Zero Percent Water. Alan Heathcock visits the Central Valley in California to talk to farmers about the drought, hear their perspective, and see first-hand what the land looks like.
Halfway through my three-week, 417-mile journey down the “most endangered” river in America, the water began flowing backward and the mud started talking. It spoke in baritone gurgles, like Barry White trapped in a bong. You know what this is, John? No, Barry White mud. This is QUICKSAND.
The drought in California and the American West is bad. Really bad. And it could get worse. The rich have their own plans.
All of California remains in drought with over 80% in worst categories of 'extreme' or 'exceptional' drought. Reservoir levels are 50% below average. (previously) [more inside]
"During the medieval period, there was over a century of drought in the Southwest and California. The past repeats itself." After three consecutive years of below-normal rainfall, California faces its most severe drought emergency in decades. Exacerbating the problem is the fact that the deserts of Southern California have been turned into livable spaces only by huge feats of engineering that divert massive amounts of water from other parts of the state and the country. Marc Reisner's 1986 book Cadillac Desert documents the history of acquiring and diverting water to the American Southwest. A four-part documentary based on the book was released in 1997. Part 1: Mulholland's Dream // Part 2: An American Nile // Part 3: The Mercy of Nature // Part 4: Last Oasis
"It's the ultimate Gordian knot ... There is no other system in the world as complex as the Delta." [more inside]
"California has a decision to make. We either brace ourselves for long-term [water] cuts that threaten our economy and our very way of way of life, or we invest in a solution to fix the [San Francisco Bay] Delta and expand our water toolbox so we can meet future challenges head-on.” [more inside]
"It's filthy. It's toxic. But it's water. And as we know in California, people are fighting over it." It's North America’s most polluted river, made up of 70% waste material and raw sewage. The New River, which starts in Mexicali, Mexico, flows past homes in the California border town of Calexico and winds up in the Salton Sea. The river contains a nightmare stew of about 100 biological contaminants, volatile organic compounds, heavy metals, and pesticides including: DDT, PCB, selenium, uranium, arsenic and mercury. The scary part? It's enough water for about 300,000 homes. Filthy or not, that’s real water. So L.A.’s Metropolitan Water District has filed a claim on New River water.
Eighty years ago, William Mulholland completed his final project: the St. Francis Dam, which converted San Francisquito Canyon--about 5 miles northeast of what is now Santa Clarita, California--into a 38,000 acre-foot reservoir for Los Angeles/Owens River aqueduct water. You're probably familiar with Mulholland's name --he designed and built the Los Angeles Aqueduct and the beginning of the system with which Los Angeles is supplied water from the Central Valley--and as a gesture of gratitude, the city named its most scenic highway in his honor. Mulholland, the California Water Wars, the aqueduct, and the dam were also referenced and alluded to extensively in Roman Polanski's Chinatown. But the man who helped build an immense metropolis by bringing water to the desert has only a small fountain as a memorial to his legacy. Three minutes before midnight, on March 12, 1928...
Good news on the pollution front. Town in Northern California finds a way to turn its sewage into non-polluting water and make a wildlife refuge. If you live in Arcata, you can flush your toilet with pride! Quick overview here or the full flush.