A guide to California's water crisis - and why it's so hard to fix

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to read Brad Plumer's detailed article published April 10, 2015 on www.vox.com, visit

http://www.vox.com/2015/4/10/8379221/california-drought-water-crisis

California saw this drought coming. Even if people in the state didn't know it would be this bad — now the worst in recorded history — they've known that dry years are inevitable and had all sorts of ideas for how to deal with them.

But for all that planning, California's current drought has been a total disaster. Reservoirs are drying up. Crops are wilting in the fields. For the first time ever, towns and cities will face a mandatory 25 percent cut in their water use.

The underlying problem is bigger than almonds or golf courses

The problem isn't that no one foresaw the drought. The problem is that no one has been able to solve an underlying issue that is simultaneously less scary and also much harder than a dry spell: California's convoluted water system and intractable water politics.

demandside's picture
demandside
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Comments

Thank you for posting the article. I sure don't know what the answer is. I know there are far too many people living in this state that continue to abuse the water by soaking their lawns.

Just yesterday I saw water rolling down the street. The city had opened a fire hydrant and let out water. I understand that they need to do that but can't they somehow capture that water rather than just let it run into the storm drain? It makes me sick!

MrsBJLee's picture
MrsBJLee
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Feb. 17, 2012 8:45 am

It is necessary to release water from fire hydrants periodically to flush out all the rust, sediment and other crud that builds up in our water supply lines, as well as sanitizing new and recently repaired water lines with extra strong chlorine . Technology exists to capture the water and truck it to the nearest reservoir, where it can be treated and reused as drinking water. But trucking water to reservoirs that may be many miles away is prohibitively expensive and burns a lot of fossil fuel.

I for one don't get upset when I see water released from fire hydrants, (unless it's the hyper-chlorinated kind), running down city streets in the Sacramento or San Joaquin Valleys because it enters storm drains and eventually ends up back in the river where it belongs. Then it flows down the rivers and through the delta where large quantities of it are pumped into the canals leading to the SF Bay area, the southern central valley, Los Angeles and beyond.

I do get upset though, when I see thousands of acre feet of water gushing down small agricultural canals in the central valley to be wastefully used to flood irrigate thousands of acres of fruit and nut orchards, alfalfa fodder for export to China's growing beef industry, and recently, acres and acres of corn to fuel the new ethanol plants.

Here's one of the biggest wastes of water that I know: Farmers who grow canning peaches north of Sacramento regularly flood-irrigate their massive orchards to keep the trees from dying; But they are forced to let their peaches rot on the trees because they can no longer afford to harvest and sell them due to the low prices of Chinese canned peaches.

I am all for orchard farmers being made to drip irrigate, and banning the export of water thirsty crops like alfalfa, rice and corn; or at least taxing them heavily to match the taxpayer subsidies for the cheap agricultural water used to grow them in the first place.

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Sacramento Dave
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Nov. 27, 2010 9:46 am

Good information Dave. It sounds like the U.S.A. is the equivalent of a banana republic now. However, we don't actually produce bananas here. Perhaps we are instead now an apple, corn or nut republic.

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Mark the Shark
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Nov. 18, 2011 3:02 pm

And there's a problem with climate science: it isn't that good. As a friend who worked on those projects told me, "you never know what a cloud will do." This is probably why climate scientists are now using the term "climate disruption" instead of "climate change." IOW, the climate may be so dirupted that California might wind up having a wet summer.

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captbebops
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote captbebops:

And there's a problem with climate science: it isn't that good. As a friend who worked on those projects told me, "you never know what a cloud will do." This is probably why climate scientists are now using the term "climate disruption" instead of "climate change." IOW, the climate may be so dirupted that California might wind up having a wet summer.

Wow that would be a switch! I have to say that it seems like our weather never settled into a pattern this year. It was constantly changing from HOT to cool/cold then back to HOT then cool/cold. It never seemed to stay HOT or cool for ANY length of time.

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MrsBJLee
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Feb. 17, 2012 8:45 am

Climate disruption is used instead of global warming for one reason only. and it has to do with the image generated by politically and financially motivated people.

Your "friend" is in a bit of a minority to think that so cal is going to have a wet summer. Probability does exist for something like that to happen but I would venture to say that it is very low. Maybe not so quite low as all the gas molecule in a room all decide to bunch up in a tiny corner of the room leaving the rest in total vacuum. This was the ongoing joke in statistical thermodynamics.

[geek talk] The pertubation seen in global climate disruption is large enough that it is most likely the source of the fluctuation seen in the local weather/climate. The system may be looking for its new stable point. It may only be locally stable. [/geek talk] this may be the reason for hot/cold extreme we are seeing.

smilingcat
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Sep. 23, 2010 8:14 am

The term: "Climate Disruption" sounds more of a temporary situation than the term "Climate Change". And the term "Climate Change" sounds more localized and less universal than "Global Warming".

For heavens sake, if the political correctness crowd is are going to all that effort to water down the think-speak word that describes the human populous generated environmental devastation that we are forcing on our beloved Mother Earth, please let them hold their breaths, save some hot air from escaping, and send just a little bit of that water down to Southern California.

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Sacramento Dave
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Nov. 27, 2010 9:46 am
Quote Sacramento Dave:

The term: "Climate Disruption" sounds more of a temporary situation than the term "Climate Change". And the term "Climate Change" sounds more localized and less universal than "Global Warming".

For heavens sake, if the political correctness crowd is are going to all that effort to water down the think-speak word that describes the human populous generated environmental devastation that we are forcing on our beloved Mother Earth, please let them hold their breaths, save some hot air from escaping, and send just a little bit of that water down to Southern California.

They certainly are going to a lot of effort to not say "Climate Change" It's crazy!

MrsBJLee's picture
MrsBJLee
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Feb. 17, 2012 8:45 am

An Econ joke: There are 3 kinds of economists, those that can count, and those that can't.

http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2015/01/california-drought-almonds-water-use was on a member's blog, I forget who posted it.

As for the terminology, I imagine Galileo and Coperinicus were not allowed to mention the cosmos. When people don't want to believe something they try not to listen to it. FL is not allowed to mention it. A few other states of ALEC or Kochalot feifdoms aren't allowed to say it either. SC forbid the term 'sea rise', the euphemisms are ridiculus but ignorance is the most abundant commodity in the US. (and it's renewable)

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douglaslee
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Hmmm! I wonder why they keep changing the terminology....Global Warming, Climate Change...and now Climate Disruption. I guess they haven't quite got it pinned down yet. I'm not making fun of them...it's just that some Global Warming/Climate Change/Climate Disruption deniers may use all of those variations in terminology against us. Let's see now...where else have I heard similar variations of terminology...ISIS/ISIL/DAESH...previously known as Al Qaida closely related to Taliban...war lords. And then there is El Niño and La Niña and HAARP and major X class Sun Flares not to mention the killer Comets or Mega volcanoes like Yellowstone Park that could erupt any moment and then there are the killer plagues and the Bird or Swine Influenzas. We're all gonna die!!!!!

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Palindromedary
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm
Quote Palindromedary:Hmmm! I wonder why they keep changing the terminology....Global Warming, Climate Change...and now Climate Disruption. I guess they haven't quite got it pinned down yet. I'm not making fun of them...it's just that some Global Warming/Climate Change/Climate Disruption deniers may use all of those variations in terminology against us. Let's see now...where else have I heard similar variations of terminology...ISIS/ISIL/DAESH...previously known as Al Qaida closely related to Taliban...war lords. And then there is El Niño and La Niña and HAARP and major X class Sun Flares not to mention the killer Comets or Mega volcanoes like Yellowstone Park that could erupt any moment and then there are the killer plagues and the Bird or Swine Influenzas. We're all gonna die!!!!!

Well you forgot to add the mad scientists of Cern's LHC.

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MrsBJLee
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Feb. 17, 2012 8:45 am

So noone thought to search for the term "climate disruption"?

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffmcmahon/2015/03/12/forget-global-warming...

It'll give you some background on the term.

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captbebops
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

MrsBJLee: Yes, that's right...how many names did the "God" particle have? Probably about as many as there were religious scientists...now that's a contradiction in terms....if not in realities. I guess I still can't get over the intrusive metric system when I was in grade school. Very traumatic! We learned about feet and inches and miles and they come along with meters just to screw with our little heads. I think someone even started the rumor that it was a communist conspiracy. They did that concerning UNICEF too! Yes, I hailed from thumperland once upon a time. They called it Chernobyl...but we had to move to Semipalatinsk because it was getting to be too hot after the accident. That's why I have three heads now. One I call father, another I call son, and the last one I call Holy Ghost! ;-} Just shuckin' and jivin' you all!

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Palindromedary
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

I find it most amusing every time I hear about a new drug on the TV. They are all basically the same drugs as the ones that have been around for a long time but they give them new names....really strange names. Perhaps they make a very slight change in the drug that won't really make any difference from the old drugs but it lets them change the name and hype it as being "new" and "improved".

I think it is marketing hype to make you think the weirder the name...the more it must work. We are overwhelmed in a sea of ridiculous names that are all meant to get us to give our money to the sellers of those ridiculous drugs with ridiculous names. I guess it works, otherwise they wouldn't be doing it. I think there is usually an ulterior motive behind frequent changing of names of things. Maybe it is just a matter of honing down a more descriptive term...maybe not! I believe it has more to do with selling an idea!

The problem is that people were trying to sell "Global Warming" and were so convinced this is exactly what was happening that no one could convince them otherwise. Then someone decides to change the name and people again bought into it and were convinced that this is exactly descriptive of what is happening. And then they change it again. How certain are they that they got it right this time? Will they change the name again and still expect people to believe them? Those people, scientists?, who started using the term "Global Warming"...what? were they wrong? It became "Climate Change"...what? were they wrong? So now it is "Climate Disruption"? Are you certain that some Republicans aren't pulling our legs? What better way of defeating an idea than by getting people to change their stories?

Remember Al Gore when he gave his presentations and showed us those charts and kept using the name "Global Warming" as if what he meant by that was that the Globe was getting hotter? Is that no longer happening? It's no longer "Global Warming"? Seems to me that it appears that people are backing down from their certainties. And if they weren't right the first time then maybe they are not right now?

Maybe it's just a sudden shift to frighten and confuse people who got used to the term "Global Warming"? It didn't sound so bad...some people in colder areas may have actually welcomed that idea. Could it be that the Dems are trying to cause a "disruptive" shift in people's realization that there really is no difference between the Dems and the Repubs and using the word "disruptive" as in "Global disruption" (sounds really scary doesn't it?) is just a political ploy to scare people into voting Democrat(ic)?

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Palindromedary
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Jul. 31, 2007 3:01 pm

Don't get me started on pharmaceuticals. I want nothing to do with them if at all possible. I do well with homeopathic medicine and prefer to eat clean, exercise and drink lots of pure clean water. <<although that might be getting scarce here in CA. Regarding global warming.....I heard that this year was the warmest in recorded history. Here in So. CA. I can believe it!

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MrsBJLee
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Feb. 17, 2012 8:45 am

I, for one, believe that climate change: climate change brought on by man-made global warming is well past any tipping point. The climate disruption we are experiencing is just a taste of the devastation that will happen to the human populous on this thin skinned planet in the years to come. So I am proposing a new term: "CLIMATE DEVASTATION"

Climate Devastation is not just caused by CO2 in the atmosphere causing greenhouse effect, That's just a significant part of the over all big picture. Climate Devastation is being caused by the immense variety of fatal blows that man is dealing to Mother Nature. OK, "Climate Devastation" is only part of the overall environmental challange mankind is now facing. We are now past a number of tipping points and nearing many more. Passing those hose tipping points are fast putting us on a downhill roller coaster ride to "TOTAL ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION"

Greenhouse Gasses, Air, Land and Water Pollution, of Plastics Disposal and that of other gross pollutants into our waters and oceans, Urban Sprawl, Mono-culture Agriculture, Pesticide Use, Herbicide Use, Genetic Engineering (especially with the "suicide gene"), Antibiotic Misuse, Population Expansion, Nuclear Waste Leakage, to name a few. I could go on and on, with all the ways mankind is contributing to Total Environmental Devastation.

Will humans survive? I think so. But not the ever expanding, diverse population that we have been up to this point. Certainly, technology will find a way to keep humans from becoming extinct. Technology will never be able to reverse the disruption of Mother Nature that is fast leading to environmental devestation. But technology may be able to save the lives and descendants of a relatively small number of elite, wealthy people, as billions of others perish.

So who will perish? It will be the poorer, the weaker of us, and those the least able to adapt. Not only individuals, but entire nations and even continents of people will be unable to adapt. Those who survive though, will not be forced to pack their bags and move to the moon or mars where climate conditions, though not yet under the destructive influence of mankind, are much more severe and inhospitible. Those who survive will be forced to find shelter in relatively small, self contained climate controlled biospheres: in essence minature space ships on this larger round, blue, space-ship-earth, we call home.

But the poorest of the poor will be left out. They will not be able to pay for admission to the minature bio-spheres where the richest of the rich will be taking refuge.

Perhaps Africans as a people and Africa as a continent will not survive at all. Along with Pacific Islanders, south east, and south Asians, they will die in mass. Vast numbers will not be able find food, water or safe places to dwell and raise their young.

I can only imagine the crimes, the wars and the infighting that is to come, as we continue to disrupt the climate and devastate our environment. I can only hope to stay centered and hold on tight. We humans are in for one heck of a bumpy ride.

Sacramento Dave's picture
Sacramento Dave
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Nov. 27, 2010 9:46 am

I, for one, believe that climate change: climate change brought on by man-made global warming is well past any tipping point. The climate disruption we are experiencing is just a taste of the devastation that will happen to the human populous on this thin skinned planet in the years to come. So I am proposing a new term: "CLIMATE DEVASTATION"

Climate Devastation is not just caused by CO2 in the atmosphere causing greenhouse effect, That's just a significant part of the over all big picture. Climate Devastation is being caused by the immense variety of fatal blows that man is dealing to Mother Nature. OK, "Climate Devastation" is only part of the overall environmental challenge mankind is now facing. We are now past a number of tipping points and nearing many more. Passing those hose tipping points are fast putting us on a downhill roller coaster ride to "TOTAL ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION"

Greenhouse Gasses, Air, Land and Water Pollution, of Plastics Disposal and that of other gross pollutants into our waters and oceans, Urban Sprawl, Mono-culture Agriculture, Pesticide Use, Herbicide Use, Genetic Engineering (especially with the "suicide gene"), Antibiotic Misuse, Population Expansion, Nuclear Waste Leakage, to name a few. I could go on and on, with all the ways mankind is contributing to Total Environmental Devastation.

Will humans survive? I think so. But not the ever expanding, diverse population that we have been up to this point. Certainly, technology will find a way to keep humans from becoming extinct. Technology will never be able to reverse the disruption of Mother Nature that is fast leading to environmental devastation. But technology may be able to save the lives and descendants of a relatively small number of elite, wealthy people, as billions of others perish.

So who will perish? It will be the poorer, the weaker of us, and those the least able to adapt. Not only individuals, but entire nations and even continents of people will be unable to adapt. Those who survive though, will not be forced to pack their bags and move to the moon or mars where climate conditions, though not yet under the destructive influence of mankind, are much more severe and inhospitable. Those who survive will be forced to find shelter in relatively small, self contained climate controlled biospheres: in essence miniature space ships on this larger round, blue, space-ship-earth, we call home.

But the poorest of the poor will be left out. They will not be able to pay for admission to the miniature bio-spheres where the richest of the rich will be taking refuge.

Perhaps Africans as a people and Africa as a continent will not survive at all. Along with Pacific Islanders, south east, and south Asians, they will die in mass. Vast numbers will not be able find food, water or safe places to dwell and raise their young.

I can only imagine the crimes, the wars and the infighting that is to come, as we continue to disrupt the climate and devastate our environment. I can only hope to stay centered and hold on tight. We humans are in for one heck of a bumpy ride.

Sacramento Dave's picture
Sacramento Dave
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Nov. 27, 2010 9:46 am
Quote Sacramento Dave:

I, for one, believe that climate change: climate change brought on by man-made global warming is well past any tipping point. The climate disruption we are experiencing is just a taste of the devastation that will happen to the human populous on this thin skinned planet in the years to come. So I am proposing a new term: "CLIMATE DEVASTATION"

Climate Devastation is not just caused by CO2 in the atmosphere causing greenhouse effect, That's just a significant part of the over all big picture. Climate Devastation is being caused by the immense variety of fatal blows that man is dealing to Mother Nature. OK, "Climate Devastation" is only part of the overall environmental challenge mankind is now facing. We are now past a number of tipping points and nearing many more. Passing those hose tipping points are fast putting us on a downhill roller coaster ride to "TOTAL ENVIRONMENTAL DEVASTATION"

Greenhouse Gasses, Air, Land and Water Pollution, of Plastics Disposal and that of other gross pollutants into our waters and oceans, Urban Sprawl, Mono-culture Agriculture, Pesticide Use, Herbicide Use, Genetic Engineering (especially with the "suicide gene"), Antibiotic Misuse, Population Expansion, Nuclear Waste Leakage, to name a few. I could go on and on, with all the ways mankind is contributing to Total Environmental Devastation.

Will humans survive? I think so. But not the ever expanding, diverse population that we have been up to this point. Certainly, technology will find a way to keep humans from becoming extinct. Technology will never be able to reverse the disruption of Mother Nature that is fast leading to environmental devastation. But technology may be able to save the lives and descendants of a relatively small number of elite, wealthy people, as billions of others perish.

So who will perish? It will be the poorer, the weaker of us, and those the least able to adapt. Not only individuals, but entire nations and even continents of people will be unable to adapt. Those who survive though, will not be forced to pack their bags and move to the moon or mars where climate conditions, though not yet under the destructive influence of mankind, are much more severe and inhospitable. Those who survive will be forced to find shelter in relatively small, self contained climate controlled biospheres: in essence miniature space ships on this larger round, blue, space-ship-earth, we call home.

But the poorest of the poor will be left out. They will not be able to pay for admission to the miniature bio-spheres where the richest of the rich will be taking refuge.

Perhaps Africans as a people and Africa as a continent will not survive at all. Along with Pacific Islanders, south east, and south Asians, they will die in mass. Vast numbers will not be able find food, water or safe places to dwell and raise their young.

I can only imagine the crimes, the wars and the infighting that is to come, as we continue to disrupt the climate and devastate our environment. I can only hope to stay centered and hold on tight. We humans are in for one heck of a bumpy ride.

I noticed you posted this twice. I agree with you. We are in for a very bumpy ride indeed and it will be those who are prepared and the rich that will survive. I guess that leaves me out. I barely have an earthquake kit let alone a survival bunker and stashes of food and water.

MrsBJLee's picture
MrsBJLee
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Feb. 17, 2012 8:45 am
Quote MrsBJLee:

I noticed you posted this twice. I agree with you. We are in for a very bumpy ride indeed and it will be those who are prepared and the rich that will survive. I guess that leaves me out. I barely have an earthquake kit let alone a survival bunker and stashes of food and water.

[/quote]

Very Interesting! Now with your quote of my my unintended double post which came about either due to an internet glitch or my trying to post too late at night; my midnight rant has been posted a grand total three times.

Sacramento Dave's picture
Sacramento Dave
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Nov. 27, 2010 9:46 am

There is may be an interesting twist to the drought in the Sacramento / San Joaquin / Great Central Valley of California. Geologists drilling core samples have discovered that historically, every two hundred years or so, there is a super sized, super long lasting "Pineapple Express" atmospheric river of tropical moisture from the equatorial Pacific Ocean, that turns the almost the entire central valley into a giant inland lake.

"Early in 1862, extreme storms riding the Pineapple Express battered the west coast for 45 days. In addition to a sudden snow melt, some places received an estimated 8.5 feet of rain, leading to the worst flooding in recorded history of California, Oregon, and Nevada. Known as the Great Flood of 1862, both the Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys flooded, and there was extensive flooding and mudslides throughout the region."

......

"The entire Sacramento and San Joaquin valleys were inundated for an extent of 300 miles (480 km), averaging 20 miles (32 km) in breadth."

(Quotes are from Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Flood_of_1862 and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pineapple_Express )

So here I am again, sitting at my computer, well past midnight, trying to think clearly about what will happen to the low lying cities of Lathrop, Stockton, Sacramento and even those low lying, expansive, bedroom communities further inland such as Plumas Lake, and Linda that have been built on low lying land that has flooded in the last 20 years. I wonder what will happen to the people, livestock and pets when the next 200 year storm occurs. I wonder if , due to the changing climate, will these storms will come more or less often, with greater or lesser intensities and durations?

Sacramento Dave's picture
Sacramento Dave
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Nov. 27, 2010 9:46 am

The best of scientists can but only take educated guesses at what the future holds Dave. The only firm fact they can establish is that mankind has really screwed up the balance in all areas of the environment but particularly enre to the atmospheric conditions we've come to depend on. They can postulate by drawing paralells to/from the past what may happen but as in any large dynamic system even one seemingly insignificant or over looked factor can change the end result completely.

But if you want a disaster scenario how about this one: suppose this pineapple express rolls through completely soaking and softening the coastal foothills that run along from San Cruz to LA, perhaps even to the point of mud slides shutting down the major thorough fares, now what if around the same time the San Andres fault decided to move that section north at about say 7.5 or 8? How's that for a nightmare?

rs allen
Joined:
Mar. 15, 2012 4:55 pm

I guess more to your point Dave, the western states have always been at one level or other at war over water or access to it ever since we stole that/those land/s. Water has always been a valuable resource from The Great Divide to the Pacific ocean and any that control that water can dictate whatever they want.

rs allen
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Mar. 15, 2012 4:55 pm

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Thom plus logo As the world burns, and more and more fossil fuels are being used every day planet-wide, atmospheric carbon dioxide levels passed 416 ppm this week at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii. In the 300,000 years since the emergence of modern humans, carbon dioxide levels have never been this high.
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