Results of the drought within the western United States – Watts with it?
From Rud Istvan,
The mainstream media (MSM) are enthusiastic about the current drought in the West, which is supposedly caused by “anthropogenic climate change”. Lots of “we’re going to die” things. Charles has a way of provoking thoughtful investigations. He asked me, ‘Does this mean future blackouts in California due to a lack of hydropower’? [HT/Macusn~cr] This fascinating question led me to another search for the climate truth. The following are just a few important references as most of the following is easy to google.
Anthropogenic climate drought?
Alarmists need to be more specific about where, when and why. This post covers the Columbia River Basin, Colorado River Basin, and California. In this western US geography, the “drought” occurs primarily in the Colorado Basin and California, in both cases due to the lack of snow cover in the Sierra and the Rockies. The Columbia Basin is so large that the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) had no problems with water flow through its 33 hydroelectric plants even in the previous California drought year, 2015, as there was no drought in British Columbia.
Tree ring studies, focusing only on California and the Colorado Basin, mark the current situation as only the fourth worst in the last millennium. The abandoned Chaco Canyon proves it was much worse before. Chaco was abandoned around 1250 due to a worse western drought than it is today.
Ruins of Pueblo Bonito in the Chaco Canyon
And the three previous “worse” droughts cannot have anything to do with the anthropogenic “carbon pollution” that a greener earth seems to like as fertilizer.
However, that objective story is still a problem for the Colorado Compact, which was established at the time of the Hoover Dam and Lake Meade. The water allocations for the 7 states plus Mexico were based on annual runoff in Colorado from an (abnormally) wetter decade earlier. So just wrong hydrological assumptions.
Impact on electricity?
For analysis purposes, we need to separate California from the Colorado Compact. The data sources for the following facts come mainly from the US government’s EIA on EIA.gov, from the California Energy Commission (CEC) on Energy / Ca.gov and from an open access paper ERL 15 (2020) 094008.
16.5% of California’s electricity in 2019 was supplied by the state’s “large hydropower plants” (around 287 dams like Oroville, which almost collapsed from TOO MUCH water in 2017) or 9.7% was imported from BPA hydropower. California Small Hydro returned 2.7%; imports were only 0.4%. So in 2019 California only hydropower accounted for about 19.2% of CA generation. 2019 is used as the base value as the 2020 figures are not yet available in mid-2021. I have no idea if Covid or just the pace of government work.
In 2015 (peak before the drought year) that production was reduced to 41% of the production before the 2012 drought, which means it would potentially be reduced to (0.41 * 19.2) 7.9% in 2021, which corresponds to a decrease of around 11.3%. Now most networks are running with reserve capacity on the order of 12-15%, so the California network may be able to handle this loss without going dark.
However, there is an interesting BPA qualification presented to you by the government because in 2019, if you add imported BPA, total California hydropower was about 26%. The BPA problem is likely not dry water based on 2015. It is that 1/3 of the BPA capacity has ALREADY exceeded its design life and it is not keeping up with the replacement. An unplanned outage is possible. Plus, California is sure to be on its own through 2030, as Washington State has just passed a law mandating that all of its electricity will be green by 2030, which means there will be no California exports.
Hydroelectric power from Hoover Dam / Lake Meade flows primarily to Nevada and Arizona, albeit via the western network that connects to CA. Your electricity problem is different. The Hoover Dam has 17 hydraulic turbo generators. These have a so-called “dead pool” below which the hydrostatic head cannot turn them safely and they have to be switched off. This Deadpool was an original construction elevation of 1050 feet on Lake Meade. In 2015, Meade went back to 1085 ‘which terrified everyone. In the past 6 years, all 17 Hoover water turbines have been replaced with a new design that lowers the dead pool to around 950 ‘. This week, Lake Meade was at an alarming “record low since 1937” of 1071 “, only about 36% of full water capacity, as evidenced by its” bathtub ring “.
Hoover Dam Towers on the blue Lake Mead. The Hoover Dam is a concrete gravity dam in the Black Canyon of the Colorado River, on the border between the US states of Nevada and Arizona.
Not good for the water supply (below) but still not a problem for his new power deadpool.
Of course there will be, but here, too, California has to be separated from the Colorado Compact.
In California, about 50% of the water is used “ecologically” (salmon rivers in Northern California and the infamous Delta in Central CA), about 40% in agriculture (the fruits, nuts, vegetables and dairy products of the Imperial Valley), and about 10% for “People and Industry”.
A semi-serious idea is to declare the delta smelt extinct (no one has seen one in years) and reduce “environmental water use” in favor of “agricultural” water use.
The bigger reality is that “humans” will never suffer, but some farmers can. Nobody is going to ‘die’, but some farmers could be thrown out of business. The subject is a little more complex (like in Arizona) because of the grandfather’s water rights for pioneer farmers who were thirsty there before Silicon Valley.
There is a related interesting, water-related agricultural “factoid” in Cali that has been known to this Wisconsin dairy farm owner for nearly four decades. The number one milk producing state is California (18.6% of the US) while Wisconsin is only number 2 (14%). Why, when you consider that the staple food for dairy products is protein-rich alfalfa, a very water-intensive hay plant? About 1.2 million acres of alfalfa in California, all watered. The reason is a simple but foolish political policy. Milk has (since FDR) price supports. And Ground Zero (no support) is Madison, Wisconsin. The further from Madison, the higher the milk price support. And California is the furthest CONUS distance from Wisconsin. California is subsidizing the cultivation of milk price support from irrigated alfalfa with water it does not currently have.
The same general problem exists in the Colorado Compact. About 70% of the water goes to agriculture and about 30% goes to “people and industry (like Elon Musk’s massively subsidized Nevada Gigafactory)”. The main beneficiaries of “people” are Las Vegas and Phoenix. You will never suffer from it, although farmers could (again, subject to grandfather complications with water rights). As is a newly discovered factoid, about 1/3 of the fresh vegetables grown in the US in the Sonoran Desert south of Phoenix are grown with Colorado irrigation water.
Neither California nor Las Vegas will go dark because of the current drought, which itself has not been proven to be due to anthropogenic climate change.
Los Angeles, Las Vegas, or Phoenix won’t die out either, though some farmers could get rich by selling their grandfather’s water rights to these thirsty newer cities and then “pulling back” while their former desert recovers.