Thursday, December 06, 2007

What if your community runs out of drinking water?

Yesterday morning I took a hike in the hills above Lake Sonoma (photo) with a friend. The “mud ring” is indicative of a very low water level.

Lake Sonoma, along with Lake Mendocino, both water supply reservoirs, is a primary source of water in Sonoma County, where I’ve lived for 40 years.

According to the Sonoma County Water Agency, as of November 28, "Water Levels in Lake Mendocino Approach Record Lows."

Within the past two weeks, I have e-mailed and called the water agency, asking about contingency plans if we have another dry winter or two. No one has responded to my question.

Tom Engelhardt’s November 15th post, "As the World Burns" alerted me to the universal lack of contingency plans if communities, including large cities, actually run out of water. Subtitled
“ How Dry We Are: A Question No One Wants to Raise About Drought,” Tom raises the question and finds that the issue is not being addressed in the mainstream media.

Atlanta, Georgia, is one those communities, 5 million strong and growing, that is currently projected to run out of drinking water in 132 days.

From Tom’s post: “According to the How Dry I Am Chart of ‘livability expert’ Bert Sperling, four cities in Southern California, not parched Atlanta, top the national drought ratings: Los Angeles, San Diego, Oxnard, and Riverside. In addition, Pasadena has had the dubious honor, through September, of experiencing its driest year in history.”

I checked the How Dry I Am Chart for my town, Healdsburg, and learned that we are experiencing moderate drought.

Tom asks, “So why is it that, except at relatively obscure websites, you can hardly find a mainstream piece that mentions more than one drought at a time?

“An honorable exception would be a recent Seattle Times column by Neal Peirce that brought together the southwestern and southeastern droughts, as well as the Western 'flame zone,' where 'mega-fires' are increasingly the norm, in the context of global warming, in order to consider our seemingly willful ‘myopia about the future.’"

I’m wondering why the Sonoma County Water Agency isn’t responding to my question about contingency plans if we run out of water.


Weedgardener said...

Caveat: I checked Sperling's data for Petaluma conditions, and then checked their general information on Petaluma. I found their population data was wildly off the mark. Petaluma has nearly twice as many people as the 31,526 listed "as of 2007." Makes me wonder about their drought data, though it seems generally accurate.

Chris Borland said...

Houses should be designed with their own independent power plants (solar roof tiles, etc.) and water treatment plants (gathering and storing rain runnoff, and recycling grey water).

Maybe someday we'll see contractors incorporating these "independent" living features in new homes, as the idea of living essentially "off the grid" and independent of public utilities grows in popularity.

A nation with such a widely diversified and decentralized web of independent utility plants would be almost impervious to terrorist attack on public utilities ... currently the easiest, most vulnerable, and deadliest target for anti-U.S. terrorists to attack.