on Upland Ground Water in the Northern Sierra Nevada
High yield wells are typically drilled in the
sediment aquifers of the valley floors such as in Sierra, American
and Indian Valleys. But poor ground water quality, limited space
and competing agricultural interests increasingly force residential
developments to depend on fractured rock aquifers under the mountain
slopes surrounding these valleys, land originally thought to be
of marginal value.
Among the problems currently facing hydrogeologists
perhaps none is as challenging as the hydrology of fractured rock
aquifers. Dilemmas posed by increasing dependency on fractured
rock aquifers include limited well yields and contamination from
underground septic systems. A growing concern among ground water
experts is the uncertainty when estimating long term yield of bedrock
aquifers and effects of land use changes on ground water recharge
and water quality.
and Watershed Restoration in the Sierras
In the last two decades river sediment has diminished
efficient operation of the hydroelectric power plants in the North
Fork Feather River Canyon. Sediment has become a huge economic
liability, the source of which is erosion of streambanks and hill
slopes. Significant economic losses result from erosion of pasture
land, destruction of recreational fisheries, diminishing land values
and reduced ground water storage in flood plains. By the early
1980's it had become clear that a comprehensive solution to erosion
control and stream restoration in the upper watersheds was needed
to control the sediment problem in the Feather River Basin. In
1985 seventeen government agencies and private entities banded
together to form the Feather River Coordinated Resource Management
Group (in short ‘FR-CRM’) to control erosion, to protect,
maintain and enhance ecosystems and community stability in the
Feather River Watershed through collaborative landowner participation.
The FR-CRM has been remarkably successful. Like
anything in water resources management, tackling the siltation
problem requires interdisciplinary and interagency cooperation.
The scope of restoration has expanded into uplands watersheds,
to tackle impacts from catastrophic fire on erosion, reducing flood
peaks and increasing late season streamflow. The long-term benefits
include improved viability of water supplies and ecosystems enhancement.
Other Web Sites:
Quincy Library Group
is the Quincy Library Group
The population in the American West is growing
fast putting limited water supplies under increasing stress. This
adds huge complications where water resources management already
faces uncertainties due to unpredictable weather patterns. What
is at stake here is sustainability of a limited resource - the
ability to meet our current needs without compromising the ability
of future generations to meet their needs. While ‘sustainability‘ is
seen by some as an unjustified constraint, others feel it addresses
not only availability of water but also certain ‘quality
of life‘ concerns, such as good water quality and maintaining
ecosystems - viewed as an integral part of successful water resources
If there was plenty of water for all, nobody
would be worried about sustainability. The close connection between
ground and surface water can pose limitations on water development,
since we often do not really know the long-range impacts of our
present decisions on the future response of some aquifers. The
problem is further complicated by the looming prospect of climate
change. Responsible planning calls for adaptive management without
compromising future needs. Unfortunately this does not satisfy
our current philosophy of capital intensive land development. Will
the water resources that we depend on so heavily face us with the
prospect of a paradigm change in our land management practices?
journal “Southwest Hydrology” has dedicated its
2005 issue (Vol. 4, No. 1) to the problem
of sustainability in water resources.
Water Resources Infrastructure in the US
Much of America's water supply infrastructure
is very old, often built with inferior or no standards. Most of
our big dams are now 50 to 100 years old. California’s aging
levee system has a similar problem. A
recent report published by the American Society of Civil Engineers assigned an average
poor grade "D" to all of America's
water-related infrastructure. We are ‘resting on the laurels’ of
a huge push in water infrastructure development that ended more
than 30 years ago. While the effects of the aging system are beginning
to show, current funding for infrastructure improvement is only
a fraction of what is needed to maintain a viable economy, minimum
safety standards and human health. This forces utilities and emergency
agencies to only respond to disasters as they happen. As the infrastructure
weakens more problems are expected to arise if this situation is
The challenge for the American public is whether
we are willing to reinvest in our once exemplary life-sustaining
water infrastructure or eventually face the prospect of an infrastructure
that increasingly resembles that of a third-world nation.
reader is directed to the March/April
2006 issue of the trade journal “Southwest
Hydrology” (Vol. 5,
No. 2) which
has been dedicated to this problem.
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Change and California Water Supply
The mainstream consensus in the scientific debate
is that increasing CO2 in the global atmosphere has the long-term
consequence of increasing average atmospheric temperature - and
climate changes. The consensus is also that the continuously increasing
CO2 levels in the atmosphere are caused by human industry.
the exact outcome of the impacts of increased greenhouse gases
is difficult. But there are a few key observations that should
convince even the most ardent skeptic that it is not a matter of
'if' but a matter of 'when' and 'how much'.
below captures ‘in a nutshell’ what
the current climate change debate is all about. In the past 350,000
years our planet’s atmosphere has undergone four natural
cycles of increasing and decreasing carbon dioxide. A correlation
between CO2 (green) and average air temperature (blue) can not
be ignored. Before the industrial revolution (about 200 years ago)
the average natural atmospheric CO2 and temperature were at a peak
period when compared to the record of the past 350,000 years.
concern is that due to human activity carbon dioxide levels have
increased from about 280 ppm before the industrial revolution to
about 380 ppm today (vertical red line). That is about 30% higher
than the maximum seen in the past. What temperatures would one
expect when so far carbon dioxide has increased to levels far greater
than ever recorded in the past 350,000 years? That is the crucial
point of the debate! More troubling is that atmospheric carbon
dioxide measured since 1958 continues to increase.
While the magnitude
of global atmospheric temperature increase remains debatable, most
climatologists agree that temperature increases are inevitable.
And as it affects many of the world’s water
supplies, so it is expected to impact California's. For example
stream flow data from the Sierra Nevada suggest that spring snowmelt
is arriving earlier. Thereby the water storage capacity of the
Sierra snowpack reservoir is reduced, diminishing water available
for the dry summer months. From the standpoint of long term statewide
water planning this observation is somewhat disturbing.
climate change is probably one of the most challenging problems
human society will ever face. It will demand that ours and coming
generations globally change their attitudes toward more mature
and responsible political behavior. Yet, the history of past responses
to environmental constraints lends hope that this challenge will
eventually lead to a more orderly global political economy.
Other Web Sites:
climate problem explained the simple way
California State Climate
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate
Gulf Stream slowdown
change in the news
Trends in the US Science and Engineering Workforce
The increasing need for a well trained Science
and Engineering (S&E) workforce in the US is not being met.
It is expected to adversely affect economic productivity and should
not be ignored by leaders in industry and education.
Since the end
of the cold war in 1990 increasing numbers of S&E
workers are retiring. Employment trends indicate that during the
2000-2010 period employment in S&E occupations is expected
to increase about three times faster than the rate for all other
occupations, with almost half of those jobs in environmental sciences
(biology, forestry, hydrology, geology, climate science, and others).
the expected demand is not being met, due to fewer high school
graduates taking an interest in S&E careers. As
a result firms and universities in the United States increasingly
rely on a growing international workforce from countries like Europe,
China and India. However, as new centers of technological excellence
arise in other countries to fill their growing demand for S&E
expertise, US employers may find it increasingly difficult to recruit
scientists and engineers from abroad.
These trends clearly demand
more political support not only for S&E training in the US,
but also for improved education of the entire US domestic workforce.
information about this disturbing development can be found in the "Science
and Engineering Indicators - 2002".