California and Water
This is a long term project looking how California supplies water to its businesses and residents, to its farmers and their crops, year round in flood and in drought.
California is known to many today as the home of Silicon Valley: global technology companies like Google, Facebook, Apple, Intel and hundreds of others reach far beyond the State’s borders into the lives of billions of people. Before the technology industry Hollywood Studios and the movies they made did the same thing. Finding a place in people’s hearts through cinema and television. People also know California for its Redwood Trees and Giant Sequoia, Yosemite National Park and the Golden Gate Bridge. A rust colored architecturally uninspiring structure spanning the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. Disney Land for the young at heart and the Sierra Mountains for those dreaming of solitude and outdoor fun.
Not only can California be found in the hearts and back-pockets of tens of millions of people, but California can be also found in the super-markets and on dinning tables across the globe. California’s agricultural industry is world-class and huge. Growing some of the best rice in the world, producing 82% of the worlds Almonds. You can find apricots, dates, figs, kiwi fruit, nectarines, olives, pistachios, prunes, walnuts, avocados, grapes, lemons, melons, peaches, plums, oranges and strawberries. As well as lettuce, tomatoes, broccoli, carrots, asparagus, cauliflower, celery, garlic, mushrooms, onions, and peppers and cotton. And that is not all. California produces a lot of oil.
All of this is possible because of a few big ideas, a lot of arrogance, masses of infrastructure, and the occasional deception. 35 Million people now live in the state of California, working on Facebook, or making movies, planting or harvesting crops, working the oil wells and refineries and every day when the turn on the tap they expect clean fresh water to flow out of it. Farmers need it to irrigate their fields, and feed their livestock. That is not a simple task in a state like California.
California could not exist as it does without massive remodeling of the landscape. Without diverting and damming rivers. Excavating large swathes of land for reservoirs. Installing flood control barriers. All designed to smooth out the boom and bust cycle of the rainy season, the Sierra snow pack and subsequent melt, and the constant flooding of the Central Valley.
Water is delivered to San Francisco by tunnel and pipe from 230 miles to the east. Los Angeles gets water from the Owens Valley, the Owens river, and ultimately from Mono Lake, 360 miles north east of Los Angeles by road. Palm Springs in the southern desert gets water from Colorado river, for farmers, and pumped from an aquifer for drinking water. But even here infrastructure is required to help recharge that aquifer.