Folsom Reservoir draw-down
While backpacking this week, walking from Auburn to Sacramento in large part in order to see the drawn-down Folsom Reservoir and the living North Fork American River that has been revealed, I had a lot of time to think about water use and drought.
I see the drought as an inflection point where California could change directions towards a sustainable future. We basically have two choices: 1) try to spend and engineer our way out of the drought crisis, or 2) bring our behavior within the limits of nature. Of course ultimately, we cannot spend and engineer our way out, we only delay reaching the limit and hit that limit all the harder.
Dudleya among moss
I backpacked the American Discovery Trail segment from Auburn to Sacramento this week. This is my second time on this segment (ADT: Auburn to Sacramento 2012-05), and the reasons I went again were to see the American River North Fork while the draw-down of Folsom Reservoir exposed more of it, and to create a GPS track of the trip.
I took the Amtrak train to Auburn, then walked to the trailhead at Auburn Staging Area, and then down into the canyon to sleep. I took a few wrong turns in the dark, but quickly realized and corrected (and I have corrected the GPS track). Not far into the canyon, I noticed the sound of the river much stronger than I remembered it. The night was cloudy, then cleared to brilliant stars, and at dawn there was a light drizzle. I headed down the Cardiac Bypass Trail, which is better signed that it was two years ago. These signs are unusually clear for a state parks-managed area, so I presume they were designed, paid for and installed by a volunteer organization.
Buckeye leafing out
This weekend I completed the Antioch to Walnut Creek segment of the American Discovery Trail, up and over Mount Diablo. This is the last of the California segments for me, so I’ve now walked across California. Though the ADT materials and I use the word “trail,” much of this route is actually fire and farm roads. These are still pleasant to walk, and there are some stretches of real trail interspersed.
I started out in Antioch, getting there on Amtrak and BART and TriDelta bus. The official start of the segment is up in Contra Loma Regional Park, but I’d finished segment 6 in Antioch Community Park, closer to public transit, so that is where I started again. The trail soon enters Black Diamond Mines Regional Park (East Bay Regional Park District) and heads up into the dry brown hills and eventually to the old town of Somersville. Scattered oaks and cows mark the hills, but gradually thicken to oak woodlands and chaparral. Some buckeyes are leafing out, and there is a bit of green grass in a few wetter areas, but mostly it looks like the end of summer, no new growth of winter or spring.
Posted in Backpacking & Hiking
Tagged ADT, American Discovery Trail, Antioch, backpacking, Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve, Clayton, Diablo Foothills Regional Park, hiking, Mount Diablo State Park, Shell Ridge Open Space, Walnut Creek
“Sacramento City Council members last night voted to require water customers to reduce their water use by 20 percent.” (Sacramento City Council Mandates Water Use Reductions, City of Sacramento press release 2014-01-15)
“Part of the reason we’re not using the meters as a method of enforcement is we’re not looking to put folks out of business,” said Jessica Hess, spokeswoman for the city of Sacramento’s Department of Utilities. “But if we can help encourage them to find different ways to use water, maybe they can find other savings elsewhere (such as converting to low-flow toilets). Maybe it’s not 20 percent, but at least we’re trying to help contribute to the solution.” (Water cuts: It’s honor system, SacBee 2014-01-29)
Mandatory: required by a law or rule : obligatory (Merriam Webster Dictionary online)
The message, as I hear it, is: Cutbacks are mandatory, but we don’t really mean it, and certainly we don’t want to inconvenience anyone.
Folsom Reservoir, from Cap Radio
The drought in California (and some nearby places) is a prominent topic of conversation these days, and I constantly hear people say in effect “if it would just rain, everything would be OK again.” Well, I disagree. I’m OK with the drought. Whether it is a natural cycle, or something we’ve created with global climate change, or likely a combination of the two, I don’t see it as a bad thing, nor do I long for it to end.
If we allowed ourselves, there are a lot of things we could learn from the drought. The most important, I think, is that it is immoral to have created a situation where we are living so close to the edge that a drought pushes us over. We could live differently. We could live by using only the minimum we need, and letting the rest flow in the rivers and be used by wildlife. Instead, we have tried to capture and use every last drop. And when the drops are fewer, we are in a crisis mode.
Specific things I’d like to see:
There are two topics related to the drought that I’ve not seen discussed, so here goes.
1. Water meters: Only about half of water customers in the City of Sacramento are on water meters. The city has committed to installing them for all customers by 2025, as court ordered. The lack of water meters is a relict of the old attitudes that water was plentiful and limits were not needed. Clearly, though times are gone. But the city is still on its gradual plan of implementation. No one from the city has, so far as I know, suggested that the implementation be accelerated. Why not? Well, it is expensive since it requires not only meters but other water infrastructure work. Other than that, I think it is just inertia, the feeling that if we just keep doing what we were doing, things will eventually be OK. But that is the attitude that got us into this fix to begin with. It is time to spend the money, now, this year. That will take moving money for other purposes, many of them valuable and needed, to water meter installation. But what is more important in the city right now than water?
2. Westlands Water District: Westlands represents itself as the provider of water for family farmers, and who wants to hurt family farmers? But Westlands is in fact home to huge corporate farms. This district, on the west side of the San Joaquin Valley in Fresno and Kings counties, serves some of the driest, most salt-laden soils in the entire San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys. It is largely land that should have never been farmed to begin with, and certainly should not be farmed during a drought. Yet Westlands holds immense power in the state, and is, as much as Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the reason for the tunnel project to ship more water to the south. Most of that water will never reach the residents of southern California, it will get only as far as Westlands, where it will be wasted on extremely dry, low productivity lands. I am not against farms or farmers, and believe that everything we do in response to the drought carefully consider the history and needs of family farmers. But the Westlands is not those farms nor those family farmers. I believe we must simply cut off Westlands so that the water we do have can go to more productive family farms.
sign post for ADT and others
This last weekend I completed another of the American Discovery Trail (ADT) segments, this one from Walnut Creek to San Francisco, which is segment 8 of California, leaving just segment 7 for me to complete. I took Amtrak to Richmond, and then BART to the Pleasant Hill station in Walnut Creek.
I walked to the beginning of this segment, mile 0 at Heather Farm Park, just so that I could get an accurate GPS track from the beginning to end of this segment, and then… I forget to turn on the GPS app on my iPad. So I have no track to contribute, but do have some guidance. It is hard to do any of these segments without reference to both the ADT Data Book, and a GPS unit with mapping. A number of times I could not have determined which way the trail went except by looking the the waypoint beyond the trail current trail junction. As it was, I got lost late in the day on Saturday, missing the trail that continues along Lafayette Ridge and dropping into town, from where I had to reorient and then climb the 1000 feet back up to the ridge. I was more careful after that. It is a situation where having a GPS track in hand could really help, but then, that is what I didn’t accomplish. Maybe next time!
Posted in Backpacking & Hiking
Tagged ADT, American Discovery Trail, backpacking, Berkeley, Briones to Mt Diablo Trail, hiking, MCCT, Mokelumne Coast to Crest Trail, Oakland, San Francisco, San Francisco Bay Ferry, Walnut Creek