Questions about the Delta and global warming

Submitted: Sep 01, 2015
Badlands Journal editorial board

We've assembled over the years enough articles on drought, California water and global warming to fill several books. Our aim was to inform and raise questions. As the drought grows worse -- news of larger forest fires and more dry wells -- lately the media seems to be trying to project a sense of perspective at this point. But they, and the politicians they quote and the scientists they paraphrase do not appear to be doing a very good job.

We wondered, for example, if it would destroy public confidence in the wisdom of The Interests  (finance, insurance and real estate) in California, if we dared to say global warming and the San Joaquin-Sacramento Delta in the same sentence.

It ranks up there with the question of what Bernie Sanders is actually talking about to the multitudes as something never to be mentioned.

Yet, one Badlands editor began wondering about it all the same. If the climate scientists are as accurate about the 3-6-foot sea-level rise in the next century as they have been about the rest of their predictions, the Pacific will probably rise 6 feet in the next 50 years.

So, is it possible that Jerry Brown's corporatist Democratic Party's  twin tunnel approach to shipping fresh water from the Sacramento River to the north-south canals actually a practical idea to 1) save fresh water from salt intrusion, and 2) prevent some flooding by removing some fresh water from the Delta?

Or is water still just flowing uphill to money, in this case three-quarters of the Sacramento River water ending up in the salty fields of the west side of the San Joaquin Valley irrigated by Westlands Water District?

(The San Joaquin Valley tilts north to the Delta, as is shown by the northern direction of the San Joaquin River, as the Sacramento Valley flows south to the Delta, as shown by the southern direction of the Sacramento River. The Delta-Mendota Canal and the California Aqueduct are engineered to flow south right next to the northward flowing river. Hence the expression: In California, water flows uphill to money.) A real miracle of the hydraulic engineers' art.

Another, wiser editor thought about this awhile and added some other questions. Why is the state building "temporary" rock, flow-through dams in the Delta to stop salt intrusion when rising seas make that a doomed project? Won't the water pumped out of the Delta into the southward canals just become saltier and saltier? Isn't the state simply adding the same fresh water later that is added without the tunnels? Won't the force of the inflowing salt water combined with the force of the outflowing river water quickly break down any such barriers?

If bond propositions for the tunnels fail, what will sea rise do to the existing Delta levee system?

How many communities in the San Francisco Bay Area, the Delta cities of Sacramento, Stockton, etc.,  and Southern California will be permanently under water in the coming decades? When will the population of California and its demand for fresh drinking water begin to decline due to sea rise?

Given that the governor may be acting wisely for the immediate future, when will the people of Southern California learn that there just isn't enough fresh water to go around anymore?

Also, given that at least Southern California pays for its drinking water unlike the highly subsidized irrigation water provided by the federal government to Westlands' huge farms (when there is sufficient Sierra runoff available), at what point would the public remove Westlands from its fully bought-and-paid for position as broker for northern water to the South? When the west side is so salted up that farming is impossible, while Westlands still has control of huge quantities of water (if drought is not permanent)?  When the federal Bureau of Reclamation comes to Jesus?

If our present plutocracy cannot conceive of any strategies for coping with global warming beyond funding propaganda campaigns to deny its existence, rename it "climate change," smear its proponents,  or buy politicians to overlook and undermine environmental law and regulation, while a few corporations are dispensing their non-profit arms to fund an eco-bourgeoisie -- naturalists, biologists, receptionists, secretaries, office managers, lawyers, fundraisers and lobbyists -- while everyone feels righteous, warm and fuzzy, well fed as they do their lords' work, how could we possibly imagine that government would be able to move fast enough to stop the catastrophes of global warming?

Won't sea rise claim the Delta, its farming, its towns and cities including the state capitol along with the entire rich and fashionable coastal towns and megalopolises?

Won't humanity come through in the end and stop global warming?

Russian and American submarine captains and crews are no doubt busy trying to answer that question now as they chase each other around under the Arctic ice. -- blj




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