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Floods and droughts


studiot
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As I read about droughts in California and Texas, but floods in Kentucky I wonder if the obvious engineering commonsense reaction will pertain.

We need more water collection, storage and distribution facilities compared to the past.

Will politix ever permit the obvious engineering solution ?

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If the Republicans are not permitted to kill the EPA, there is hope.

https://www.epa.gov/water-research/drought-resilience-and-water-conservation

https://www.nature.org/en-us/about-us/who-we-are/how-we-work/policy/water-management/

States have different levels of awareness, preparedness and resources to deploy. There is a lot going on that's never reported in the news, because it's just not sensational enough. https://www.usgs.gov/centers/oklahoma-texas-water-science-center/science/floods-and-droughts

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3 hours ago, studiot said:

Will politix ever permit the obvious engineering solution ?

Politicians, in democratic countries, as long as they are sane, will only do what gets them elected in the next election (if they are not pushed by the influence of third countries, sponsors of the campaigns, secret services etc. )..

This is why it is so difficult to move away from the use of fossil fuels in countries or states where any mention of a "green revolution" triggers immediate opposition from people and their families who work in the industry..

3 hours ago, studiot said:

As I read about droughts in California and Texas, but floods in Kentucky I wonder if the obvious engineering commonsense reaction will pertain.

Are not you, or US, in capitalistic country.. ? In such country, the only project which will be made are the one which earns money.. Highways that are paid for? Here there is a tax included in the price of fuel to cover the cost of building highways.. When they built them, after a dozen years or so, highways are not free.. You can have a cheaper airplane ticket to the other side of the country than paying all the highway bills trying to get there by car! Without the cost of fuel in the car included..

 

Edited by Sensei
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2 hours ago, Sensei said:

Highways that are paid for? Here there is a tax included in the price of fuel to cover the cost of building highways.. When they built them, after a dozen years or so, highways are not free.. You can have a cheaper airplane ticket to the other side of the country than paying all the highway bills trying to get there by car! Without the cost of fuel in the car included..

IOW, people were twice time screwed/cheated.. but that was 20-25 years ago when they made tax for highways, so nobody remembers..

 

 

4 hours ago, studiot said:

We need more water collection, storage and distribution facilities compared to the past.

...expect taxes for it.. ? ;)

 

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4 minutes ago, Sensei said:

IOW, people were twice time screwed/cheated.. but that was 20-25 years ago when they made tax for highways, so nobody remembers..

After a highway is built, and people have been driving on it, does it sometimes need repair? Snow clearance, salting and sanding, verge and shoulder maintenance? Signs replaced and lines repainted? How were the people screwed/cheated by having to pay for the work of all those people and the materials they work with? 

7 minutes ago, Sensei said:

..expect taxes for it.. ?

Well, neither God nor Exxon provided it, so...

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5 hours ago, Peterkin said:

Well, neither God nor Exxon provided it, so...

...I don't recall prays for highways, water collection, storage and distribution facilities.. at least not in enough amount, to take care of it.. ;)

Pray more the next time.. ;)

(..and I will tell you how to build super cool highway..)

Happy mortal.. ? ;)

 

Edited by Sensei
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10 hours ago, studiot said:

As I read about droughts in California and Texas, but floods in Kentucky I wonder if the obvious engineering commonsense reaction will pertain.

We need more water collection, storage and distribution facilities compared to the past.

Will politix ever permit the obvious engineering solution ?

What obvious engineering solution? How is lack of permission the principle impediment?

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15 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

What obvious engineering solution?

They may not be all that obvious, but many engineering solution can be implemented. https://www.engineering.com/story/how-can-engineers-prevent-surface-water-flooding

15 hours ago, Ken Fabian said:

How is lack of permission the principle impediment?

It's not, unless a large-scale project is undertaken by private enterprise. Most dams, flood-ways and levees are public works projects, which require a lot more from government than permission: government needs to be take the lead in planning, funding, removing obstacles - which may well include business interests, political opposition and people who have to be relocated, none of which is simple or easy - building and maintenance of the required infrastructure for years and decades after it's built. Governments usually contract out the actual construction work to private companies (which of course raises the price of any project for taxpayers) but if the entire project is left to private enterprise - which is a perfectly viable option -  there is no control at all by the citizens, and very little by the government, either of the project or the price.

47 minutes ago, Kevin Mulisa Isaya said:

floods in Kentucky I wonder if the obvious engineering commonsense reaction will pertain.

I don't know what those are - people often use the word "obvious" without illustrations. Kentucky, like all states and provinces, has a policy, has flood and control-related regulations and contingency plans.

https://www.kymitigation.org/kentucky-floodplain-manangement/

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"More collection, storage and distribution" may be what studiot meant but these encompass a wide variety of engineering options. More efficient use is another "obvious" I suppose. I am interested in what people consider obvious.

 It sounds like for California there is not a lot of spare water to collect and store and redistribute. I suspect the best sites for dams are already dams or else are valued highly for other reasons/uses - which may present as "politix not permitting", though I doubt it is as simple as mere bureaucratic unreasonableness. The less ideal the site the more it can cost - and in many cases the more uncertain that they will catch enough to fill or avoid storage losses long enough to help much in an extended drought. It can become a rob Peter to pay Paul type of problem. Lake Mead (we get bits of US news mixed with our own) isn't in California but stands as an example; probably it will get times with enough upstream precipitation to fill again and for a time provide a relative abundance of water but it doesn't make a whole of problem, lasting solution. Not even by making it bigger/deeper.

A lot of historic water use decisions appear problematic in hindsight; as an Australian I can sympathise - water use permits to farmers (pumping from rivers, which may or may not have flows managed with upstream dams and from artesian basins that were considered effectively infinite) - were handed out freely, in aggregate amounts that often far exceeded what is available. These kinds of historic "right of use" are fiercely defended - a different kind of impediment to "obvious" solutions than just bureaucratic.

Of course they cannot pump water that is not there and pumping rights can be limited or suspended but often there is water upstream that never reaches downstream, including by "innovative" practices like flood plain harvesting - diverting and empounding flood water; the assumption was it only takes "excess" water, whilst the reality is downstream flows can be dependent on that flood water (and flood plain ecosystems too). A lot was done before the consequences were understood, without any regulation applying and again, those who did it fiercely defend their "right" to do so (and oppose introduction of regulation) without any responsibility taken for the downsides downstream.

It does sound like California agriculture has been overutilising it's limited water sources for a long time and the "right" to do so looks deeply entrenched; the obvious solution of limiting such water use can be hard to apply. Texas, I know less about, but suspect similar issues.

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Thank you all replying.

To me 'the obvious engineering solution' to the fact that there is too much water (over time) in one area and too little in another (again over time) is to move some water about from the excess to the deficit.

I have put this in climate change because it is predicted that this imbalance will grow as climate change bites more and more.

I was not my intention to limit examples and discussions to the US experience. It's just that their recent news renewed my long held conviction that worn out 'politix' has made / is making matters worse rather than better.

There is not much known about the Harappan civilisation and there are several overblown stories or myths.
But we do know this bronze age culture was able to control the Indus river basin and the monsson by exactly the engineering means I have described

"Collection storage and distribution"

 

Meanwhile in the UK we are also suffering this water imbalance, though to a lesser extent than the US.
But late 20th century politix has removed our golden opportunity to do something about it, by breaking up a water industry that was brought together into a coherent whole during the early 20th century, and selling it off in disparate chunks to foreigners with no interest in our plight.

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@studiot Those kinds of projects can be huge and the engineering and economics rarely add up. More usually we see water caught and stored within existing water catchments during wet times, uphill of the users, stored over several years, hopefully long enough to get refilled before running out. Existing geography and flows are taken advantage of as much as possible - working with rather than against, and most of the better opportunities have already been taken, for irrigation water mostly; climate change is exacerbating things but the same concerns have been around a long time.

We have water diverted from coastwards flowing to inland from Australia's Snowy River Hydro scheme but it works by taking advantage of geography; it was a (relatively) short distance tunneling through mountains to divert the Snowy River, but still a huge engineering project. (Ironically Hydro power output had to be constrained due to too much water - to avoid adding to inland flooding - during our recent and still simmering gas and coal supply shortage/price crisis, despite full dams and wholesale electricity prices going into orbit).

Rivers themselves are the preferred means of delivery, with pipes, canals and pumping reserved for short distances and rises. They are expensive. Canals have high loss rates - leakages and evaporation; schemes proposed for Australia (that still get thrown up as a thought bubble) had expected losses too high for the water to reach the intended recipients.

The specific example - Kentucky floods, Texas and California droughts? I think (US geography not my strong point) Kentucky floodwater will flow into the Mississippi, so it will get a lot closer to parts of Texas on it's own but still way short. California would need floodwater from somewhere much nearer but geographically that seems harder than for Texas, which doesn't have the mountain ranges.

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When you kill all the beavers to make silly hats, you will get more floods, and a drop in the water table in dry periods. They are re-introducing beavers to a few isolated parts of the UK. The selling spiel is that it will regulate water. Probably more of a curiosity, we don't have that much of wilderness to support them, but the USA has lots. Kentucky does have beavers but they are trapped and shot legally as a pest, or for the fur. Without the beavers, the rainfall runs off faster, so you get flooding and rivers that dry up quicker. 

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On 8/1/2022 at 3:49 AM, studiot said:

To me 'the obvious engineering solution' to the fact that there is too much water (over time) in one area and too little in another (again over time) is to move some water about from the excess to the deficit.

 

To me the obvious engineering solution involves the movement of people from areas of too little water to areas where there is plenty of water.

We don't build massive engineering projects to move air underwater or move heat to the Arctic. Instead we limit the number of people who live under water or in the Arctic.

Now that people in the Western US have overused their water resources, it is probably time to move their golf courses and pecan trees to an area that has plenty of water.

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The problem is with obvious engineering solutions is often that they are only obvious after the fact.  Most of the planning depends on what the current experts believe is likely to happen, and the ability of experts to convince the public to pay for the work.

It reminds me of the Fukushima disaster.  I worked in the GE Nuclear Division.  In planning the Nuclear Power Plant we knew their were earthquake and tsunami hazards.  The Japanese scientists and experts predicted the magnitude of the need and the plant was built to handle it.  Engineering solutions were planned and implemented-- then nature did more than predicted.

Edited by OldChemE
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As studiot pointed out in the OP, this isn’t an engineering or technical problem. Like with climate change, we know exactly what needs to be done to address it, but politics and economics stand in the way. 

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2 hours ago, iNow said:

As studiot pointed out in the OP, this isn’t an engineering or technical problem. Like with climate change, we know exactly what needs to be done to address it, but politics and economics stand in the way. 

I understand but don't agree.  We may know what to do to address the issues in theory-- but properly predicting where there will be an excess of water and a shortage of water is a necessary element-- and to a large degree we don't know until after it has happened.  Did anyone predict the floods in Kentucky specifically-- or just somewhere in the south-east US?  That's what is necessary in order to apply solutions-- unless we spend huge amounts of money everywhere.  The inability to specifically predict is what I allude to in talking about only knowing after the fact.  There is much more to this beyond politics and economics.

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1 hour ago, OldChemE said:

I understand but don't agree.  We may know what to do to address the issues in theory-- but properly predicting where there will be an excess of water and a shortage of water is a necessary element-- and to a large degree we don't know until after it has happened.  Did anyone predict the floods in Kentucky specifically-- or just somewhere in the south-east US?  That's what is necessary in order to apply solutions-- unless we spend huge amounts of money everywhere.  The inability to specifically predict is what I allude to in talking about only knowing after the fact.  There is much more to this beyond politics and economics.

Thank you for taking my thoughts seriously, even though you disagree. +1

You make a very clear point.

4 hours ago, OldChemE said:

The problem is with obvious engineering solutions is often that they are only obvious after the fact.  Most of the planning depends on what the current experts believe is likely to happen, and the ability of experts to convince the public to pay for the work.

It reminds me of the Fukushima disaster.  I worked in the GE Nuclear Division.  In planning the Nuclear Power Plant we knew their were earthquake and tsunami hazards.  The Japanese scientists and experts predicted the magnitude of the need and the plant was built to handle it.  Engineering solutions were planned and implemented-- then nature did more than predicted.

 

Nature of does something mor or different from our predictions.

But not always and averages have a way of reasserting themselves especially over the longer term.

 

Some comments

I used the USA recent natural occurrences as an example, there are plenty more around the globe.

I am disappointed no one has taken up my comments about the Indus and the Harappans.

 

With specific reference to the UK, we are now moving into a patchwork of water restrictions we should not have.
Unfortunately the politics is that we now have a patchwork of relatively small water commercial companies that are now largely owned by foreigners.
This was due to the privitisation and fragmentation of the water industry that was gradually drawing together over the first 3/4 of the 20th century.
We were told that privatisation was 'good because it would bring private investment' but, of course, that never happened. Companies, espcially foreign ones, are there to take money out, not to put it in. All they do is 'manage existing installations, some a hundred or more years old or more. There was considerably greater vision 150 years ago.
Further there is a general lack of cooperation between the companies and between the companies and the general public, who rightly mistrust them.
There are bright spots in this but they are few and far between.
We also have a 'regulator' who finds is easier and more convenient to regulate the customers, rather than the suppliers.
Because another 'obvious' engineering solution is to simply restrict customers access to supply.

As a small country, with plenty more water than we need, and a substantailly reducing industrial demand following the demise of much of UK industry;

We simply should not have a general flood and drought problem, though as you say Nature will still occasionally thwart us.
The sort of (natural) drought we are now facing last occured in 1976  - almost half a century ago.

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7 hours ago, OldChemE said:

That's what is necessary in order to apply solutions-- unless we spend huge amounts of money everywhere. 

Unsure why you don’t feel that’s very specifically an economics and politics problem.

I’m not saying we can avoid unpredictable disasters, more that we can stop making the problems worse amd update building codes to support same purpose / fortify against other coming storms (much like California building codes now have requirements to protect homes against wildfires. 

5 hours ago, studiot said:

Because another 'obvious' engineering solution is to simply restrict customers access to supply.

I’d focus more on desalination, storage, amd transportation of sea water as Israel has been doing for decades. The politics and unwillingness to invest, however, seem to be preventing this. 

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12 hours ago, iNow said:

Unsure why you don’t feel that’s very specifically an economics and politics problem.

I’m not saying we can avoid unpredictable disasters, more that we can stop making the problems worse amd update building codes to support same purpose / fortify against other coming storms (much like California building codes now have requirements to protect homes against wildfires. 

I’d focus more on desalination, storage, amd transportation of sea water as Israel has been doing for decades. The politics and unwillingness to invest, however, seem to be preventing this. 

I see your point here.  The reason I don't see it specifically as an economics and politics problem is because, even when the political and economical will is there to get things done, the deciding of what to do is still dependent on predicting what will work.  Storage to be sure is important-- but we have water storage all over the west that is proving inadequate (Powell, Mead, San Luis Reservoir, Shasta and Oroville in California, Rye Patch in northern Nevada-- all getting rather dry).  Thinking more about it, however, I do see that if voters wanted to spend the money and politicians listened, we could do many things, and be successful, even if some 'solutions' turned out to be less effective than others.

Edited by OldChemE
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On 8/4/2022 at 1:58 AM, Ken Fabian said:

We have water diverted from coastwards flowing to inland from Australia's Snowy River Hydro scheme but it works by taking advantage of geography; it was a (relatively) short distance tunneling through mountains to divert the Snowy River, but still a huge engineering project. (Ironically Hydro power output had to be constrained due to too much water - to avoid adding to inland flooding - during our recent and still simmering gas and coal supply shortage/price crisis, despite full dams and wholesale electricity prices going into orbit).

Thank you for the Australian viewpoint.

Have you come across P A Yeomans and his keyline proposals and can you shed any light on how they are making out today ?
I have recently been told they are still going strong.

P A Yeomans

Water For every Farm.

 

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On 8/14/2022 at 7:41 PM, studiot said:

Thank you for the Australian viewpoint.

Have you come across P A Yeomans and his keyline proposals and can you shed any light on how they are making out today ?
I have recently been told they are still going strong.

P A Yeomans

Water For every Farm.

 

I have read it, a couple of decades ago. I think some elements have found a place - identifying the highest elevation sites for on-farm earth dams, the contour ploughing to slow rainwater runoff and divert it into the soil, using ploughs that break up hard soils and aerate them but don't turn soil over. Swales - was that Yeomans? - likewise to slow rainwater runoff and soak it into the ground; there are some related ideas about making the ground itself the principle water storage around. This is mostly for grazing land rather than intensive cropping.

Yeoman's irrigation ideas, not so much; I think in practice it only gave limited benefits and those only where topography and climate suited. High evaporation across much of Australia mean dams have to be deep to last more than a couple of years of drought, even without using any of the water, and irrigation uses a lot of water. It tends to cost more than most farmers or farm companies can afford or count on getting a return on investment. Where on-farm dams are used for irrigation they tend (as with most irrigators) to use drip lines, microsprays and other water saving rather than the ditches and flood irrigation Yeoman used - and it tends to be to some extent opportunistic, with irrigators accepting that the water won't last. Annual crops rather than long lived perennials.

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  • CharonY changed the title to Floods and droughts

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