Short answer section:
OK, y’all. I’m going to have to give you short answers on these. This is a rough take, at best, ‘cause you’re asking me stuff I just don’t know well. These are my impressions. If you have more detailed questions, I hope you’ll be distracted by pictures of debris flows
. The book:
I did a whole bunch of interviews over several months, and want to do more, ‘cause they’re the best part. Now I am trying to understand what story I want to tell. These things usually come to me as a whole, so I’m waiting for inspiration to strike. (This may be a crappy way to actually get a book done.) In the meantime, I’m following the story in the news and transcribing interviews and wondering why I don’t have the courage to approach a real agent-type person.Sewage treatment:
Not my field, dude. This is as good a place as any to warn new baby civils. If you are just going to college for civil engineering and you love the earth and want to do totally righteous coastal remediation engineering, using the powers of concrete and the forces of water for good, you will have to be very very careful. There is an excellent chance that what your civil department calls ‘Environmental Engineering’ is really wastewater treatment. That is totally fine if you like that stuff. But if you were thinking of an awesome job combining outdoors work and saving the earth, it is a distraction. You’ll be designing shitter plants for your career. Danger.What happens to Nevada when the water runs out!!!:
I seriously do not understand how Nevada is going to work if our society becomes poor. The imbalance between local resources, local lifestyles and population is too great. The question isn’t really ‘when will Las Vegas run out of water’. You can get water if you have to. If you must, you can stick a straw in some river in Canada. When water must get solved, it does. The question is, ‘when will it be too expensive to have water and everything else you need to live, and when will the cost of water crowd out so much other stuff that it isn’t worth living in a hot desert anymore?’ And that makes the next question, ‘what will make water that expensive’. The foreseeable answer to that is, ‘energy costs will make it impractical to move that kind of water’. I’m not completely up to date on energy stuff, so my guess would be -holy crap, look at the size of that boulder
Seriously, my guess for all the desert towns is a vast depopulation as costs for everything energy dependent slowly rise. I’m thinking tumbleweeds blowing past empty subdivisions, with an eerie flute playing in the distance. This pisses me off, because I wish that we weren’t destroying useful things, like forests, to be empty houses in forty years, but I suppose the Mad Max scavengers will loot anything salvageable out of them. Las Vegas will see this last, because it is wealthy, and all water engineers know that water flows towards money.Desal:
Also not my field, although if I were an industrious blogger who loved my readers, I would walk up one whole flight of stairs and ask the desal section what the deal is. My rough take: desal is a race between costs for water and costs for energy. I think the technical problems are mostly solved, although salt disposal is a problem. For a while yet (couple decades?), in California there is still lower priced water to be had by buying it from growers. (Um, cheaper by two times? Five times? Truly a rough guess.) This could all change if water everywhere becomes more scarce, or energy suddenly cheap. Maybe the magical energy unicorns will burn salt water
, or use wave pumps
. That would be convenient for desal.San Diego’s water, Toilet to Tap, the Colorado River:
I would like to point out that these are all issues south
of the Tehachapis. This is still California, so I could
understand it if I tried, but I don’t want to, because that shit is complicated
. The Colorado goes through, like, seven states! And they fight! With multiple endangered species! And water transfers from the Imperial Valley, where they are evidently nutso, because their irrigation district board has fights! and scandals! and is forever hiring or not hiring some general manager. It is too late for me to understand it all now. I don’t try.
My vague understanding is that San Diego gets some water from the Colorado, has tried to strike deals directly with growers in the Imperial or Coachella Valleys, and these dealings may or may not have been against the wishes of the Metropolitan Water District. MWD is a wholesaler, based in a lovely building in LA, that sells water from northern California to a couple dozen southern water districts, including San Diego. Your water is complicated, man.
Toilet to Tap is a completely legitimate notion, and can be a substantial source of new water. One nice thing about it is that it is a fairly constant source over the year, no big peaks or valleys in supply. People are generally too squeamish to drink it, which I think is unjustified. But we could use it for urban landscaping, which is now mostly done with potable water. Every drop of potable water that Toilet to Tap offsets is one that doesn’t have to come from somewhere far.How does water policy differ in California from more well-watered regions back East?
Aw man. Why you got to ask me stuff like that? I have only the vaguest, foggiest ideas what they do in the east (and by east, I mean Nevada). Like, in the East, ag engineering is about drainage, not about irrigation. And, um, you use a lot of center pivot systems. And, like, you water your freeway medians, to turn them green all the time. In California, we think that is wasteful. Don’t you have water moccasins or something? We don’t have poisonous water snakes. Um, in Californa, everything is about salmon, all the time. Everything always links back to salmon. Do you have those in the east? You don't, right? You have catfish or something. Oh yeah! Margie said that Midwestern fluvial geomorphology classes are about all about bedforms, but out here in the west, they teach about sediment transport, as every right-thinking person would expect. Bedforms! Ha! Who cares