Two kinds of changing wealth.

I don’t see the new emphasis on stormwater as a changing paradigm.  I see it as a society that has become poorer looking to the next-lowest-entropy source of water.  This is the behavior of people who have lost wealth (high elevation snowpack) and on top of that, have to spend wealth to make the new higher-entropy source act like the old low-entropy source (by gathering and cleaning distributed dirtied water).  Climate change will cost and cost and cost.


You know, if the AroundDeltaWaterGo doesn’t end up happening, the State Water Contractors will have ended up transferring a few hundred million dollars to slightly lefty urban environmental consultants for no tangible benefit.  They will have underwritten some environmental research in the Delta in the process.  Thank you, Westlands!


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11 responses to “Two kinds of changing wealth.

  1. Anonymous

    As a nation we do not view human built systems in the context of entropy, with the exception of science and some domains of engineering. In fact few people know the definition of entropy and its relationship to the Laws of Thermodynamics. Reminds in of the scene in the movie Contact with the character played by Jody Foster makes a statement about prime numbers of the senior government person responds with this look – “what the heck is she talking about”.

  2. Anonymous

    Another example of the deteriorating baseline. Lore has it that salmon were once fed to pigs, and lobsters to slaves because these foods were so abundant. Generational amnesia also contributes to this problem as we lose the magnificence of the past. (Imagine California in 1700 – almost impossible, right?) Still, the “next-lowest-entropy” complaint is futile, and it’s better to embrace necessity (see also potable reuse) than bemoan it, don’t you think?

    • onthepublicrecord

      Oh definitely. I hope I didn’t sound like I was bemoaning adoption of stormwater capture and wastewater treatment. Those are the next necessary things.
      I once talked to a woman whose family had gotten through the Depression eating the abundant salmon of the San Joaquin River. Free for the taking if you could stand another meal of salmon.

  3. Noel Park

    While the idea of capturing storm water on a large scale is attractive, and and a rich source of sound bites for politicians, it doesn’t seem feasible here in the LA region. Quite a bit is already done on the Rio Hondo, the San Gabriel River and the Santa Ana River. A bit is done on the upper LA River. But there is little or no land available to expand the spreading grounds, and the cost of acquiring enough more developed land to make a difference would seem to be prohibitive.

    The idea of retaining runoff on private property with bioswales, cisterns and such has a lot of promise. I retain about 90% of the runoff on my suburban lot. But it’s certainly not going to go very far towards solving the problem.

    • Anonymous

      The rate of entropy may increase due to the processing of storm water, however the superior concern may be the energy and facility of cost for removing the contaminant from such water prior to and during the processes to make such water potable.

    • jrfleck

      I’m intrigued by Noel’s comment. Knowing that much stormwater capture has long been done in Southern California (doing research for my book I found one example in the first decade of the 20th century in Pasadena, and when I was growing up in the 1960s it was the norm in the arroyos flowing out of the San Gabriels around Claremont etc), and that water managers long found it a useful option, is it the case that all the practical options have already been done?

      This is just idle musing based on no real research, and a genuine question, not rhetorical.

  4. OnTheRecord, I do think you came across as more negative than you meant, but keep up the good work!

    There are VAST possibilities for stormwater capture. Some involves the use of new technology–take for example, permeable pavement. The uses are obvious. However, some not so much so. On the most dry day in LA, we jettison 10m gal of water down the LA River. How about we pave a limited section with permeable pavement, instead of regular cement, and captured that water (this technology also removes a very high degree of any pollutants. That’s 3.6 B gal a year. Not a game changer, but not trivial, either, and very very cheap, particularly given time.

    Some involve OLD technology: In the mountains surrounding LA, there are many many small ephemeral streams. If you’ve never heard of them, google “Sand Dams”, and see what might be possible, and is being used all over the world in dry regions.

    Good work, Noel, on capturing on-site, I do, too. However, taken to a city-wide philosophy, can have dramatic impacts. The average city street generates 1 M gal in a 1″ rainstorm. We have 7,000 miles of street in the City of LA. There’s another 7 B.

    Before you know it, it adds up.

  5. jaylund

    “AroundDeltaWaterGo”, brilliant. Perhaps the SGMA-friendly, “high-transmissivity aquifer” for tunnels. One characteristic of California water discussions is its excessive circumlocution.

    • onthepublicrecord

      I’m fairly neutral on the project, but the marketing makes me very cranky.

  6. Anonymous

    The cognitive dissonance inside environmental consulting firms working on the BDCP would be funny if it wasn’t so sad. I got my start in wildlife biology because of that project, learned a bunch about endangered species in the delta, and hoped every day that it would never be built. Thanks for the money, Westlands!