Friday, March 23, 2007

Global warming and the Santa Clara Valley Water District

I recently attended a meeting at the Santa Clara Valley Water District discussing its strategic challenges. The Water District's responsibility is "stream stewardship, wholesale water supply and flood protection for Santa Clara County, California" which covers 700,000 acres and a million-plus people. Third on its strategic challenge list is global warming:

Global climate change means state and local climate change. This will challenge the district’s ability to provide adequate and reliable water supply, stewardship for the county’s watersheds and flood protection for residents and businesses. Melting ice and thermal expansion of the oceans is projected to cause an increase in sea level that would threaten all of the bay front areas of Santa Clara County.

This same increase in sea level would also threaten Bay-Delta levees and waterways, which are critical for conveying about half the county’s water supply. Increasing temperatures are predicted to decrease the Sierra Nevada snowpack, which essentially functions as the largest surface water reservoir in California.

In addition, the warmer, drier and longer summers would decrease local water supplies, increase the demand for water, and impact fish and wildlife in the county’s watersheds. Because water agencies throughout California will be heavily impacted, they are also beginning to take a lead role working with their communities on ways to reduce contributions to climate change.

The aging, Bayfront levees protect land that would be inundated without them. The danger's increased by the fact that San Jose sank significantly due to groundwater pumping. The oral presentation also mentioned saltwater intrusion into local groundwater, which is yet another huge climate-change impact. I'd like to see the levee improvements that fix that problem.

They could also have mentioned increased flooding problems from our coastal streams backing up when they hit higher sea levels (and from worse storms, if that global effect also happens locally here). At least we don't have hurricanes to worry about.

All this is just what one specialized government agency will have to deal with from climate change, in one of the wealthiest parts of one of the world's wealthiest nations. And some people think it's alarmist to call it a "climate crisis".

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