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Posts Tagged ‘Russian roulette’

California Groundwater Levels 100 Feet Below Previous Historic Lows

Posted by feww on May 7, 2014


Vital groundwater provides up to 60% of California’s water supply during droughts

California groundwater resources are at historically low levels, and recent groundwater levels are more than 100 feet below previous historic lows in some parts of the state, according to a recent report released by the California Department of Water Resources.

About 30 million Californians, over three quarters of the state’s population, receives at least part of their drinking water from groundwater, said California Water Foundation.

Groundwater is the only supply available for some regions during drought, and it’s critical to the state’s agricultural economy.

Drought causes water famine leading to crop disasters. It degrades water quality, and leads to surface and groundwater level declines, land subsidence, soil erosion, intense wildfires, humongous dust storms, and spread of disease.

30 Percent of California Water Comes from Snowpack

Snowpack provides about a third of the water used by California’s cities and farms. As of  May 6, 2014, the California statewide water content of snowpack (weighted average) stood at only 13% of normal for this date, and just 9%  of April 1 average, according to the Department of Water Resource.

Snow Water Equivalents – Statewide Summary

Provided by the California Cooperative Snow Surveys – Updated May 6, 2014 06:37PDT

Average snow water equivalent:  2″
Percent of April 1 average: 9%
Percent of normal for this date: 13%

May 5, 2014

Average snow water equivalent:  3″
Percent of April 1 average: 9%
Percent of normal for this date: 13%

The monthly snow survey on May 1, 2014 showed the average water content in the northern Sierra snowpack that helps fill the state’s major reservoirs at a dismal 7 percent for this time of the year.

Tragedy of the Commons

Between 2003 – 2010, California’s groundwater “overdraft” averaged almost 2.5 million acre-feet per year, and more than triple that amount (nearly 8 million acre-feet per year) in 2012 (a dry year) and 2013 (a critically dry year), according to Hydrologic Modeling Center at the University of California.

[An acre-feet is about 1.23 million liters. Editor ]

“This overdraft is, in many respects, a ‘tragedy of the commons:’ the accumulation of what could be viewed individually as benign actions, i.e., small amounts of pumping, that has broad impacts extending beyond individual pumpers,” said the report.

[Overdraft: The condition of a groundwater basin in which the  amount of water withdrawn by pumping exceeds the amount of water that recharges the basin over a period of years during which water supply conditions approximate average. Because groundwater is extracted at a higher rate than it is replenished over this period of time, groundwater levels decline persistently under this condition.]

The report has identified the following potentially devastating effects associated with the depletion:

Land Subsidence. Groundwater pumping can cause deformation of the land surface, leading to subsidence. The sinking or deformation of land could in turn cause:

  • Increased coastal and inland flooding
  • Reduced conveyance capacity of canals, aqueducts, and flood bypass channels
  • Damage to buildings, roads, bridges, pipelines, levees, wells, and other infrastructure
  • Development of earth fissures, which can damage surface and subsurface structures and allow for contamination from the surface to enter shallow aquifers

During the 1960s and 1970s, parts of the Central Valley experienced a drop of more than 25 feet due to groundwater pumping. Occurrences of land subsidence have been discovered in many areas across the state, costing billions of dollars to the federal and state government, farmers, irrigation districts, and local agencies to repair. Subsidence continues in many of these areas as discussed in “Land Subsidence from Groundwater Use in California” LSCE, Borchers & Carpenter (2014), sometimes at near historically high rates.

Increasing energy costs. Overdraft has caused groundwater levels to drop hundreds of feet in certain areas of the state. As groundwater levels drop, water users must pump from greater depths, increasing energy used to operate pumps and thereby increasing costs and greenhouse gas emissions.

Water quality degradation. Overdraft can damage water quality through a variety of mechanisms. It can allow saltwater intrusion, as has occurred in Pajaro Valley, the Central and West Coast Basins, and elsewhere, or draw in adjacent plumes of pollution. The interconnection between surface water and groundwater means that contamination in one may migrate to the other. Ironically, by over pumping groundwater to meet a current need, water users may be contaminating the aquifer and effectively reducing their future groundwater supplies.

Streamflow depletion impacts on surface water rights and ecosystems. Many aquifers naturally release water into surface water bodies. When groundwater is depleted the aquifer may instead draw from adjacent or connected surface water bodies like lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands; this reduces streamflows and lake levels.
Streamflow depletion impacts surface water right holders, degrades aquatic habitats and harms the flora and fauna that depend on these habitats. For example, partly due to groundwater overdraft, the lower Cosumnes River recently has been completely dry throughout most of the salmon migration period and impacting surface water flows into the Delta.

Related Links

First State of Emergency Issued in January

Governor Brown proclaimed a State of Emergency on January 17  amid the worsening statewide drought.  He called the “really serious,” adding that 2014 could be California’s third consecutive dry year. “In many ways it’s a mega-drought.”

Second State of Emergency

Brown proclaimed a second State of Emergency on April 25, 2014 to “redouble state drought actions, and has called on all Californians to redouble their efforts to conserve water.”

“We are playing Russian roulette with our environment,” said Brown.

However, it’s doubtful whether he knows exactly how many bullets there are in the cylinder, contends FIRE-EARTH.

California State Resources

FIRE-EARTH 2009 Forecast: Desertification of California in the Near Future Is Almost a Certainty – with the critical phase occurring by as early as 2011.

[NOTE: The above forecast and most of the links posted below have previously been filtered/censored by Google, WordPress and others. Editor]

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350 or 450ppm? Neither, Actually!

Posted by feww on June 18, 2008

Submitted by Dione, CASF Member

What would the future be like for my daughter?

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about science books
Don’t know much about the French I took
But I do know that I love her

What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for
But I know that one and one is two

What a wonderful world this would be

[From a Herman’s Hermits song, Wonderful World, lyrics by Cooke/Alpert/Adler. Lyrics may be subject to copyright. See FEWW Fair Use Notice!]

Creating A Sustainable Future (CASF) received an emotional email from a young mother, “Kay,” who wishes to remain anonymous. Kay has a 6-year-old daughter and lives with her family in NW United States. Kay says she is not high on science, “in all probability the Herman’s Hermits famous song, ‘don’t know much about history, biology, science books, geography, trigonometry, algebra, and slide rule’ was written about me!”

She says her knowledge of climatology is even poorer than her French(!) “But I do know that I love my daughter and husband and ‘what a wonderful world this would be’ if we could rein in the greenhouse gases, and reverse the global warming.”

“I have read a number of articles about CO2 pollution in the atmosphere including a few written by the famed NASA scientist, Dr J. Hansen … but he is a government scientist …”

She wants to know the safe level of CO2 in the atmosphere and asks which of the 350, 450, or higher levels of CO2 pollution would be a “safe” level, and whether our reply could be put simply so that a “layperson” could understand the answer.

Hi, Kay – thanks for visiting our blog and email!

The CASF members believe even the lower atmospheric CO2 levels of 350ppm CO2 are unsafe! Here are the reasons why. Our findings put as simply as we could:

  1. Our climate models show that when the atmospheric CO2 levels leaped over the 330ppmv “threshold” in the mid 1970s it triggered a positive feedback loop, which is now impacting the climate. [The atmospheric CO2 inventory has risen by about 17 percent since then.]
  2. The “acid test,” if you’ll excuse the pun, of the accuracy of our models lies in the future, namely how much worse the environmental impacts will be in the 2008-2010 period. If the impacts of CO2 pollution worsened significantly, by a factor of 20% or more, by 2010 (we have a system for quantifying the adverse effects, see Index of Human Impact on Nature for an introduction), as we expect them to do so, then we know our models are accurate.
  3. The catch? By 2010 it would be too late to do anything to slow down the runaway positive feedback system [other than say a prayer for the dead!]
  4. While the preindustrial levels of 260-270ppm were [and they probably still would be ] “safe,” the longer term environmental impacts of CO2 at levels of about 290-300ppm, even if those levels were achievable [assume some miraculous means were introduced to wipe the slate clean,] in the current climatic state are uncertain!
  5. Based on the above, we recommend an immediate shift to zero-emissions, the benefits of which, although by no means immediate, would far outweigh the ultimate cost of playing Russian roulette with climate change.

We hope the above helps. Feel free to visit us anytime!

Best wishes
Dione, FEWW Moderators and rest of CASF Team

Related Links:


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