Top 10 signs of climate change in Northern California
by Alessandra Bergamin on September 05, 2013
Dying conifers in Sierra Nevada. Photo: John Curley
This combo of two photos shows (left photo) the cracked-dry bed of the Almaden Reservoir on Friday, Feb. 7, 2014, in San Jose, Calif., and (right photo) the same Almaden Reservoir full of water on Monday, March 14, 2016. Four straight days of rain have replenished several key reservoirs in drought-stricken California.
"... most of [California's] infrastructure was designed and built during the 20th century, when the climate was unusually wet compared to previous centuries. That hasn't set water management on the right course to deal with long periods of dryness in the future."I assume the observation holds true for virtually all major U.S. cities. We are at the bottom of a very tall ladder that we need to scale fast. From National Geographic's February 13, 2014 report Could California's Drought Last 200 Years? by Thomas M. Kostigen
CLUES FROM THE PAST SUGGEST THE OCEAN'S TEMPERATURE MAY BE A DRIVER.
California is experiencing its worst drought since record-keeping began in the mid 19th century, and scientists say this may be just the beginning. B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California at Berkeley, thinks that California needs to brace itself for a megadrought—one that could last for 200 years or more.
What's causing the current drought?
Ingram and other paleoclimatologists have correlated several historic megadroughts with a shift in the surface temperature of the Pacific Ocean that occurs every 20 to 30 years—something called the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO). The PDO is similar to an El Nino event except it lasts for decades—as its name implies—whereas an El Nino event lasts 6 to 18 months. Cool phases of the PDO result in less precipitation because cooler sea temperatures bump the jet stream north, which in turn pushes off storms that would otherwise provide rain and snow to California.
Ingram says entire lakes dried up in California following a cool phase of the PDO several thousand years ago. Warm phases have been linked to numerous storms along the California coast.
"We have been in a fairly cold phase of PDO since the early 2000s," says Brian Fuchs, a climatologist at the National Drought Mitigation Center, "so the drought we are seeing now makes sense."
That said, scientists caution against pinning the current drought on the PDO alone. Certainly ocean temperatures, wind, and the weather pattern in the Pacific have contributed to the drought, says Nate Mantua, of NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service in Santa Cruz, California, where the PDO pattern was first discovered and named. "But it's more nuanced than saying the PDO did this."
After all, as its name suggests, the PDO is decades in the making.
São Paulo ...is the largest city in Brazil, the largest city in both the Americas and in the southern hemisphere, and the world's ninth largest city by population. The metropolis is anchor to the São Paulo metropolitan area, ranked as the most populous metropolitan area in Brazil, the second most populous in the Americas and the eighth largest in the world. São Paulo is the capital of the state of São Paulo, Brazil's most populous state. It exerts strong regional influence in commerce, finance, arts and entertainment and a strong international influence.[...] The metropolis has the largest economy by GDP in Latin America and Southern Hemisphere
Epic California Drought and Groundwater: Where Do We Go From Here?
Posted by Jay Famiglietti of University of California, Irvine
in Water Currents via National Geographic Society
February 4, 2014
Yesterday our team at the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling released a report on the California drought. The report describes the bird's eye view of statewide water resources that we see from the NASA GRACE satellite mission.
The NASA GRACE satellite mission
We’ve been working since the mid-1990’s, well before the mission was launched in 2002, to develop and test methods to help monitor groundwater depletion from space. We’ve applied them around the world — in California, across the U.S., in the Middle East, East Africa, in the Amazon River Basin and in India.Our endgame is simple. We want to use GRACE and other satellites, combined with invaluable measurements on the ground, to help quantify how regional and global freshwater availability is changing.
The good news is that the methods work great. The GRACE mission functions like a giant ‘scale in the sky,’ weighing how various regions around the world are gaining and losing water each month. We can see the ups and downs of ‘total’ water storage – all of the snow, surface water, soil moisture, and groundwater – like never before.
The bad news is that we are running out of groundwater.
In particular, this is happening in the places that we need it most — the dry parts of the planet where we love to live, precisely because it does not rain. Out of necessity, our reliance on groundwater in these parts of the world is much greater than elsewhere.
Our team and several others around the globe are showing that most of the major aquifers in the world’s arid and semi-arid regions are being depleted at a rapid pace, and one that is most likely unsustainable in the long term. Groundwater is a finite resource after all.
What has GRACE shown us about California?
Our earlier study showed that between October 2003 and March 2010, the Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins lost about 30 cubic kilometers of freshwater, nearly the equivalent of the full volume of Lake Mead. Of this, we determined that about two-thirds was due to groundwater depletion in the Central Valley.
During the drought of 2006-2010, state and federal surface water allocations were drastically reduced, forcing farmers to tap groundwater reserves far more heavily than in ‘normal,’ wetter years. The resulting volume of depleted groundwater was so great that it was registered by a satellite ‘scale’ that orbits about 400 km above Earth’s surface.All right. There's much more to the report, and again, numerous links to papers, satellite data, the GRACE mission, etc., but I think the above is enough to convey the picture. More than 80 percent of California's water use goes to agriculture, and much of that is in the two valleys that make up the Central Valley -- San Joaquin and Sacramento. Triage efforts will have to focus there first, but this running smack dab into the state's hydropolitics, which is almost cosmic in complexity. .
Our new report is an update to this previous work, and it points to one critical question for California.
One of the key numbers to emerge from the report is that the combined Sacramento and San Joaquin River Basins have already lost 10 cubic kilometers of freshwater each year in 2012 and 2013.
To put that number in perspective, it is roughly the amount of water used by the entire population of California, for household, municipal, and industrial use (that is, for nearly everything else besides agriculture and environment).
It is also the steepest decline in total water availability that our team has witnessed in the 12 years that we have been monitoring California water resources with the GRACE mission.
A second contribution of the report is that it further exposes the unsustainable pattern of groundwater use in the Central Valley. While there is some replenishment of groundwater during wet years, groundwater levels decline precipitously during drought, when farmers have no choice but to rely far more heavily on groundwater to meet their irrigation water needs.
One example comes from southern Idaho, where grower Timm Adams has worked with [Anheuser-Busch beer company] to shift his barley production to the winter season. Because the crop can use the natural moisture from the rain and snow that falls during that time frame -- it requires 20 percent less water while producing a greater yield than other strains -- his operation can decrease its purchases from the local irrigation district, Adams said. Overall, the load on the local estuary is also decreased.Wow. It's almost unimaginable how much water could be saved if all grain farmers took up the same method wherever possible.
Anheuser-Busch InBev: Less Water, More Beer
By Heather Clancy
June 5, 2013
The world's biggest beer brewer, Anheuser-Busch InBev has adopted an aggressive series of five-year environmental goals, calling for further reductions in water and energy consumption and setting its first formal targets for packaging reductions and eco-friendly coolers.
The seven new commitments come just four months after AB InBev revealed it had surpassed previous three-year commitments for water, energy and waste.
The Belgian-based brewer already has saved enough water to produce about 25 billion cans of AB InBev beverages. Currently, it uses an average of 3.5 hectoliters of water for every hectoliter of production.
Now it is trying to squeeze more from the process: The new five-year goal aims to reach a global average of 3.2 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of production. For those who like to visualize this sort of thing, that works out to the amount of water it would take to fill approximately 5,400 Olympic swimming pools.
The Carterville brewery in Georgia already has outstripped that goal: It uses just 2.8 hectoliters of water per hectoliter of production.Yuppers, beer has saved the world before, and just might do it again.
To move toward that measure in other production facilities, the company is introducing water management measures in each of its key barley growing regions through partnerships with local stakeholders and growers.
In addition, it is introducing watershed protection measures at all of its facilities in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, China, Mexico, Peru and the United States.
Heightened attention deeper into the supply chain
The new commitments are notable for their global scope and because they also focus far more attention on encouraging sustainable operations throughout AB InBev's entire supply chain, according to AB InBev executives.
"Our approach recognizes that there isn't a one-size-fits-all solution to improve sustainability," said AB InBev CEO Carlos Brito. "The key will be to leverage the experience and expertise of our colleagues globally, foster a collective approach through partnerships with local stakeholders and continue to scale best practices across our company."
As many exciting solutions as the speakers identified, they kept coming back to the reality that businesses need to get much more serious about assessing their own water performance and risks. The scarcity of data -- both on the risk side and top-line -- remains a huge obstacle; many stakeholders are reluctant to publicly release data and there is a lack of standardized data collection.See the report for links to information on the toolkit and advances in technology. The Associated Press and Reuters reports I quoted in an earlier post make clear that California's government has the same problem as the private sector when it comes to getting accurate data on water usage. The situation exists across the board; few if any governments at the local and national levels in the USA and around the world know with any accuracy the amount of water used in their jurisdictions and how it's used.
Ultimately, the reality of water scarcity and climbing demand will leave no choice for stakeholders who are reluctant to part with data sets. Advances in technology such water-smart meters may provide a promising path to better and easier data collection, lowering the cost and hassle factor for water users, including farmers.
The theme here is that stewardship starts with measurement: if they haven't already, businesses need to start assessing their water performance, set a baseline and work towards reducing use.
For commercial and institutional water users, tools such as the Water Efficiency Toolkit that EDF developed with AT&T can offer a first step toward assessing water performance and mapping out actions they can take to improve it.
[...]The next Pundita post, which features another report from GreenBiz, has more good news. A great many people are suddenly awake about the serious threat from water scarity and putting on their thinking caps. I mean -- beer! It doesn't get more serious.
The Pacific Institute's water director, Heather Cooley, emphasized the limits of old thinking, and the importance of rethinking demand, supply and management of water.
Many participants agreed, stressing that we can't just do more of the same, such as building bigger centralized infrastructure or pumping more ground water when it's not being recharged at the same rate. [emphasis mine]
Instead, we need to reduce waste and increase efficiency, rethink economic priorities and choices in both urban and agriculture uses, treat and reuse wastewater, capture storm water, and improve data collection and monitoring.
Collaboration is key
Another theme that surfaced throughout the day is the importance of partnerships to achieve lasting results. Operating a brewery in the Irwindale section of Los Angeles, MillerCoors is constantly reminded how its capability to operate is tied to the city's water resources, said Kim Marotta, director of sustainability. Water risk is a material issue for the company; no water means no beer. To create change, companies like MillerCoors have to share the responsibility alongside communities.
If Marotta's talk was any indication, they are taking action. Partnerships with farmers have dramatically cut water use, runoff and energy use through innovations such as planting tall native vegetation, retrofitting irrigation systems and implementing best practices for water management.
Through these and other measures, MillerCoors was able to reduce water use by 1.1 billion gallons as a company, equivalent to the annual needs of 11 million people.
Follow the energy-water nexus
Campbell Soup Co. has been tracking the intersection of energy and water use since 2012, analyzing water efficiency at each point from well to discharge, according to Dan Sonke, manager of sustainable agriculture programs. [See the GreenBiz article for a link to a report on the tracking]
As a result, the food company has identified numerous opportunities to improve performance, through testing different irrigation scheduling practices and sharing data and best practices with Campbell's growers.
[...]The AP has found that around 4,000 California entities—many of them companies, farms, or water districts—have not been affected by [water restrictions] at all as they continue to have access to an"unmonitored amount of free water", thanks to water laws dating back to the Nineteenth Century that are still in place.
As a result of these laws, the so-called "senior rights holders" aren't required to have meters or devices that monitor water flow like all the rest of us. Instead, they're supposed to self-report their own usage -- a system that's led to incredible errors, like the one that showed a small-time cattle farmer on 15 acres of land using 10,000 times more water in a year than the whole LA Department of Water and Power. [...]In all, the nearly 4,000 senior rights holders use trillions of gallons of water a year and are not required to comply with drought-time restrictions and conservation measures, even though together they make up the majority of the state's water users.[...]See also Curbed LA report Semi-Arid SoCal is More "Drought-Proof" Than Soggy NorCal
But despite better El Niño warnings nowadays, Martinez said many nations were worse prepared than in 1997: “In many cases the vulnerability has increased: more exposed population, more land degradation, river sedimentation, collapse of underground water sources, degradation of natural protection in riversides, badly designed infrastructure and lack of coordination and planning to cope with El Niño.”6. Subsidence
In areas adjacent to the Delta-Mendota Canal (DMC), extensive groundwater withdrawal has caused areas of the ground to sink as much as 10 feet, a process known as land subsidence. In an effort to understand and manage land subsidence in the area, the USGS has put in place a land subsidence monitoring network.Lots more on the internet about this issue. They're now doing so much pumping of groundwater that one water driller told NPR the other day that the valley was on track to run out of groundwater. I guess that would solve the problem of the land sinking more.
Can California Conserve Its Way Through Drought?by Brian Clark HowardNational GeographicJune 13, 2014
With worsening shortages, the Golden State turns to water conservation. Will it work? [...]This year, the state is expected to have a water deficit in excess of six million acre-feet, enough water for 1.5 million typical households, according to a report released this week by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pacific Institute on the need for more conservation.
To fill that shortage, water agencies are turning to sources, such as groundwater, that are not easily replenished and may decrease the available supply in the future.
Kate Poole, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco, told National Geographic that water conservation efforts to date have "been a mixed bag across the state."[...]The report first turns its attention to agriculture, which is responsible for 80 percent of California's water use. If farmers adopt the latest efficient technologies, such as drip irrigation and precise irrigation scheduling, they could slash water use by 17 to 22 percent. That's equivalent to all the surface water the Central Valley is expected to use this year. (See "Arizona Irrigators Share Water With Desert River.")
Such improvements have an upfront cost, roughly $2,000 an acre for drip systems, but Poole says farmers who have already switched are seeing short paybacks of a few years. Not only do they use less water, which saves them money on their substantial (and rising) utility bills, but many find their yields improve with more efficient watering, she says.
"I also think there is probably a lot of ability for state and regional governments to help with some of that initial investment by providing creative financing or cost shares that would speed up implementation of some of those measures," says Poole. (See "Can California Farmers Save Water and the Dying Salton Sea?")
If cities boosted their efficiency and reuse of water, they could readily save 5.2 to 7.1 million acre-feet of water per year, the report says, or more than enough water to supply all of urban southern California.
Earlier this year the state allocated nearly $700 million toward those kinds of investments, and some projects are already under way around the state. "Cash for grass" programs, in which residents are paid to replace their lawns with water-free plantings, have been particularly popular, says Poole. On June 3, the State Water Resources Control Board issued revised rules that make it easier to use recycled water for landscaping.
Poole says there is much work to be done, including ramping up investments in traditional water infrastructure and improving water-use data collection. But, she says, "with more concerted effort and policy support, we can easily get to that 20 percent savings and beyond."
Whether that will be enough to help the state get through the drought isn't known, but Quinn says it would go a long way. He'd also like to see more development of the state's emerging water market, in which different users sell water to others. But, he said, some districts may still have to implement even stricter restrictions on usage starting later this summer.[...]
Global warming makes drought come on earlier, faster, harderBy John Abraham Monday 30 June 2014 The Guardian
We all know that some climate change is natural, in fact, even without humans, the Earth’s climate changes. But, as we have added heat-trapping gases to the atmosphere, we have seen human influence “emerge” from natural variability.
Droughts, one of the most intensely studied climate events, are a perfect example of an effect with both human and natural influences. Separating the relative strengths of the influences is a challenge for scientists. But, when we deal with drought, with its large social and economic costs, it is a challenge we must undertake.
A very recent study tries to do just this. Published in the Journal of Climate, authors Richard Seager and Martin Hoerling cleverly used climate models forced by sea surface temperatures to separate how much of the past century’s North American droughts have been caused by ocean temperatures, natural variability, and humans.
What they found was expected (all three of these influence drought), but it's the details that are exciting. Furthermore, the methodology can be applied to other climate phenomena at other locations around the globe.[...]