Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Even Better Idea For Desalination

Google has been sponsoring a project they call SOLVE FOR X. They describe it as; “A forum to encourage and amplify technology-based moonshot thinking and collaboration.”

One of the efforts that caught my attention has been an effort to radically improve desalination technology. I think they may be onto something world-changing.

This technology should be the last nail in the coffin for the watergrab. But don't expect that. There's more at stake here than just water – there's $15,000,000,000.00

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Another Go To Heller Letter...

I sign a few online petitions and have sent some letters to my elected representatives to make clear that we need to fix things – and I want them to do the right thing. U.S. Senator Dean Heller has replied to me on a number of occasions – but not how I would hope. In fact, I now call his correspondence “Go to Heller” letters. They always ramble for a while, and then somewhere towards the bottom of the letter I realize I've been told to go to hell – in the most obscure way possible.

Here's an example:

You're welcome to read the whole letter, but what is important is the highlighted lines; “Public law 93-523, the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), was enacted in 1974 to ensure that the American public is provided with safe drinking water. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is required to set standards for the quality of drinking water and oversee all entities that implement these standards.”

Mr. Heller wants us to believe that everything is already taken care of. Well... in a way, it is. The 2005 Energy Bill gave the fracking industry a free ride to pollute all they want – and Senator Heller knows this. Dick Cheney's 2005 Energy bill (the Haliburton Bill) exempted fracking fluids from the Safe Drinking Water Act... That's right, the worst polluters don't have to comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act. The regulations are so lax that I wouldn't be surprised if we someday find out that this is how some of these companies are getting rid of their toxic waste. (Think about it; why do they need radioactive materials in fracking fluid? They obviously don't.)

And the EPA sure looks like it's been dragging its feet for years at crafting fracking standards. The EPA is conducting a study to be published in 2014. And then there will be a review. And then there will be other delays. Hey wait a minute; shouldn't the EPA err on the safe side until the study comes out? Not when there's big money involved.

We didn't vote for that. We didn't write our “elected representatives” and ask for this. Americans have died from this type of pollution. And many Americans are sick. Exempting the dirtiest polluters from regulation is as far from common sense as our “leaders” can get.

The 2005 Energy Bill also exempted fracking fluids from the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). And there is no way U.S. Senator Dean Heller could not have known. He's just hoping we don't know. 

Dean Heller lies.

Moreover; Senator Heller voted to bar the EPA from regulating greenhouse gases – and he voted no on eliminating subsides and tax breaks for fossil fuels. Click here for more.

In my “Go to Heller” letter, Senator Heller stated; “I understand the importance of federal policies that promote a clean and healthy environment.” And in the next paragraph, he lies to us; claiming that federal policies already exist that are adequate (with the exemptions he didn't mention).

So, why would Senator Heller lie to us like that? Could it be the over $200,000 in “campaign contributions” he received from the oil and gas industry. Apparently, the fix is in.

Of course, Senator Heller isn't the only one. The Obama administration backed off on a damning scientific report that showed that fracking is poisoning groundwater. In case you hadn't noticed, this is what is known as a “cover-up.” (In case you don't remember, it was the cover-up of the Watergate break-in the led to President Nixon's downfall. But don't expect that to happen here, since this cover-up protects the oligarchy.)

This is what a failed democracy looks like. Our “elected representatives” can't make rational decisions. And things will just get worse until we fix them. Don't expect the likes of Dean Heller to do it for us. They're just making too much money.

I wouldn't be surprised if Dean Heller owns stock in fossil fuel companies too. (If you know about Dean Heller's investments, please leave a comment.)

What makes this so mind bendingly crazy is that we have the technology to do better. Why on Earth would we want to poison our drinking water with fracking fluids and methane so that we can pollute our air and change our climate?

And the story just gets more insane. Hundreds of thousands of trees have died in America due to the drought that no-one in the advertiser supported media will even mention “climate change” about. We are on track for 69 feet of sea level rise. This is the third winter in a row that the East has experienced a snowpocolypse. There are more twisters, earlier. And of course, there were the more energetic hurricanes Katrina and Sandy. Moreover, due to methane leaks at the fracking sites, natural gas is no cleaner than coal. It appears that they are all lying to us – apparently because money in their hands now is more important than our health and well being in the future.

Please sign this petition to ask Governor Sandoval not to approve fracking in Nevada. It won't be enough, since Governor Sandoval is a Republican, but at least they'll know we care about this.

Evidence shows that Brian Sandoval received $25,000 from the energy industry – which was one of the biggest contributions to the Sandoval campaign.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Is It Illegal Water Banking Or Is It A Scam?

Because Nevada water law is so poorly written, Southern Nevada Water Authority (SNWA) has been driven to make some horrible decisions. This has cost Southern Nevada water ratepayers hundreds of millions of dollars – and may eventually cost them over 15 billion dollars. That could amount to; worst case scenario, (so far) of 100 dollars more a month ratepayers may have to pay for at least the next 50 years!

So, it only makes sense that we might want to consider some alternatives.

SNWA claims they have considered alternatives, when they paid CH2MHill and Black & Veatch millions of dollars to evaluate their options. (Click here to see the overview.) One might expect that, at that price, we would get a very thorough report. But that didn't happen. Some very good options never got considered:

  1. Offshore Desalination – CH2M Hill did consider desalination, but only massive facilities right on the coast. Nobody wants that. On shore desal plants salt up coastline water, are vulnerable to tsunamis, are vulnerable to earthquakes, are vulnerable to sea level rise, are vulnerable to terrorism, are vulnerable to single point failures, and furthermore; they look like hell on the beach. Offshore desalination may be more expensive up front, but CH2M Hill never checked. One more thing; the price of desalination has dropped precipitously and desalination science is getting even better, even since this report (2008).
  2. Fixing of leaks in California, Arizona, and Utah pipes and aqueducts – SNWA could fix water systems in other states for more water allocated from the Colorado River. Californians lose a massive amount of water to leaks and poorly designed rainwater management. CH2M Hill did consider water use efficiency, but only for Colorado River water. And it doesn't appear they considered lining aqueducts for water leaving the Colorado River.
  3. Smart Breeding of California crops – SNWA could pay to develop the technology to breed crops that don't use as much water. Unlike genetically modified organisms, smart bred crops would be safe – even organic. And farmers wouldn't have to pay huge fees for GMO seeds to monopolistic companies like Monsanto. CH2M Hill did study vegetation management, which includes chopping down Nevada's forests (which bureaucrats call “treating”). But, somehow, they never considered developing low water use crops. (Too altruistic?)
  4. Solar and Wind power – CH2M Hill did study increasing water efficiency at power plants. But photovoltaic solar and wind power generation use no water. SNWA lost a huge opportunity when they allowed Nevada Energy to build a natural gas (steam) power plant recently. CH2M Hill never even considered the possibility of giving Nevada Energy financial incentives to install solar or wind – which would have saved thousands of acre-feet of water every year. Nonetheless, the opportunity still exists with the Navajo Generating Station – a coal fired power plant that uses 34,000 acre-feet of water every year. This water buffalo power plant is now over 40 years old and solar power is now likely cheaper. But... apparently SNWA still uses the CH2M Hill report without this recommendation to make their decisions.
  5. Buying farms – back in 2008, CH2M Hill ignored (then) State Senator Bob Beers' suggestion that SNWA buy up farms in California and use their water allotments. It wouldn't have taken that many farms and might have been much cheaper. But we'll never know how much cheaper from the report. CH2M Hill never even checked.
  6. Real conservation for future residents – Admittedly, this was not in CH2M Hill's charter for this study to find new sources of water. But, if new residents and businesses to Las Vegas were not allowed to have water wasting luxuries such as pools, fountains, lawns, invasive trees (such as palm trees), etc., then almost all of the new residents' water could be recycled. SNWA claims that interior water use has virtually no loss. So, just by requiring real conservation for new construction, there wouldn't be a need for new water. (Unless, of course, the water isn't really intended for the Las Vegas Valley, and won't flow back to the Colorado River – which would mean the watergrab isn't really for Las Vegas – just to be paid for by them. But that's another story...)

The CH2M Hill evaluation report is horribly flawed. They went so far as to study bringing icebergs from the Arctic and piping in water from the Mississippi River, but ignored practical ideas. Now, why would they do that? I'm sure that CH2M Hill's highly paid engineers are smarter than that. It's as if this whole study was merely propaganda to make the watergrab look tolerable. It looks as if they just left out the good ideas.

Which brings us to the why. Why did CH2M Hill evaluate SNWA's water options? For the money, of course. And if the watergrab pipeline does get built, will CH2M Hill make even more money? We don't know yet for sure, but this report makes one think CH2M Hill believes they will.

So, can we trust CH2M Hill? Click here to see what happened in Orange County.

Can we trust SNWA? If you trust me, NO! The SNWA propaganda machine is full of lies. If you don't trust me yet, consider this; hundreds of millions of dollars have already been spent. Heads would roll at SNWA if ratepayers found out that this money was wasted.

So, what can we do?

SNWA needs oversight.

It is very likely that SNWA management did not foresee the cost of desalination dropping like it did. And now they're going full speed ahead on a bad idea, because they can't admit how badly they predicted the future. I'm convinced there is a cover up. I've even called it Watergrabgate. But it could even be worse. Maybe this is all about the money instead. This could all just be a predatory loan scam.

Nevada has a Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This commission oversees power generation and fees. At one time, it really represented the public. Not so much anymore. But, at least it's better than nothing. Gross fraud, negligence, or criminal overcharging usually get noticed.

A bill has been introduced to the Nevada Legislature this year that would give the PUC oversight of SNWA. If you care about the environment – if you care about Rural Nevada's economy – if you care about exorbitant water bills; support this bill.

...and what if SNWA is just trying to bank Central Nevada water for later use? That's illegal by Nevada water law... But personally, I don't really see anything all that wrong with saving water for when we might really need it. If this is the case, let's change Nevada water law to reflect wise thinking. In fact, let's change Nevada water law to save water for when we really need it. 

This is a desert.