Tag Archives: water resources

November 25, 2012: California Rice Growing; 1988: Britain Selling Waterworks

Flooded Rice Fields

November 25, 2012: The Desert Sun headline—Calif. Commercial Rice Growing Hits 100 Years. “California is celebrating 100 years of commercial rice production this year, marking the anniversary of a commodity that has evolved to become one of the state’s largest agricultural exports.

Farmers began experimenting with growing rice during the Gold Rush more than 160 years ago, according to the California Rice Commission. It had long been grown in the southeastern U.S., but was introduced in California by Chinese gold miners, who later built the state’s railroads and river levees.

It wasn’t until 1912 that the first commercial production started in Butte County, in the Sacramento Valley about 70 miles north of the state capital.

Since then, California has become the nation’s largest producer of short- and medium-grain sticky rice, with much of the high-quality product shipped to Japan and other Asian countries through the Port of West Sacramento. Most sushi in the U.S. is made with California rice.

All told, California annually ships nearly 5 billion pounds of rice as far away as Europe and the Middle East.

Most is grown within 100 miles of Sacramento, predominantly in Butte, Colusa, Glenn, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba counties. Rice commission spokesman Jim Morris said the climate, soil and water are ideal for the crop.

Commentary: No mention is made in this piece how much water is required to grow rice in an area that has allocated water for too many uses. Growing rice in the Sacramento River Valley made sense 100 years ago. It even made sense 50 years ago. It makes no sense today. I don’t care how much sushi is sold in LA or Tokyo.

Margaret Thatcher

November 25, 1988New York Times headline—Britain Planning to Sell Its Waterworks. “The British Government today began the latest and most contentious step in its sweeping privatization program by presenting its plans for selling off the nation’s state-owned water industry.

‘We shall be freeing into private hands yet another important industrial sector,’ the Environment Secretary, Nicholas Ridley, said in setting out the Government’s proposals to sell Britain’s 10 public water authorities.

He predicted that the water privatization bill, which was included in the Government’s legislative agenda announced in Queen Elizabeth II’s address to the new session of Parliament on Tuesday, would result in more efficient management of water resources and tighter environmental safeguards.

But many economists, politicians and union officials are skeptical about the presumed benefits of selling the water industry.

The British public seems to agree. A survey in June by Market and Opinion Research International, a London-based company that is one of Britain’s leading polling organizations, found that 66 percent of the population opposed selling the water authorities to private shareholders, compared with 25 percent who supported it and 9 percent who were undecided.

Alex Thomson, the national officer of the largest trade union in the water industry, the National and Local Government Officers Association, today echoed the doubts of many when he said, ‘Privatizing water makes about as much sense as privatizing the air we breathe.’…Making more British citizens shareholders was an important element of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s drive to ‘roll back the frontiers of the state.’”

Question:  Was the privatization of the UK water systems successful or not?

June 17, 1902: U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Established

U.S. Bureau of Reclamation Regions

June 17, 1902:  Bureau of Reclamation Established by Congress.“John Wesley Powell, often considered the father of reclamation, began a series of expeditions to explore the American West in 1867. He saw that after snow-melt and spring rains, the rivers of the West flooded, releasing huge amounts of water, and that for the rest of the year not enough rain fell to support any kind of real agriculture. He became convinced that irrigation was the only means by which much of the West could sustain population. He mapped locations for dams and irrigation projects. He found widespread support throughout the West, especially through the droughts of the 1890s.

Several private and local farming organizations proved the benefits of irrigation projects. However, when it became apparent that a greater effort would be required, Representative Francis G. Newlands of Nevada introduced legislation into the United States Congress to provide federal help for irrigation projects. The resulting act passed on June 17, 1902.

“The United States Bureau of Reclamation(USBR), and formerly the United States Reclamation Service, is a federal agency under the U.S. Department of the Interior, which oversees water resource management, specifically as it applies to the oversight and operation of the diversion, delivery, and storage projects that it has built throughout the western United States for irrigation, water supply, and attendant hydroelectric power generation. Currently USBR is the largest wholesaler of water in the country, bringing water to more than 31 million people, and providing one in five Western farmers with irrigation water for 10 million acres of farmland, which produce 60% of the nation’s vegetables and 25% of its fruits and nuts. USBR is also the second largest producer of hydroelectric power in the western United States.”

May 26, 1977: Drought Cartoon; 1928: Birth of Marion Stoddart

May 26, 1977:  Drought Cartoon. The Los Angeles Times has published cartoons over more than 100 years that depict the many droughts that California has suffered and the reactions to them. Here is one that I think you will enjoy.

May 26, 1928:  Birth of Marion Stoddart.
Environmental Pioneer and Activist
in Massachusetts.
”During the 1960s, the Nashua River made the top 10 list of most polluted rivers in the U.S. Then Marion Stoddart got involved, building a citizen coalition that changed laws, attitudes, and restored the river. In the process, Marion won the United Nations Global 500 Award, was profiled in National Geographic, and had a widely-read children’s book written about her.” Go to this website for more information:
http://www.workof1000.com/

April 11, 1956: Central Utah Project Authorization

The Bonneville Project was just one component of the Central Utah Project

April 11, 1956: The Central Utah Project (CUP)was authorized under the Colorado River Storage Act.  “The CUP is a water resource development project that provides water supplies to the central portion of the state of Utah. It was authorized under the Colorado River Storage Act of April 11, 1956, with planning and construction initially by the Bureau of Reclamation (“BuRec”). The CUP diverts a portion of Utah’s 23 percent share of the Upper Basin of the Colorado River to originally a 12 county area within Utah …. Project features divert water from the southern slopes of the Uinta Mountains and the Colorado River to the Wasatch Front through a collection system consisting of a series of aqueducts, tunnels and dams.

The CUP was considered by local farmers and civic leaders as far back as the turn of the century. In 1902, these leaders began investigating the Strawberry Valley Project, and subsequently it was one of the first in the nation to be constructed in 1905 under the newly passed Reclamation Act of 1903. The original study envisioned a farsighted project that would divert waters from Uinta Mountain streams as far east as the Yellowstone River for storage in a reservoir situated in the Strawberry Valley. The water would then flow by tunnel through the Wasatch Divide into the headwaters of the Spanish Fork River. By 1919 local municipal, agricultural and state leaders began planning for the expansion of the Strawberry Valley Project to obtain additional water supplies. Between 1939 and 1945 the BuRec investigated means of developing additional Colorado River water. In 1945, BuRec studies identified and first named the CUP in a document entitled “Project Planning Interim Report.”

The state of Utah and its congressional delegation worked diligently to gain authorization of the CUP and were successful in having the CUP, Initial Phase, authorized for construction as a participating project under the 1956 Colorado River Storage Project Act.”

April 1, 1915: Massachusetts Water Resources—Water Famine?

Water flowing over a power dam on the Merrimack River

April 1, 1915:  Municipal Journalarticle. Water Storage in Massachusetts. “Boston, Mass.-That the state’s water resources are being gobbled up by private interests and that unless some change of policy is immediately instituted Massachusetts will have to face a water famine is brought to the attention of the legislature in a report on the conservation and utilization of waters by the state board of harbor and land commissioners. The amount of water power used by manufacturers has increased enormously in the last few years. For instance, proprietors of Locks and Canals in the city of Lowell consumed in 1912 about 11,620 horsepower, developed from the Merrimac river, according to statistics of the United States Bureau of Corporations. A survey in 1915 by the harbor and land commissions shows that these same Locks and Canals now use 29,911 horsepower.

The water used and wasted by municipalities is also mentioned in the report. The commission urges that a definite plan be laid out by the state for the control and conservation of the water resources. The Merrimac river is capable of further development, according to United States Engineer C. C. Covert of the Geological Survey, who is quoted as saying that, although the most favorable opportunities for storage on the Merrimac are being utilized, there are still many unutilized reservoir sites available. The commission on harbors and public lands holds that unless the state within a reasonably short time asserts a definite policy of control, the waters in the rivers and natural streams, which belong to the people of the whole state will be devoted entirely to private uses.

In contrast to the situation in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, New York and the province of Ontario, where a conservation program is now under way, nothing at all has been done in Massachusetts. The control which exists of the water resources is divided among four or five different bodies, no one of which has complete authority. In the year 1912 the United States Bureau of Corporations made a tabulation which showed that 130,620 horsepower was owned by the larger companies in Massachusetts. The harbor and land commissions, canvassing the same people, have discovered that within the three years the total horsepower developed has increased to 264,152, Massachusetts manufacturers are now paying nearly $26,000,000 a year for the purchase of fuel for power purposes. Intelligent plans to avoid freshet damages and to store water for irrigation are also urged.”

Reference:   “Water Storage in Massachusetts.” 1915. Municipal Journalarticle 38:13(April 1, 1915): 439-40.

Water-powered industrial equipment—Merrimack River

February 24, 1953: Birth of Pat Mulroy; 1815: Death of Robert Fulton

February 24, 1953:  Pat Mulroy was born. Patricia Mulroy was the general manager of the Southern Nevada Water Authority. Her job was to make sure that Las Vegas and the surrounding metropolitan area has enough water, now and in the future. Mulroy is the German-born daughter of an American father and a German mother. She was hired in 1978 when she was working for the University of Las Vegas to work in an administrative job at the Las Vegas Valley Water District. She became general manager of that organization in 1989 and in 1991 she was chosen as the general manager of the newly formed Southern Nevada Water Authority.

Because Las Vegas has one of the lowest priorities of water rights on the Colorado River, her tenure has been marked by some of the most innovative efforts to increase the region’s water supply and revolutionary ideas to conserve water. She has gone way beyond the usual approaches of low flow showerheads and low flush toilets. The Authority’s program to buy back turf grass in people’s yards at a price of up to two dollars a square foot has been called by some as a historic turning point in the war against municipal water over-use in the arid West.

She has been called ruthless, scheming and tough. And those are some of the nice things that people who have gone up against her say about her. She is also scary smart and not afraid to take on the biggest and the baddest opponents to get what she wants. And what she wanted was what is best for the Authority and the people served by it. Some people say that she has mellowed over the years and approached the task of squeezing more water out of a drought-stricken Colorado River with a more strategic approach.

“Her preferred strategy in 2010 was to weight it [Colorado River water rights] down with subsequent agreements so numerous that the contract is in effect suffocated. In her words, ‘Put enough agreements on top of it that it becomes meaningless.’ While her style remains blunt and no-nonsense, her grasp of the realpolitik of the Colorado River water users has grown more sure and subtle. She is a deal maker when necessary, looking to expand the possibilities for trading water rights or to provide incentives for others to compromise. She infuriated residents of northeastern Nevada and western Utah by pushing for a 285-mile pipeline to bring groundwater from the Snake Valley to Las Vegas but eventually struck a deal, although resentment remains and Utah is not yet formally on board.” (Barringer 2010)

Pat Mulroy is one of a kind. She has shaken up the good-old-boys network of water resources experts in the Western U.S. and we are all better off because of it.

Reference: Barringer, Felicity. 2010. “Las Vegas’s Worried Water Czar.” New York Times. September 28, 2010.

Commentary: The entire article is my opinion.

24February 24, 1815:Robert Fulton dies. Today in Science History. Robert Fulton–Born 14 Nov 1765; died 24 Feb 1815 at age 49. “American inventor, engineer, and artist who brought steamboating from the experimental stage to commercial success. He did not invent the steamboat, which had been built in the early 1700’s, but rather applied his engineering skills to their design. He changed the proportions, arrangements, and velocities of already proposed ideas. In 1807, work was completed on the Clermont, the first steamboat that was truly successful, and the culmination of many years of work. It’s maiden voyage was on 17 Aug from New York City to Albany, a distance of 150 miles completed in 32 hours. A mechanical genius with many talents, he also designed a system of inland waterways, a submarine (Nautilus, 1801), and a steam warship.”

January 17, 1896: Drought Cartoon; 1994: Northridge Earthquake Damages Los Angeles Infrastructure; 1900: Missouri v Illinois over Chicago Sewage; 1856: Charles V. Chapin Born; 1859: Death of Lemuel Shattuck

January 17, 1896:  Drought Cartoon. The Los Angeles Times has published cartoons over more than 100 years that depict the many droughts that California has suffered and the reactions to them. Here is one that I think you will enjoy.

January 17, 1994:  Northridge earthquake does significant damage to water infrastructure in Los Angeles.“The Northridge earthquake was an earthquake that occurred on January 17, 1994, at 04:31 Pacific Standard Time and was centered in the north-central San Fernando Valley region of Los Angeles, California. It had a duration of approximately 10–20 seconds….In addition, earthquake-caused property damage was estimated to be more than $20 billion, making it one of the costliest natural disasters in U.S. history….Numerous fires were also caused by broken gas lines from houses shifting off their foundations or unsecured water heaters tumbling. In the San Fernando Valley, several underground gas and water lines were severed, resulting in some streets experiencing simultaneous fires and floods. Damage to the system resulted in water pressure dropping to zero in some areas; this predictably affected success in fighting subsequent fires. Five days after the earthquake it was estimated that between 40,000 and 60,000 customers were still without public water service.”

Commentary:  One of the most memorable sights from the earthquake aftermath was the massive natural gas fire occurring while water was spewing from a huge water main break (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WA1m3UgJ8nU).

Breaking the Dam on the Canal

January 17, 1900:Fifteen days after Chicago opened the Sanitary and Ship Canal and reversed the course of the Chicago River to discharge sewage into the Mississippi River, Missouri sued Illinois, “…praying for an injunction against the defendants from draining into Mississippi River the sewage and drainage of said sanitary district by way of the Chicago drainage canal and the channels of Desplaines and Illinois river.”

The Bill of Complaint alleged in part:

“That if such plan is carried out it will cause such sewage matter to flow into Mississippi River past the homes and waterworks systems of the inhabitants of the complainant…

That the amount of such undefecated [huh?] sewage matter would be about 1,500 tons daily, and that it will poison the waters of the Mississippi and render them unfit for domestic use, amounting to a direct and continuing nuisance that will endanger the health and lives and irreparably injure the business interests of inhabitants of the complainant…

That the water of the canal had destroyed the value of the water of the Mississippi for drinking and domestic purposes, and had caused much sickness to persons living along the banks of said river in the State of Missouri.”

The opinion in the case was written by Supreme Court Justice, Oliver Wendell Holmes and read in part:

“The data upon which an increase in the deaths from typhoid fever in St. Louis is alleged are disputed. The elimination of other causes is denied. The experts differ as to the time and distance within which a stream would purify itself. No case of an epidemic caused by infection at so remote a source is brought forward and the cases which are produced are controverted. The plaintiff obviously must be cautious upon this point, for if this suit should succeed many others would follow, and it not improbably would find itself a defendant to a bill by one or more of the States lower down upon the Mississippi.The distance which the sewage has to travel (357 miles) is not open to debate, but the time of transit to he inferred from experiments with floats is estimated at varying from eight to eighteen and a half days, with forty-eight hours more from intake to distribution, and when corrected by observations of bacteria is greatly prolonged by the defendants. The experiments of the defendants’ experts lead them to the opinion that a typhoid bacillus could not survive the journey, while those on the other side maintain that it might live and keep its power for twenty-five days or more, and arrive at St. Louis. Upon the question at issue, whether the new discharge from Chicago hurts St. Louis, there is a categorical contradiction between the experts on the two sides.”

Commentary:  In effect, Justice Holmes ruled in favor of Chicago. The experts for St. Louis had failed to prove their case.

Reference:  Leighton, Marshall O. 1907. “Pollution of Illinois and Mississippi Rivers by Chicago Sewage: A Digest of the Testimony Taken in the Case of the State of Missouri v. the State of Illinois and the Sanitary District of Chicago.” U.S. Geological Survey, Water Supply and Irrigation Paper No. 194, Series L, Quality of Water, 20, Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

Charles V. Chapin

January 17, 1856:  Charles V. Chapin was born.“Charles Value Chapin (January 17, 1856 – January 31, 1941 in Providence) was a pioneer in public-health practice, serving as one of the Health Officers for Providence, Rhode Island between 1884 and 1932. He also served as President of the American Public Health Association in 1927. His observations on the nature of the spread of infectious disease were dismissed at first, but eventually gained widespread support. His book, The Sources and Modes of Infection, was frequently read in the United States and Europe. The Providence City Hospital was renamed the Charles V. Chapin Hospital in 1931 to recognize his substantial contributions to improving the sanitary condition of the city of Providence.”

Commentary:  Chapin defined the new public health movement at the beginning of the 20thcentury. His career expressed the advances in public health that we all now take for granted.

January 17, 1859:  Lemuel Shattuck died in Boston.“Lemuel Shattuck was born on October 15, 1793 in Ashby, Massachusetts… He is remembered as a public health innovator, and for his work with vital statistics. Shattuck was one of the early prime-movers of public hygiene in the United States. With his report to the Massachusetts Sanitary Commission in 1850, he accomplished for New England what such men as Chadwick, Rarr, and Simon had done for England. There had been in the United States few advances in public health aside from a few stray smallpox regulations until this report. Shattuck’s report pointed out that much of the ill health and debility in the American cities at that time could be traced to unsanitary conditions, and stressed the need for local investigations and control of defects.

Shattuck was a prime mover in the adoption and expansion of public health measures at local and state levels. In 1850, he published a Sanitation Report that established a model for state boards of health in Massachusetts (1869) and other parts of the United States….”