Friday, 24 May 2024

Water system operators discuss future of water supply

HIDDEN VALLEY LAKE – While politicians bicker over the truth, causes and effects of global warming, the pros who run water supply systems have been studying its reality and planning for a changed future.

The Hidden Valley Lake Community Service District recently presented a two-hour Webcast from the American Water Works association (AWWA) with system operators explaining what they expect in the future.

Colorado is already seeing the effects of warming with fewer cold snaps, which has created a scourge of beetles devouring lodge pole pines "and they won't stop until they run out of trees," a spokesman said. Fewer trees will mean less rainfall in the area, and less water in the Colorado River.

Warming is expected to create more intense storms in coastal areas, with enormous potential damage to coastal water plants. Inland, faster melting of smaller snowpacks will create flooding but lessen the amount of water flowing into rivers and lakes.

Clear Lake gets some water from the snowpack of Snow Mountain/Elk Mountain (a major supply source for Lake Mendocino, which supplies Sonoma and Mendocino counties) as well as springs and streams. Because Clear Lake's waters flow towards the Central Valley through the Cache Creek and Putah Creek systems, it's included in the Sacramento watershed and Central Valley water quality area. The Cobb area's water may come from the Sierra, although Bob Stark, manager of the Cobb Area Water District, has said no one knows where Cobb's spring water originates. A Los Angeles representative of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which serves nearly 18 million people from San Diego to Ventura County, said the district is looking to improvements in water and power supply "originating in Northern California."

Among sources the Southern California district considers local are the Owens River Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The area also draws on allotments from the Colorado River.

Changing precipitation patterns will result in lower soil moisture. Although a "slight" drop in Northern California precipitation is predicted, AWWA forecast maps based on climate models show a dry West Coast from lower Oregon south.

Speakers noted a probable increase of eutrophication of source water, or an increase of nutrients (as phosphates) that stimulate the growth of aquatic plant life, resulting in the depletion of dissolved oxygen.

A representative of Miami-Dade Water in South Florida said he expects greater demand and a smaller supply, although much of the area will be covered in ocean and uninhabitable.

"The water industry isn't a bastion of liberalism," said Mel Aust, manager of the Hidden Valley Lake Community Service District, which supplies water and sewer services to 2,400 households and a golf course. The district uses groundwater and has received an award for its reclamation program.

In Calgary, Alberta, Canada, a spokesman also predicted increased demand and smaller supplies, and said his district has merged utilities for better regional management and is working on storm water re-use, recycling and better aquifer storage and recovery.

The New York Department of Electricity and Water plans a $23 billion capital improvement plan over the next decade. They expect a 50-percent decline in snowpack in their 2,000 square mile watershed.

E-mail Sophie Annan Jensen at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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