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Five Lessons for Engineers from California's Massive Drought

Posted July 10, 2017 12:00 AM by Engineering360 eNewsletter

Although droughts are a recurring feature in California, the 2012-2016 drought was unusual in its severity, including the driest four-year stretch in 120 years of record keeping. The record-high temperatures reduced water stored in the Sierra Nevada snowpack and intensified drought conditions.


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Re: Five Lessons for Engineers from California's Massive Drought

07/10/2017 1:11 PM

Here are the 5 'lessons' in the linked article:

Coordinate water shortage contingency planning and implementation:

Foster water system flexibility and integration:

Improve water suppliers’ fiscal resilience:

Address water shortages in vulnerable communities and ecosystems:

Balance long-term water use efficiency and drought resilience

As you read through the descriptions for these it becomes apparent that these are really lessons for politicians. The article essentially tells engineers that they need to act like the adults in the room, because politicians won't do these things unless someone with knowledge and authority makes them.

The real lesson for engineers should be: Don't have a job in California that requires you work with politicians.

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Re: Five Lessons for Engineers from California's Massive Drought

07/10/2017 4:06 PM

Amen!

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Re: Five Lessons for Engineers from California's Massive Drought

07/11/2017 5:41 AM

The stripping out of reservoirs and river barrages a few years ago to "help restore local habitat for indigenous species" cannot have helped. The environmental lobby that forced those changes is keeping quiet about the fact that those protected environments are now losing as many animals to drought as they did previously to loss of habitat. That lost water storage capacity should be reinstated. The construction and locations of the original installations was dictated by the "maximum benefit/least cost" solution at the time of building. With the current Californian state budget situation, maximum benefit/least cost is the best short term solution to address the problem.

Longer term there are two options. 1 Offshore floating desalianation plants drawing energy from floating solar arrays. 2 Wait until sea level rise caused by global warming floods most of the state and the problem goes away.

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Re: Five Lessons for Engineers from California's Massive Drought

07/11/2017 10:43 AM

The five lessons are basically set up to deal with human habitability issues to offset the single real lesson: the climate changes. You have to adapt to it like every other creature in the area.

Those that adapt continue, those who don't die out.

In a book titled "Two Years Before The Mast," the author described a trip to California in the early 1800's to obtain leather hides for the Boston shoe manufacturing industry. At the time California was a desert, just like it is now, suited for little more than cattle ranching. Despite more modern infrastructure modifications, the area is still a desert and will become more so over time if the trends of the last 20,000 years continue.

Case in point, The Graham Mountain Red Squirrel. This critter is a genetically distinct version of red squirrels that got stranded on Graham Mountain as the climate warmed and dried. 15,000 years ago, the red squirrel population started drifting north as the climate warmed and dried, but the Graham Mountain Squirrel moved up the mountain following the plant species it needed and became isolated. Now it's considered endangered because the plant species at the top of the mountain are finally dying out and being replaced by species the squirrel can't use as effectively. Interesting note: humans had nothing to do with it. Politically though, the Graham Mountain Red Squirrel was used as an environmental basis to block the construction of an observatory.

It happens...learn from it.

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Re: Five Lessons for Engineers from California's Massive Drought

07/13/2017 12:24 PM

"... Interesting note: humans had nothing to do with it..."

.

Clark Peak Fire of '96?

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Re: Five Lessons for Engineers from California's Massive Drought

07/13/2017 12:58 PM

The Graham Mountain red squirrels had been isolated on the mountain for over 5000 years due to warming of the climate in the region. They had been isolated long enough to be genetically distinct from their cousins living further to the north. During the early '80s an attempt was made to have them declared endangered because that distinctive genetic line was dying out (ran out of mountain to move up). The endangered listing was used to block construction of an observatory.

The Clark Peak fire of '96 was about 10000 years too late to make a difference in the eventual fate of the squirrels. They were effectively a dead end when they moved up the mountain.

Now, if we had the impending ice age predicted during the '80s, that might have changed things.

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