Somewhere this weekend a switch was turned and a light went on across the world in regards to the omnipresent drought here on the West Coast of the United States. Why would I say that? Well, dozens of articles began to appear beginning on Feb. 12th into today (Feb. 16th) with the terms “Megadrought” or “Mega-Drought”, or “Worst drought in a millennium”, or “Worse drought in 1000 years”.
Jason E. Smeardon is all over the web right now, he co-authored a new study “Unprecedented 21st-Century Drought Risk in the American Southwest and Central Plains” published in Science Advances, that is way over my head in terms of its language, but not its gist.
We are at the threshold of a Mega-Drought, just dipping our toe into a dry dusty pool. An event that has taken place before based on quantifiable data from studying the rings in trees, trees both ancient and recent. But this drought is different as it is moving in conjunction with the rise in the earth’s temperature due to increased C02 emissions.
This weekend also saw the release of a NASA study describing, “Droughts in the U.S. Southwest and Central Plains during the last half of this century could be drier and longer than drought conditions seen in those regions in the last 1,000 years”
“Natural droughts like the 1930s Dust Bowl and the current drought in the Southwest have historically lasted maybe a decade or a little less,” said Ben Cook, climate scientist at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University in New York City, and lead author of the study. “What these results are saying is we’re going to get a drought similar to those events, but it is probably going to last at least 30 to 35 years.”
These are studies and papers are by people schooled-versed in their trades from NASA, Cornell & Columbia University writing these papers, and the reportage is coming in from organizations such as National Geographic – The BBC – Newsweek. Have a look:
Feb. 12th through 14th, 2015
National Geographic: “Worst Drought in 1000 years Predicted for the American West.
Slate: “The United States of Mega-Drought”
Newsweek: “US soon to face worst drought in a Millennium”
CBS News: “Mega-Droughts become the New Normal”
CNN: “Risk of American “Mega-Droughts” for decades, NASA warns”
The Independent (UK): “The Eye of the Mega-Drought”
BBC (UK): US at risk of Mega-Drought Future
Daily Mail (UK): “US faces Mega-Drought Future”
This excerpt in Newsweek’s article really caught my eye:
Even modeled using “moderate” future emissions predictions, climate change will cause droughts that will “exceed even the driest centuries” seen during the Medieval Warm Period between 1100 and 1300 A.D., according to the paper. That’s during the same time of the so-called “Anasazi collapse,” when Native Americans migrated en masse away from the four corners region of the U.S.—which consists of the southwestern corner of Colorado, northwestern corner of New Mexico, northeastern corner of Arizona, and southeastern corner of Utah. Skeletal remains of Anasazi people show “signs of starvation, disease, infant mortality and violence, suggesting extreme hardship and competition for dwindling water and food resources,” according to B. Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist at the University of California, Berkeley, and author of the book The West Without Water.”
Drought as an extinction event…
I drove cross country to California not long ago, driving the 40 across then up 5. Turning up 5 I was horrified at what I saw… a wasteland. Driving into the Central Valley it was clear one thing was going to be extinct very soon… farming.
I just came back last week from a few days at the 2015 World Ag Show in Tulare, California, and it was a dustbowl all the way down. These two signs caught my attention at the show(the protection of the California Delta Smelt being a major reason water has been curtailed from use in the Valley for those of you who do not know):
And driving down 99 & 126 every other fence had a rant or diatribe about water, here a few…
So, I have to ask at what point Californians will start believing that a very serious water crisis is coming? I hate to say it but for many Californians (and Arizonians, Nevadans, Americans in general), it will be when water no longer comes out of the taps.
But, for those who do care and see what is coming, here are a few things we can do.
Reclaimed Wastewater Used For Agriculture:
Yes, it was once wastewater, maybe even sewage, but then it was treated to create safe water that if not used for human consumption it can be most certainly used to water crops and livestock.
In some parts of Texas, things have gotten so bad, people are drinking reclaimed wastewater.
In Orange County CA they have been recharging the aquifer with reclaimed treated wastewater for some time.
Here in California, it is time to accept this water for widespread agricultural use. Have a look at what then-Mayor Jim Wood, now California State Assemblyman Jim Wood, did in the town of Healdsburg.
Reclaimed Wastewater Used For Construction
There is no reason why reclaimed wastewater cannot be used for the mixing of cement, dust suppression, and building sites, or basic wash downs of equipment. Here are two different studies one from the University of Wisconsin, the other from the American Society of Civil Engineers citing the compressive strength of cement mixed using treated reclaimed wastewater, in particular wastewater originating as sewage. Neither showed loss of strength when compared to regular potable water.
Reclaimed Wastewater & Rainwater used in Manufacturing
Almost every kind of manufacturing uses water, from making paper to plastics, even iPhones. There are various degrees of purity needed, but sometimes that water is used strictly for cooling. Reclaimed wastewater can be used for manufacturing purposes as can reclaimed rainwater. Toyota is doing it in Texas “The Toyota plant uses it in its manufacturing process, and water that runs through the iconic River Walk is treated wastewater”
Industrial Scale Rainwater Harvesting & HVAC Capture
Factories, Warehouses, Airplane Hangers, Prisons, Universities, and Football Stadiums the list of commercial and governmental buildings with massive square footage in terms of their rooftops is unending. If all of these rooftops harvested rain, that water could in turn be used for landscaping at the very least, or the washing down of equipment and roadways associated with those facilities, and much more if creative people put their minds to it.
Not to mention the countless gallons of water loss to the use of HVAC Units (Air Conditioners), water sweated away from pipes and coils onto trays which mostly just rust and overflow. All that water can be piped directly into Rainwater Harvesting systems by piping that water into the gutter systems and then into tanks. Large commercial units can lose 35 to 70 gallons a day based on make and horsepower (motor size).
If you need information on large scale rainwater harvesting you are in the right place, to begin with, we are the experts.
These methods above and so many more can be used to conserve and protect our resources while there is still time in the ecological sense. I would love to hear what others have to say, “Real” and “Viable” ideas on how we can be creative with our water use to keep the industry alive, people working &fed.
Remember: Ideas are great, but useless unless you can fund them. Tell me your ideas and how they make sense financially. My email is blog (at) nationalstoragetank.com
An old man once told me, “Kid, if you don’t know what’s coming, you’ll never know what hit you.”
Time in the ecological sense is measured here in years, and the clock of change is slow. Human beings get used to things and are resistant to change especially when it involves extra cost or work. Without foresight and forward-thinking, without seeing water from the toilet can be treated and made safe can be used for a wide variety of things, without harnessing the rainwater on a large scale and using it wisely… we are in for a world of hurt because the Mega-Drought is coming, ticking slow… but it a time bomb all the same.
Think about that while you let the water run while brushing your teeth or shaving… watching the future go down the drain.