LVM's Environmental Action Blog

The purpose of this blog is to convey the importance that life choices and daily decisions have on the environment. I will, as a member of the kayaking community, effectively convey the importance and immediacy of environmental issues written in the paddling vernacular.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

california water

an on location report from lvm environmental

photo by shanna powell

California water has been made famous around the whitewater world. The spring Sierra snowmelt season invites religious whitewater paddlers to a yearly pilgrimage, taking videos, photographs, and stories home to every corner of the United States and multiple continents beyond. Much like climbing’s Yosemite, paddling’s High Sierra season has made these mountains world-famous again: both elements, granite and water, are extraordinarily valuable.
The value of California’s water is undeniable. One only needs to glance eastward to the arid environment of Nevada: a state living in the dry shadow of California’s High Sierra. California (155,959 square miles) is home to 35 million people while Nevada's (109,826 square miles) population is less than 2.4 million. [U.S. Census Bureau, 2004]
The Sierra is separated from the Pacific by the Central Valley, the Coast Mountain Ranges respectively, and act as a vital source of water for the major cities: Los Angeles, San Louis Obispo, Sacramento, and the mighty Bay Area.
Los Angeles draws water through an aqueduct of the same name from as far away as Mono Basin, past the town of Bishop on the East side of the Sierra: over 350 miles away. The aqueduct was completed in 1941 by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, at the top draining watersheds belonging to the terminal ‘Dead Sea of California’, Mono Lake. This Lake only loses water through evaporation; in a climate of 15% humidity, annual evaporation averages around 45 vertical inches. From 1941 to when the amount of water taken from the lake began being regulated: 1994, the lake’s surface fell 42 vertical feet losing over half its original volume, doubling salinity levels to more than 2 and 1/2 times that of the Pacific. The impacts diminished and threatened many species of wildlife, some of them endemic to Mono Lake. Water regulations limiting LADWP diversions brought on by environmental groups determined to save Mono Lake have forced water conservation measures into nearly every household; Los Angeles has subsequently lowered consumption levels while population continues to grow.

California's Dead Sea:

photo by mefford williams

The rivers grow out of Sierra, white trains headed for the Pacific; aqueducts, agriculture, livestock have changed the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys from a grass and marshland of epic proportions home to the once prolific Grizzly bear: an animal that now only lives on the State Flag. California’s businesses, homes, and economy are bank rolled by Sierra rivers and reservoirs. The New San Pedro Dam on the Tuolumne River holds 1.9 million acre-feet when full; the rivers annual volume is 2.0 million acre-feet.

the Tuolumne between O'Shaughnessy and New Don Pedro:

photo by mefford williams

The Bay Area draws water from as high as the O’Shaughnessy dam on the Tuolumne, a foul word in the mouths of monkey-wrenchers, which floods Hetch Hetchy Valley, the glaciated sister of Yosemite Valley. San Francisco owns the Cherry and Eleanor reservoirs; the whole water system supplies among other receivers, a $2 billion agricultural industry. The debate surrounding the Hetch Hetchy removal efforts still rages on the pages of newspapers in the Tuolumne watershed; Restore Hetch Hetchy and the environmental community have even whispered about trading downstream portions of Tuolumne River which is designated Wild and Scenic. By adding height on other down stream dams, the water storage loss from removing the Hetch Hetchy Dam could be accumulated elsewhere.
California represents a preview (for some a parallel) of what we all might see when fresh water resources are competed over by multiple consumers. Kayakers boof around on the pinnacles of above what is the 5th largest economy in the world: quite a valuable playground.

Who owns the water on your home run?

photo by mefford williams


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