Thursday, October 24, 2013

NYC's Underground Undertaking

On October 16th the mayor of New York City, Michael Bloomberg announced the opening of the Manhattan section of a water tunnel project that began in 1950 but didn't get under way till 1970.  The $4.7 billion dollar project has already claimed the lives of 24 people during its construction so far.  Once the massive construction is finally complete, the tunnel will stretch more than 60 miles bringing water to Brooklyn and Queens from reservoirs located north of New York City.  The tunnel will both serve as a backup for the primary water tunnel used in the area and will give city workers and engineers an opportunity to inspect and repair the old tunnel for the first time in almost 100 years.  In order to finance this project, the city Water Board has initiated years of rate hikes, and bills are projected to continue increasing 7.5% a year for the next three years.  Definitely quite the underground undertaking here if you ask me.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Stretching the Colorado River

You can only stretch a river so far, and The Colorado river which serves as a water source to seven states including parts of Mexico, has possibly reached its temporary breaking point.  The Colorado River is responsible for filling both Lake Mead and Lake Powell.  In response to the recently released report from the Bureau of Reclamation's anticipated 24 month study, the agency is looking to cut water realeased from Lake Powell's Glen Canyon Dam by a staggering 750,000 acre feet which averages out to serving approximately 1.5 million homes.  It is the first time in in the history of that dam that water heading downstream will be cut.  This shortage has raised concern for municipalities, agricultural communities as well as environmentalist groups concerned for the fish and wildlife habbitats that will be directly affected.

Currently, Las Vegas Nevada has 2 'straws' in Lake Mead, which is approximately 300 miles from Lake Powell, in order to provide enough water for the city's ever growing urban population.  At this time officials are already having to consider drawing from deeper in the reservoir to avoid price hikes and shortages on water for surrounding municipalities.  Brad Udall from the University of Colorado's Law School, explains how, "Something very, very unusual is going on." With the combination of a staggering drought and increased demands, an incredible 8.23 million acre feet of water is supposed to reach Lake Mead and Powell each year in order to serve Nevada, Arizona, California and Mexico.  "Basically, Mead has lost the equivalent of one entire year's worth of flow." Udall explained, "It's missing 8 million acre feet of water."  In addition to this frightening statistic, Lake Powell is also missing a years worth of water, an estimated 15 million acre feet.  So, while the drought rages on, many states in the west will spend the winter praying for heavy wet snow and rain to hopefully buffer this rather remarkable shortage.  Time to rapidly preform a dozen snow dances, no time to waste here folks. 
Photo: Compliments of National Geographic

Monday, October 14, 2013

Water in its Colder Form.....

As we know, water has not only many forms and uses, but impacts as well.  In South Dakota ranchers are slowly discovering more damage caused by the horrific blizzard that has left more than 75,000 livestock dead.  With up to 4 feet of snow in some areas, falling rapidly last weekend.  Many cattle found themselves trapped and eventually killed.  In many cases, the animals had begun to move south, or migrate towards small inlets or valleys in the land.  But, with the speed of the storm many were trapped by fences or in mud and deep snow.  Rancher Heath Ferguson, told USA Today, that 96 percent of his black Angus and Limousin herd was killed in the storm, totaling an estimated loss of $250,000 or roughly $1,000 a head.   Surrounding counties have opened mass pits for carcass disposal, but emotions are high as ranchers are literally forced to bury their livelihood. 

Many state agencies are urging ranchers to document all animal losses with pictures and hauling receipts in case disaster payments are available in the future.  On the political side many county agencies are becoming forced to intervene since the US Farm Service Agency is currently closed because of the recent Government shut down.  At the same time, the Stockgrowers Association, South Dakota Cattleman's Association and the South Dakota Sheep Growers Association are seeking donations for a relief fund that has been set up to help these communities.  We can only hope in time, these hard working ranchers can rebound from this terrible loss.  Just another terrifying reminder of mother natures power and strength.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Nile Not in Egypt?

While water issues in the US will quite certainly continue to heighten in severity over the next 50 years, one must take a moment to turn their attention to a very significant issue happening overseas between Ethiopia and Egypt.  "Ethiopia is Killing us," stated taxi driver Ahmed Hossam of Cairo, "If they build this dam, there will be no Nile.  If there's no Nile, then there's no Egypt."

This man is referring to the proposed project known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which would re-adjust water-sharing arrangements with Ethiopia's surrounding countries.  The current arrangements have been in place since 1959 and allocate three-fourths of the Nile waters to Egypt.  Its proposed length would be approximately 1.1 miles long, and could cost upwards of $4.7 billion dollars.  Many Ethiopians are viewing this as an immense source of national pride and a symbol of how the country has rebounded from the debilitating famines of the 1980's and 90's.

As maybe expected, this controversy has caused quite an out poor of concern from many different groups of surrounding and upstream countries.  So far there have been reports of various physical assaults, as well as other violent or provoking acts in protest.  Only time will tell how the world will react to this project, but currently, the World Bank is sticking to their decision to not fund the Renaissance Dam.  The whole deal leaves several questions, and an uncertainty for many areas and surrounding countries who will be directly affected.  With an estimated population forecast of 150 million by 2050, almost doubling Egypt's current population, these tense dynamics are assured to remain.