Sometime ago I learned that every now and then one must step back and look at everything from the a ‘global perspective’. I also learned everyone(thing) is related in a dynamic equilibrium. As humans, we take for granted the essential water resources will always be available. Not so. The San Luis reservoir is at an all-time low at 10% of its total capacity.
The global warming is leading to climate changes. The homeostasis we are accustomed to is no more. The five years of drought have stressed our ecosystem in California so that water management is probably the most important issue we need to face. Is it wise to continue to depend upon seasonal rains to provide potable water needs?
Governor Brown continues to support the Delta Twin Tunnel Project which will divert Sacramento River water across the San Joaquin/Sacramento River Delta to the pumping stations which will continue to convey that water south towards Los Angeles/Imperial Valley to satisfy their projected needs. Today’s news is that CA Agribusiness lost $600 Billion because of the current drought. Why not ask CA Agribusiness to invest in desalinization processes? When times are good, agribusiness uses up 90% of all available water for irrigation purposes (at a highly subsidized level).
Already, Los Angeles uses diverted natural water from the Colorado River, Owens Valley, San Joaquin river (and all its tributaries). And now the Sacramento River? The same diversion paradigm is being used to ‘solve a future potable water supply’ issue. Much controversy has occurred and will continue to occur because of antiquated laws and traditions regarding ‘water rights’ leading to another ‘water war’ as in its historical past.
Recently, Ms. Norma Camacho, a Stanford civil engineer, was installed as interim CEO, Santa Clara Valley Water District. An issue she will address is that of ensuring that sufficient potable water is available for the Silicon Valley commerce operations as well as its residents. What will SCVWD do when insufficient potable water supplies are not produced by the seasonal rains which have not performed during the past five years of drought? Recycling recovery efforts do extend, but do not ADD to existing water supplies.
What needs to be considered, despite its present high cost, is to ask Governor Brown to not build the Delta Twin Tunnel project, but rather divert those resources towards establishment of a statewide series of “Sea Water desalinization Plants” which will add to existing water supplies. One could be located at Alviso; another at East Palo Alto, and others along the coast. The electric power needed may be produced using reliable, sustainable energy from solar panels installed on roofs of existing and new urban buildings (eliminating the need to cover existing open spaces with solar farms). The electricity produced would be ‘back-fed’ through existing circuitry to the desalinization plants.
Why do this? Because California’s population is projected to increase to 50 million residents by 2050. That increased population, in my estimation, cannot be provided with enough potable water to sustain human life. Each human being requires at least six glasses (12 oz.) per day to sustain the homeostasis required for life. CA’s commerce will require more water too.
The technology exists to plan and install a series of desalinization plants which will ADD potable water in sufficient volume to permit California’s population to continue to reside here independent of natural rainfall or the lack thereof.
This ‘desalinization alternative’ will provide California with the resiliency to survive any drought including the present one because the resources exist to build for future needs despite the current cost which will drop with increased know-how and best practices being applied.
That Delta Twin Tunnel Project needs to be shelved because the natural channels already deliver existing water to the pumping stations. More importantly, Sacramento River water needs to remain flowing through the Delta to maintain the environment needed by the current flora and fauna.
The lack of potable water as distributed by current “Water Ownership law and traditions” has already been the basis under which East Palo Alto City Council did not approve the construction of several affordable housing projects. The developers were asked to shelve these housing projects until adequate and reliable potable water became available. So why not build a desalinization plant in East Palo Alto? Why try to reallocate existing potable water supply agreements when additional potable water could be produced from sea water available as close as the SF Bay? The same logic applies to locating a desalinization plant at Alviso to provide a reliable source of water which SCVWD can manage and distribute.
Governor Brown is advised to step back and consider the need to do some serious resource management: water production planning & fair distribution. Ms. Norna Camacho could be our local champion to help determine an action plan needed to keep California in equilibrium with its water requirements.
Let’s do some basic water resource management planning for our future 2050 residents, OK.