'm sure the number still pretty high. Agriculture should be at least a major focus - if not the main focus of water legislation. I would say that a serious debate and some significant changes to the water use of the agricultural industry is what is necessary.

I think the CA legislature needs to look at what laws will strongly encourage or outright require the agriculture industry to use less water. I think we also need a serious debate about what the purpose of the agriculture industry in CA is. If it's only for economic purposes I really question whether the benefits of agriculture outweigh the costs to the state. Economically agriculture is not really that big an industry - only 2% of state GDP http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_.... I'm not sure that justifies using 80% of the water.

I understand there could be national security implications to modifying our ability to produce food. However, if the agriculture industry is important for national security then I think that the federal government ought to be picking up more of the tab for our water.

Curbing residential development and urging water conservation for residents are good ideas and should be done but really have limited impact as residential use is only 20% of the total state water use.

Of course we should also be looking into desalination and additional reservoirs.

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2014 @ 1:57 p.m.

ImJustABill: Economists have been saying that for decades: too much water goes for agriculture. But agriculture is the gift that keeps giving. California is a very important agricultural state. I don't see the advantage of turning excellent farmland into residential developments. If it is left farmland, it is producing every year. If you build a house on it, the government gets some tax revenue, but it has to spend a lot, too, because of the increased population. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Sept. 4, 2014 @ 4:54 a.m.

ImJustABill and Don, posts and comments like yours prove daily that we must produce a much better way to inform and motivate people to take actions on increasingly out of control threats against an acceptable long-term quality of life for our newest generations.

Politicians, intellectuals and institutional leaders, in America and around the world, have failed to meet the challenges of change we are experiencing today and we must find a better way now.

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2014 @ 6 a.m.

Anon92107. But we have a big water main break that affects hospitals and the news is buried while the corporate welfare crowd touts a subsidized football stadium and convention center expansion, despite the massive glut in convention space. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Sept. 4, 2014 @ 11:42 a.m.

Don, that's why I keep nominating you and Michael Bloomberg to "produce a much better way to inform and motivate people to take actions on increasingly out of control threats" because you already are two of the best communicators in the world.

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2014 @ 2:12 p.m.

Anon92107. Now that he is no longer mayor of New York, Bloomberg is going back to his old company, named Bloomberg, as chief executive. Best, Don Bauder

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Anon92107 Sept. 4, 2014 @ 3:29 p.m.

Don, Bloomberg wanted to fight global warming after Hurricane Sandy hit NYC but, like Gore, seems to have lost his momentum when No One Really Seems to Care enough to fight against the oil money power of Koch Bros.

We desperately need leaders with the integrity to protect long-term quality of life, but even democrats will sell out their integrity to get re-elected.

Sadly, democrats will also stab each other, and their own president in the back like Feinstein just did, it must be remembered that she climbed on the Bush-Cheney-Iraq bandwagon in 2002.

There seems to be no solution to global warming as long as there are no communicators who can inform and motivate people to fight back in spite of our political parties. Bloomberg could do this with his BusinessWeek magazine, but it remains to be seen what his objectives are today.

Hell, it still seems that far too many San Diegans refuse to give up their lawns for the sake to saving water to drink so why should politicians care?

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2014 @ 4:22 p.m.

Anon92107: One surefire motivator to get San Diegans to go to desertscaping is higher and higher water bills. Those higher bills do some talking. Best, Don Bauder

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anniej Sept. 4, 2014 @ 8:16 a.m.

Why are we able to pipe in oil from Alaska yet can't pipe in water from areas that have an abundance?

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2014 @ 2 p.m.

anniej: The problem is that oil that would be piped in from Canada will interfere with our most valuable water aquifer. I agree that water should be piped across the country. Building those pipelines would involve some tangly legal fracases, though. Best, Don Bauder

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danfogel Sept. 4, 2014 @ 7:57 p.m.

anniej, It cost around $10 billion, in 1970's dollars, to build the 800 mile TransAlaska Pipeline. That's about $45 billion in today's dollars. It's a 48" pipe that is supposed to be able to handle 2 millions bbls per day. That's about 84 million gallons or about 250 acre fee. That's less than 100k acre feet per year. That's a drop in the bucket. You can't supply enough water in a pipeline, you need a canal. The Central Arizona project does that in Arizona. It's 330 miles long, cost $4 billion, in 1970's dollars, and at full capacity, could deliver approximately 2.2 million acre feet per year, more than 25 times the capacity of the pipeline. So here are the questions to ask. First, where is that abundance of water going to come from, what part of the country has has extra water to ship across the country, on consistent and pretty much perpetual basis. Second,How long do you think it would take? A 48" pipeline, 800 miles long, took three years. The CAP took 20 yrs to go 330 miles. Third, How much are you willing to pay. The CAP cost over $12 million PER MILE when it was built. How much would it cost now? Finally and most importantly, who is going to pay for it. And those are just the basics. There are so many other things involved that could, or probably would, keep this from ever even getting on the drawing board. We need to look for better alternatives that a "canal to nowhere".

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2014 @ 8:13 p.m.

danfogel: You ask pertinent questions, and here is another one. Suppose we found the ideal Eastern state willing to sell the Southwest its excess water. But would Congress vote the money to save the Southwest? Remember that there were politicians who refused to vote for money to help save New York and New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. Best, Don Bauder

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danfogel Sept. 5, 2014 @ 11:35 a.m.

Don BAuder, It always boils down to money; how much and who pays for it. Try this. Take a look at a map of the US and draw an imaginary line from that ideal Eastern state willing to sell the Southwest its excess water to California. How many states, counties, cities, townships etc, etc, etc, does that line go thru. Each and every one will want their piece of the pie. Maybe it will be water, maybe it will be money for access. Who knows. But every foot that such a canal or aqueduct would cross is owned by someone, and as my grandaddy used to say, you ain't gonna get nuthin' worth havin' for free. And that doesn't even include the arguments in that state over who the water really belongs to. I commented in an earlier thread that there are something like 9 states in the Mississippi watershed. Imagine if Minnesota wanted to start taking water from the Mississippi and selling it to another state, OH MY GOD can you even imagine the legal battles. Look don't get me wrong. California needs either more water, less consumption or less people consuming it. But I don't think bringing in water via canal from either the Mississippi or points east is the answer. First, the will NEVER be $150-200BILLION, at least, to pay for it. And secondly, can we afford the 15-20 maybe even 30 yrs it would take. We need it sooner than that. It's like saying I need some lumber to fix my roof, so I'm gonna plant this tree and wait for it to grow. What about in the mean time.

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Don Bauder Sept. 5, 2014 @ 12:41 p.m.

danfogel: I can't argue with your points. The political snarls about water now are almost impossible to untangle. Think what it will be like as the Southwest is parching in a long drought. Everybody else will have more reason to demand more from the endangered areas. Best, Don Bauder

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CaptD Sept. 5, 2014 @ 9:24 a.m.

danfogel - What about putting a cover over all our canals to reduce evaporation loses and also mount solar panels on them to generate energy. The money generated over their 35+ year life span could then be used to reduce our Water prices and/or develop new additional desalinization.

I still believe that unless we vote to put a moratorium on new construction, the Big Money will never encourage the elected officials that they donate to, to pass the needed legislation because of the BIG Water lobby.

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danfogel Sept. 5, 2014 @ 11:17 a.m.

captd/founder. In terms of cost vs recovery, the loss thru evaporation in lined canals is negligible. Studies have put it at 5% or less. The rate of evap in the CAP is 4.4%. Before construction and again during, feasibility studies were done on covering the canal to reduce evap. It was determined that covering the canal would quadruple the construction cost. But there is also another problem, routine maintenance, inspections and repairs become exponentially more difficult and thereby more expensive, prohibitively so. Here is a good article on evap.: http://www.circleofblue.org/waternews/2013/world/report-evaporation-from-california-irrigation-adds-enough-water-to-colorado-river-to-supply-3-million-people/
As for solar, it's cost and cost vs benefit. Here are some articles will give you a good idea, IF you can look at them objectively, that is. http://www.kcet.org/news/rewire/solar/photovoltaic-pv/could-californias-canals-create-clean-energy.html
http://green.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/could-the-california-aqueduct-turn-into-a-solar-farm/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0
http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/20/business/energy-environment/20float.html?pagewanted=2
There was a project in India a couple of yrs ago. I believe that it was at a cost of $3 million per Mw, with .5Mw of capacity per mile. But because of where these canals are, and there small size, there are very little infrastructure costs, which, depending on location of the canal, could range from very expensive to exorbitant. The Idea of covering the canals and aqueducts in Southern Cal has been around for a long time and I can remember hearing of ideas or suggestions for solar over the canals and aqueducts before my wife and I moved to the PNW, so at least 10 yrs. Seems to me that if it were feasible, something would at least be in the works.

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Don Bauder Sept. 5, 2014 @ 11:40 a.m.

danfogel: Yours is a well-researched reply. However, I have to point out one assumption that is grossly in error: You say the idea for covered canals, possibly with solar over them, has been around at least ten years, and if it were feasible, "something would at least be in the works."

Wrong! Wrong! Feasible ideas are shoved to the rear of the bus in San Diego. Ridiculous ideas, such as a convention center expansion and a highly-subsidized stadium for the Chargers, go to the head of the line. Such white elephants are what the corporate welfare crowd wants, and this crowd runs San Diego, including the current mayor. Best, Don Bauder

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danfogel Sept. 5, 2014 @ 12:51 p.m.

don bauder you are talking about San Diego, I am talking about the real world, of which San Diego does not appear to be a part. And in any case, the California Aqueduct, the subject of the articles I provided links to, is under jurisdiction of the State of California. As far as I am aware, there are no relevant aqueducts or canals over which the San Diego County Water Authority has control or jurisdiction.

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Don Bauder Sept. 5, 2014 @ 1:18 p.m.

danfogel: You have stumped me on that question -- whether San Diego has control over aqueducts or canals. But as I recall, CaptD was not necessarily talking about San Diego when he talked about the solution of covered canals tied in with solar energy. I tossed in San Diego, and hence, if anybody is to be blamed, it is I. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill Sept. 6, 2014 @ 7:36 a.m.

danfogel you are talking about the state of California. In the state of CA rather than investing in infrastructure improvements to address water needs we are wasting $60B+ (and growing) on a high speed rail system which will allow travelers to get from LA to SF in about 3 hrs (and growing) for about the same price as an airline ticket

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Don Bauder Sept. 6, 2014 @ 8:20 a.m.

ImJustABill: A lot of people think that is a boondoggle. I agree that this money should be spent on water infrastructure. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 5, 2014 @ 11:32 a.m.

CaptD: That is a good question for danfogel, who is certainly well-informed. It sounds like a good idea to me. But it would be expensive. It is clear that San Diego and other Southwestern cities are going to have to spend a bundle on water -- and other infrastructure, too.

San Diego's mayor, Kevin Faulconer, has openly declared he wants to see a convention center expansion and subsidized Chargers stadium, despite a billion-dollar-plus infrastructure deficit and inadequate police, fire, and library services.

Nero fiddled while Rome.... But you know the rest of that. Best, Don Bauder

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danfogel Sept. 5, 2014 @ 12:56 p.m.

don bauder, unfortunately, since the violin would not be invented for another 1500 yrs, Nero could not have fiddled while Rome was burning. It's most likely that he was playing a lyre.

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Don Bauder Sept. 5, 2014 @ 1:28 p.m.

danfogel: Yes, but the verb "fiddled" does not necessarily imply that Nero was playing the fiddle. He was fiddling, as in paying scant attention to the important matters as things crumbled around him. Besides, I didn't come up with the saying. It must be several hundred years old. Further, couldn't one who was doing nothing when he should have been saving his empire be, metaphorically, fiddling on his lyre?

Incidentally, there is an interesting story in the current National Geographic saying Nero was a pretty good leader and was mistreated by history. I had read that before. Best, Don Bauder

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danfogel Sept. 5, 2014 @ 1:55 p.m.

don bauder it's called humorous sarcasm, or at least attempted humorous sarcasm. I'll try harder next time, or at least pretend to. LOL

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Don Bauder Sept. 5, 2014 @ 6:02 p.m.

danfogel: I know, but I took it as a cue to sound off. Best, Don Bauder

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ImJustABill Sept. 6, 2014 @ 12:48 p.m.

If Falconer fiddles while San Diego burns would that be a liar playing a lyre?

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Don Bauder Sept. 6, 2014 @ 2:27 p.m.

ImJustABill: Yes, if Faulconer pushes through a subsidized stadium, convention center expansion, or combined stadium/center, while ignoring the infrastructure -- particularly water -- he would be a liar playing a lyre.

But he would probably be lucky. I suspect it will be a generation or two before San Diegans realize how leadership was fiddling while it should have been preparing for the future. Best, Don Bauder

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Don Bauder Sept. 4, 2014 @ 4:32 p.m.

San Diego Highwayman: Yes, water mains are bustin' out all over. But you know why the stories about them are buried or never appear. The mainstream media don't want people to think about the wholly inadequate infrastructure. There are convention center expansion and/or subsidized stadium votes coming up.

The U-T did this before the 1998 Padres ballpark vote. For months before it, stories about infrastructure weakness -- broken water mains, for example -- simply didn't make the paper or were buried Best, Don Bauder

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