Monday, December 14, 2009

Water Redoux

As our water issues become more significant due to climate change and increasing population, not to mention the politics of rebuilding the Bay Delta system, the priorities need to shift to water efficiencies and reuse. As I discussed in an earlier post, municipalities and counties will, in the future, be required to micro-manage their water resources alongside such new strategies that include water recycling, water conservation, groundwater recharge and banking, conjunctive management of surface and groundwater resources, treatment of contaminated groundwater basins, water transfers/marketing, and brackish and ocean water desalination.

Strategies being put in place locally now are water replenishment of aquifers in order to prevent incursion of sea water, using spreading basins over a large area. This allows existing wells to provide water without overdrafting the aquifers, and is a regional approach. A different method of re-using water, applicable on a smaller scale, is water recycling for use as greywater in local home landscaping, commercial and industrial uses. This requires some area for water holding and treatment prior to supplying it in the common "purple pipe" supply system, so it's not just re-using collected rainwater, for example. The latest scramble in Southern California has now become access to sewerage systems as a source of water reclamation. Maybe we can get paid to flush the toilet like we do to put in solar panels?

Unfortunately, the overseeing agency for these Water Districts has consistently found overspending and a lack of accountability with all of the districts and water suppliers, as I've pointed out here. This kind of thing is always rampant in bureaucracies, natch. Public money turns into play money, as well as a lot of unneeded construction projects. Old-boy dealing at its finest.

One of the simplest ways to get water into the ground in smaller residential lots is to direct rainwater into "dry wells" and landscape areas away from the house foundation, such as I've demonstrated here. This avoids a lot of the red tape issues, and keeps normal rainfall out of the storm drains which just take it out to sea with a lot of debris and pollution. A solution such as permeable driveways is also very doable at the residential scale, as long as cars are not parked on it for long periods of time without an oil pan.

All of these methods can improve water supply and ground water conditions, as well as maintain landscaping that tempers the heat and prevents the absorption and re-radiation of sunlight. This is becoming critically important in the Southwestern United States as the climate dries out and the temperatures increase. This is necessary direction to take in upgrade, maintenance, redevelopment and infill development so that natural processes can be incorporated to re-establish the natural systems in spite of our human presence.