Water Resources & Water Pollution


Modification of Streams/Rivers to reduce flood damage


River Channelization - is the process of planned human intervention in the course, characteristics or flow of a river with the intention of producing some defined benefit.


Water Supplies
  • Groundwater: Ogallala Aquifer
  • Desalinization: energy intensive method of separating salt and minerals from seawater.
    • Methods
      • vacuum distillation
        • reduce pressure and use cogeneration low temp heat
      • semi-permeable membranes
        • reverse osmosis (least expensive): pressure forces water through membranes that filter out:
          • salt
          • minerals
          • biological and organic molecules
          • water quality far exceeds federal regulations
    • Cost
      • until recently, purifying seawater cost roughly five to 10 times as much as drawing freshwater from more traditional sources.
      • reverse osmosis filters have reduced costs by 50% over the past 10-15 years.
      • consequently technology is no longer the primary impediment to large-scale desalinization.


How widespread is desalination?

Globally, in terms of volume:

  • Saudi Arabia (provides 70% of drinking water)
  • UAE
  • United States (desalinates 1.4 billion gallons/day, .01% of water use nationwide)
    • Florida
    • California
    • Texas
    • Virginia
  • Spain
  • Kuwait
  • Japan




Environmental Consequences of Desalinization

  • Salt pollution from releasing brine to oceans
    • raises salt concentration of sea water
    • has greater density, settles on ocean bottom depleting waters of oxygen





California Water Desalinization

March 2015: CALIFORNIA IS NOW heading into its fourth year of record-breaking drought, with no liquid relief in sight.

Houseboats sit in the drought lowered waters of Oroville Lake, near Oroville, Calif., Oct. 30, 2014.


Main Sources of California Water

  • Reservoirs: the state's largest are at a little more than 50% of capacity
  • Underground Aquifers
  • Mountain Snowpack: at 19% of early March historical average, provides 30% of water needs.





The SoCal water district, which serves 19 million people (that’s one out of every two Californians), has stored water reserves that will last three years with prudent conservation.


Farmers and city-dwellers alike will have to use less water. And someone will probably have to make them do it.


The first draconian option: household water rationing.


Local agencies will ration water, attempting to bring the average Californian’s water usage below 150 gallons per day. (That’s what Californians consume now, and it’s actually pretty low for Americans).


Go over the limit, and you might spend as much money on the last 30 gallons as you did on the first 130.


“Those penalties usually drive people to push their water use down because they realize they can cut their bill in half,” says Kightlinger. “That’s when you see people going from seven-minute showers to two-minute showers.”


This actually works. At the height of a severe drought a decade ago, Australians reduced their water consumption to thirty gallons of water a day per person—a fifth of Californians’ current consumption. “People were taking 30-second showers and collecting the shower water in a bucket and using it in their yards, and running dishwashers once a week,” says Kightlinger.



Urban areas get only 20 percent of the state’s water supplies.


Agriculture uses the other 80%


  • Last year, lack of water forced farmers to abandon 400,000 acres of cropland.
  • They’ll leave over a million acres unplanted this year.
  •  Some farmers in California have already had their water supply curtailed or completely cut off.


California produces nearly 50% of the US produce and nuts.


Ultimately, the government may have to take water away from farms and give it to the public for basic health and sanitation.


But that would be devastating for farmers today, more so than in the past.


A few decades ago, California’s farmers planted cotton and wheat, and they could neglect those crops during droughts and instead sell their water to local agencies.


Today, most of the state’s agricultural land is used to grow high-end crops like pistachios, almonds, and wine grapes, which require water every year.


Without water, these crops die and farmers lose out on millions of dollars.



April 4, 2015

Governor Jerry Brown of California has exempted farmers from the 25% water reductions. Although agriculture uses 80% of California's water, farmers water allotment has already been reduced by state and federal agencies:

  • has forced some farmers to fallow fields
  • pay higher prices for water
  • lay off thousands of workers


The federal Central Valley Project will send NO water to farmers this year because of the drought.

The State Water Project will deliver only 20% of promised water.

Farmers are replacing this water, in many cases, with ground water that is not regulated although many farmers have installed upgraded, more efficient irrigation systems .


Critics charge that agriculture’s dominance over the state’s water supply is lopsided when considering the industry accounts for just 2 percent of the state’s gross domestic product. Critics say the $40 billion agriculture industry has too much political pull in the state Capitol, accounting for lax regulations.


Nowhere was that seen more than last year’s fight to create groundwater regulations in California, the only Western state that does not monitor its underground water supplies. Pushback from agriculture interests helped delay the implementation of the legislation until 2022.


Referring to Gov. Brown's water rationing order Tom Stokely, a spokesman for the environmental group the California Water Impact Network said “It’s a good thing for urban users to conserve water, but since agriculture uses 80 percent of water, he missed the mark by not including agriculture,” Stokely said. “A lot of people feel their efforts to conserve water are so that a wealthy almond farmer can plant more trees and make greater profit.” “What was glaringly omitted was a prohibition of new crops in areas of groundwater overdraft, unreliable water supplies......."




California Drought Tests History of Endless Growth

Has California run against the limits of nature regarding water? Will the state be forced to change the way it does business?

40 million people live in California and all will have to adjust to less water.

In Palm Springs, CA, in the middle of the desert, daily per capita water use is 201 gallons, more than double the state average.

Palm Springs has ordered a 50% cut in water use by city agencies.





The scarcity of water could result in a decline in housing construction, at a time when there has been a burst of desperately needed residential development in cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco.


“It’s going to be harder and harder to build new housing without an adequate water supply,” said Richard White, a history professor at Stanford University. “How many developments can you afford if you don’t have water?”




Dew collecting greenhouse to fight water and food scarcity in Ethiopia

Dew collector greenhouse