Random Thoughts – Randocity!

State of Emergency: California Aqueduct vs Drought

Posted in california, drought, water shortage by commorancy on February 28, 2009

So, Arnold Schwarzenegger has now declared a state of emergency for California with regards to the ‘3 year drought’.   So, apparently, California’s (specifically Northern California) water supplies are severely low.   The rain we’ve had recently has helped, yes.  Apparently, the amount of rainfall hasn’t been substantial enough to raise the resevoirs by any substantial amount.  So, counties and other municipalities want to enact water rationing. Ok, so that’s the problem.

Plug up the drain already!

On the other hand, California decided to be neighborly and build the California Aqueduct to pump water from Northern California to Southern California.  Ok, so does this make any sense?  Northern California is in a state of emergency and under water rationing.  All the while, the California Aqueduct continues to pump Northern California’s water supply down to Los Angeles.  My question is.. why?   If we need the water up here, cut the LA basin off.  They didn’t have the water before the aqueduct was built, they can live without it until Northern California’s water supplies have recovered.

Why do we continue to pump at all under drought conditions?

Under a drought situation, why does Northern California continue to pump water down to Southern California from Northern California reserves (even with restrictive limits)?  This setup makes no sense.  Yes, perhaps the water supplies are just as low in LA.  Yes, perhaps LA has no other water supplies to tap for LA use easily.  Oh well.  Northern California has its own drought to deal with and under these situations, the drain to LA needs to be plugged until further notice.

On the other hand, San Diego is apparently fed water from the Rocky Mountain runoff (which in 2008/2009 winter has been especially heavy).  So, why doesn’t LA set up their own pumping system and pump water up from San Diego instead of taking it away from Northern California?  Duh, San Diego is a heck of a lot closer to LA than Sacramento!  Worse, who knows just how much water evaporates before it makes its hundreds of miles trek from Sacramento to LA?  This Aqueduct is not efficient at all.

Los Angeles, find another supply.  Sacramento, stop the water siphoning!

LA needs to find another water source.. like, for example, getting it from San Diego’s Colorado River run off.  This situation is such that Northern California does not need to be pumping and redistributing its stored water to other parts of the state.  This water needs to stay in Northern California where it originated.  Who cares how much the Aqueduct cost or how many people it took to build it?  Under drought conditions, the water siphoning to LA needs to stop and that water needs to feed Northern California resevoirs.

If the Aqueduct stopped flowing, Northern California could replenish its own resevoirs and get rid of this ridiculous drought that appears to be mostly manmade.

6 Responses

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  1. beetlebabee said, on June 2, 2009 at 5:30 pm

    Feeding Farmers to the Fish!

    I took a drive this week from Sacramento to Los Angeles, and had an eye opening experience. Down the entire length of the 5 freeway, we saw not the green luscious fields of produce or green orchards laden with fruit, but dusty dead and dying orchards. Rows after row, acre after acre, miles after mile of them, perfectly formed, perfectly helpless….lifeless.

    By way of explanation, these signs dotted the dusty dry roadside: “Congress Created Dust Bowl. Thank You Sacramento!”

    My lawn is green. My kids have plenty of water to spray in the yard, yet California’s orchards aren’t getting a drop this year despite the best rainfall in three years and five reservoirs filled to over capacity.

    There’s no doubt that we’re in a drought, but why the sudden drop in water availability only for farmers? Are the politicians in Sacramento more concerned about the plethora of city votes than the small handful of agricultural ones? We will all be paying for Sacramento’s blunder. The Central Valley provides up to 8% of the nation’s fresh produce.

    Watching the staggering waste just made my heart ache. We had to pull over and take pictures. The contrast with past green was stark—it takes 30 years to build an orchard like this up to full production! Almonds, walnuts, citrus… Why do we have green lawns while these resources are left to die?

    Dead and Dying–California’s Central Valley Dust Bowl


    • commorancy said, on June 3, 2009 at 3:27 am

      The drought issue is, yes, part of this. But, with each passing year, California makes it harder and harder for farmers to continue to farm in California. Sure, the water supplies are low (or so they say in Sacramento), but there are also other issues at work here. On the one hand, you have Sac imposing these water rationing measures. On the other, you have the Feds, tree hugging groups and Sac all imposing additional restrictions on when, how and how often farmers can do their job… even going so far as telling the farmers what to plant (or, I should say, what not to plant). Even the weather has had a hand in this. Due to late rains, it’s possible that some crops didn’t survive.

      All of these farming issues lead us to what you’ve seen all along highway 5. Yes, the ‘drought’ is just part of it. But there are also many other factors leading to those dusty brown farms. We also have to thank Mexico, Argentina and Chile for some of the dusty farms. California farmers just can’t compete with the prices coming out of these other countries. The outlets where farmers tend to sell may not even want to buy the produce. So, this is all adding up to California’s produce farms becoming less and less viable. Sure, there are some tenacious farmers who are willing to jump through all of the hoops. There are plenty more who are realizing that farming in California today is not worth it. What California and the Feds are likely to do is drive farming out of California. So then you have organizations like POST (Peninsula Open Space Trust) who gobble up the unused farms (at least in Norcal) and turn them into extreme fire hazards (letting the brush overgrow and die).

      Thanks for your reply.


      Thanks for your comment.


    • Sara said, on November 23, 2010 at 1:23 am

      The past few times that I have driven down I-5, I also have noticed these signs and dead fields – however, if you look beyond the fields directly next to the freeway there are green fields in the distance. These green fields and the uninhabited green hills that could be seen in LA helped to completely frustrate me with the state’s water programs.

      I live by the Delta and I have constantly noted how it is deteriorating from what it once was. At the same time, I do support farmers and I understand that the water is California’s, and not owned by one portion of the state. However, I think that Sacramento has allowed the sharing of California’s water to benefit Southern California over any other region in the state.


      • commorancy said, on November 23, 2010 at 1:41 am

        Thanks for your comment. The main issue is that the aqueduct takes water from Northern California even when it’s to the detriment of Northern California. The aqueduct should only share water with the rest of the state IF Northern California’s reserves have enough to spare. Under drought conditions, the sharing needs to stop. There is no reason to continue to pump water down to the LA basin when we don’t even have enough here to manage our own areas. The trouble is, the authority presiding over this water leeching process continues the flow even when we’re under water rationing here in Northern Cal. This is so wrong and needs to stop.

        I’m also at a loss why LA doesn’t pull water up from San Diego area that apparently gets runoff from the Rocky Mountains. Apparently, a recent year there was banner runoff from the Rockies yet Northern California continued to pump water down the aqueduct to LA under drought conditions. That makes no sense. We’re low on water here and there’s banner runoff to the San Diego area. So then why isn’t LA pumping that water instead of leeching from us up here?

        The other issue with the aqueduct is evaporation. Seriously, we’re pumping loads of water across the entire state with lots of surface area in the aqueduct. How inefficient is that? If it were an underground pipe, that’s one thing. This is an open air trench all the way from Sac to LA. How much water evaporates before it gets down there? Loads, I’d imagine. Whomever thought this trench would be a good idea needs to be slapped to their senses. How many countless gallons of water has been needlessly lost to evaporation? Don’t know. But, pumping water down a trench across the entire state is completely inefficient and wasteful. We’d save a lot more water just by letting it sit in the reservoir rather than pumping it down a huge trench.


  2. jace666 said, on May 18, 2009 at 12:27 pm

    hey there all i was just reading up on water shortage crises and mobile water units and i couldnt find anything anywhere in the world and i found this website http://www.geneco2009.com a small engineering company in new zealand? and it displays products they sell and theyve got listed desalination units? i enquired about these units and they can make them biger and to order and they claim they can produce 1 litre of fresh clean h2o out of salt water pond, lake, river water e.t.c for 0.0015 cents USD. i mean isnt that cheap? or is there anything out there more economical then these advertised units? could someone maybe whos researched this let me no?


    • commorancy said, on May 18, 2009 at 12:58 pm

      I haven’t found any calculations of the cost of output for these units. It does say they are diesel powered. So, the cost to make 1 liter of desalinized water will vary with the cost of diesel in the locale where it is being operated. Note, their numbers on that site are off. They claim they can make (on the 10HP generator) 2 Liters per hour or 6000 liters per day. These numbers don’t make sense. 2 Liters per hour would yield, at most, 48 Liters per day. In order for them to do 6000 liters per day, they’d have to produce 250 Liters per hour.

      To calculate costs at 2 Liters per hour (which I assume is the correct number), you’d have to know how much diesel the unit holds and how long that diesel will operate the unit on one tank of fuel. Then you can calculate the cost of the 2 Liters of desalinized water per hour. Since I don’t see any calculations of how long one tank of fuel lasts, it’s would only be guessing as to how much 2 Liters of desalinized water would cost to produce. And, of course, that doesn’t take into account the initial upfront investment to purchase this equipment which must also be factored into the cost per Liter (until the investment has been returned).



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