Thursday, September 4, 2014

Don't let this happen to your river.

A CNN reporter kayaks (and partially hikes) the San Joaquin river in California end-to-end.  Story here.  It's pretty long, so go put on a pot of coffee before you get started.

For all of the amazing engineering and agricultural productivity (not to mention the Bakersfield Sound) than came of it, it's pretty clear that what's been done to this river has a serious downside.  It is very weird to imagine a river that is entirely diverted away into canals half-way down its length, reduced to a sandy trackway for fifty-plus miles, then gradually reborn in its lower half by water pumped in from other rivers.  Definitely has "unsustainable" stenciled all over it.

Here's an interesting paragraph from deep down in the article:
"Before I left, I promised Ryan and Laura I’d create my own water budget.  And figure out where my water in Atlanta comes from, exactly."
Well, a big bucket of that water that would be from Lake Lanier.  Which was formed by a dam on the Chatahoochee river.  A dam that was originally built – multi-state contract all signed and legal – for the sole purpose of power generation.  But mission creep took over, Atlanta tapped off more and more water, and when things were finally dragged into court, the ruling was – agreement be damned – Atlanta could have the water and everybody downstream else could go pound sand.  Including everyone on the Chatahoochee and Apalachicola rivers, and especially those oysters in Apalachicola Bay.

So, thank you for your concern, Mr. Sutter, and all the rest at CNN.  Please do work up a personal water budget, for all the good it will do.  But given your new experience, why don't you use your media empire soapbox to show Atlanta and the rest of the world what your fair city is doing to a still relatively pristine river right at this moment?  Please work on this, before it's too late and someone else has to take a kayak trip down another destroyed river in a half-century or so.

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