Tag Archives: conservation

The West Without Water

Water Sortage Central Valley

Water Shortage, Central Valley, CA, photograph by Kim Steele

I have been concerned of the scarcity of water for many years. In fact, the images illustrating this posting were shot several years ago while trying to place an article in various publications about the handling of the limited water supply in the West.  To no avail.


Aquaducts, photograph by Kim Steele

Fisheries have also played a factor in the distribution of water to the Central Valley as well.

Sacramento Delta Water Controls

Sacramento Delta Water Controls, photograph by Kim Steele

The water crisis has become so acute that several entire counties in the Central Valley, the breadbasket of the United States, will receive NO water this entire year.

Harvesting Tomatoes Central Valley (Winters) CA

Harvesting Tomatoes Central Valley (Winters) CA, photograph by Kim Steele

Some farmers elect not to plant, but the nut trees needing water each year and are dying. California is one of the few states that does not monitor the underground water supply.

The aquifer of the central United states is sharply diminishing.  Places like Las Vegas are  a misguided effort to bring water to a desert.  Los Angeles started the trend at the turn of the Century.  Concerns were  expressed from the beginning, see this publication from the Department of Water and Power in the 1930’s.

Department of Water and Power, 1928 – Nature39 pages
Grand Coulee Dam

Grand Coulee Dam, photograph by Kim Steele

The West Without Water documents the tumultuous climate of the American West over 20 millennia, with tales of past droughts and deluges and predictions about the impacts of future climate change on water resources. Its authors ask the central questions of what is “normal” for the West, and whether the relatively benign climate of the past century will continue into the future. Their answers are derived by merging climate and paleoclimate research from a wide variety of sources. Although the  cycles of drought have been experienced for thousand of years, much to the aplomb of the nay-sayers climate change.  In fact, there was a monstrous drought for fifty years in the Medieval period.  1976 was also a very severe drought period. So there have been these fluctuations, but the consumption of the water we do have is about 10% above our annual supply. Unfortunately, the book does not address other contributing factors, like the acidification of the Pacific Ocean which  shapes our weather here in California and the United States, creating the La Nina, and El Nino which is due this winter.
More here.
B. Lynn Ingram, Professor, Earth & Planetary Science and Geography,
UC Berkeley; Co-author, The West Without Water
Frances Malamud-Roam, Senior Environmental Planner and Biologist, Caltrans; Co-author, The West Without Water
Shasta Dam, photograph by Kim Steele

Shasta Dam, photograph by Kim Steele


Let them Eat Oysters, and preserve the Planet!

Drakes Bay Oyster Company, photograph by Kim Steele

From Photographer & Publisher…Kim Steele

I have been a passionate aquaculture conservationist for years, having grown up in Seattle. I grew up at Oyster Bars with my Dad, and developed a life long passion for crabs — which I have eaten world-wide!  A recent meeting with former Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, was a disappointing end to the life of a vital oyster farm (Drakes Bay Oyster Company) in Inverness, CA. Fortunately, Secretary Salazar’s decision against renewing the lease of Drake’s Bay Oyster Company is not the full voice of sentiment around the world. The Ninth Circuit just stayed the order for the time being!!  And we have hopefully a more enlightened Secretary, Sally Jewell, the ex-CEO of REI! The post below is keeping the embers glowing.

Drake’s Bay Oyster Company, photograph by Kim Steele

The body of my work dedicated to this subject takes many different forms, written and photographic:

Kim Steele’s Green Blog

Pickleweed Oyster Farm

                               Fresh Fish, Chile, Photograph by Kim Steele

Catch of the Day, Seafood Market, Chile, photograph by Kim Steele

We have already experienced many closures of fisheries. The abundant backbone of the Northeastern U.S. fisheries, the almighty Cod is albeit gone. Several years of cessation of Dungeness Crab catching in Northern California have become necessary. The once abundant Salmon in the Northwest is almost gone, and the cost of wild salmon reaches $25 a pound, all destined for the fancy restaurants back East.  How much more warning do we need?  Yes… fishermen are hurting, but over-fishing brought this pain about.

The tuning fork that is the  Monterrey Bay Aquarium’slist of sustainable fish is a bellwether of what we can comfortably consume…they even offer a wallet-sized card to give gastronomic guidance in the field!

Baycrete Mixture

                                      Oyster Shells, photograph by Kim Steele

California Academy of Sciences

California Academy of Sciences

The California Academy of Science, now under construction in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, is designed by the renowned Pritzker Prize-winning architect, Renzo Piano. The innovative structure will be the highest rated LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environment Design) platinum level, joining only eight other buildings in the United States.

Photovoltaic Cells on Roof

Here are some of highlights of this remarkable building:
1. 60,000 photo voltaic cells in the roof supplying almost 213,000 kWh
2. The planted roof will provide thermal insulation

Natural Thermal Insulation

3. Reverse osmosis humidification system will reduce energy consumption 95%
4. Living roof will reduce storm water runoff by 50%

Water Testing Porous Roof

5. Reclaimed water will reduce the potable wastewater by 90%
6. Saltwater for the aquariums will be piped from the Pacific Ocean

Saltwater Aquarium

7. 90% of the occupied space will have access to daylight

Overhang Entryway

8. Skylights in the dooms will draw cool air from below and feed rainforest
9. 100% of the demolition waste from old Academy was re-cycled
10. Recycled steel will be used in 100% of the building structure

Recycled Materials and Ventilation

11. Building walls are made from re-cycled blue jeans (85% post industrial)
12. All the concrete contains 30% fly ash (waste product of coal-fired plants)

Recycled Materials

The massive, living roof, which is being constructed now, is the most remarkable biosphere. About 1.7 million plants will thrive on the roof. Nine native species planted on the roof that will not require irrigation and will provide sustenance to many native species of birds and insects.

The issue of water is addressed on the ‘living roof.’ 90% of the gray water will be reclaimed from the roof run off.

Some of the remarkable presentation in the Academy will include the most biodiversity and interactive aquariums in the world. Home to 38,000 animals, the Coral Reef tank will be the second largest in the world, with animals including sharks, rays, sea turtles and 4,000 colorful reef fish.

The90 foot tall, glass dome roof will provide light and water to the four distinct rainforest environments: the Amazonian Flooded Forest; the Borneo Rainforest Floor; the Madagascar Rainforest Understory; and the Costa Rica Rainforest Canopy.

One of the world’s largest planetariums, New Morrison Dome, will be a part of the Academy as well.

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