Friday, February 28, 2014

No It's NOT About the Delta Smelt!

The current water crisis in Southern California has been many years in the making yet many of the parties involved still miss the point that water is a precious resource that needs to be managed wisely. It's shocking to see misinformation all over the news media. Here is a compilation of resources to clarify the situation:

There really isn't enough water to go around. Northern California had only 6.12" of rainfall last year, LA had only 3.6". Contrast this with the approximately 50"s of annual rainfall we get in NYC.

The story about the Delta smelt is a red herring. The core question is "are we growing the right food in the right places and with the best technology possible to reduce water use?"

"History tells us that a defining moment in our use of the earth's water came with....the harnessing of fossil fuels during the Industrial Revolution...water mining took hold in arid and semiarid orgy of consumption ensued...amid alarming signs...that the supply of underground water is finite and not being replaced at anything like a sustainable rate. Yet most of us...still take water for granted and live in a state of denial...California is a case in point..." 
Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind by Brian Fagan

Soil plowed for monoculture of annual crops - a recipe for disaster
 On a brighter note, in Davis, California, ecologically designed Village Homes benefits from bioswales that capture rainwater runoff and support a forest of fruit and nut trees.

Photo from (23122266)

This is a recent interview with the Village Homes architect, Michael Corbett

From the Village Homes website:
Natural Drainage — The common areas also contain Village Homes' innovative natural drainage system, a network of creek beds, swales, and pond areas that allow rainwater to be absorbed into the ground rather than carried away through storm drains. Besides helping to store moisture in the soil, this system provides a visually interesting backdrop for landscape design.
Edible Landscaping — Fruit and nut trees and vineyards form a large element of the landscaping in Village Homes and contribute significantly to the provender of residents. More than thirty varieties of fruit trees were originally planted, and as a result some fruit is ripe and ready to eat nearly every month of the year.
Orientation — All streets trend east-west and all lots are oriented north-south. This orientation (which has become standard practice in Davis and elsewhere) helps the houses with passive solar designs make full use of the sun's energy.

Government subsidies for farmers and consumers just send fake money chasing scarce goods. It will only raise prices while exacerbating the Federal Debt. Can we turn more of our neighborhoods into ecologically well designed food forests like Village Homes? Can we design with Nature to create and preserve lasting wealth? A look at some of the projects underway worldwide will be the subject of a future Blog.

*Related: The Aug 2013 post addressed the pattern of drought/forest fires/flooding/erosion in California:

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