19 April 2014

Flashback: 14-20 Apr 2013

A year later and still worth reading...

18 April 2014

Friday party!

This video shows the triple point (gas-liquid-solid) of an unknown substance.

Anything but water

  1. Yes, it's a conspiracy: tax software companies lobby against US tax simplification

  2. Uh oh update: average temps will increase 4-5C with business as usual (i.e., reality). In related news, Al Qaeda has decided that the fastest way to destroy America is by inaction: we're screwing up without their help

  3. Solar vendors worry about "uncertainty" due to subsides. Their solution? Permanent subsidies

  4. Saudi Arabia will spend $1 trillion to double energy supplies... that are sold below cost. I bet they could save money (twice) by raising prices to reduce demand and the need for extra capacity (even if KSA has double the solar installations of Germany)

  5. Meanwhile, in Canada:
    Remediation of soil and water contaminated by petroleum hydrocarbons (PHCs) will cost almost $41 billion... "the estimated magnitude of remediation work associated with PHC contaminated sites is projected to exceed the current annual capacity of the remediation industry by more than 57 times... The largest PHC contaminated site liabilities are in the provinces with large upstream oil and gas industries; those provinces also have relatively small remediation industries.” It concludes that since the cost of restoring polluted land would often be higher than the value of the land itself, “there is no net monetizable benefit to the economy as a whole associated with the remediation of a contaminated site.”
    Or, as the Onion would say: don't bother to clean up land that's not worth anything

17 April 2014

Biased nexes, damned dams and abusive infrastructure

Each of these elements can be mismanaged due to missing information.

Some people want to manage the "nexus" of energy and water, but those sectors overlap and affect other sectors, such as environment, food, transportation, urban setting, and so on.

A failure to include other relevant interactions will result in surprise outcomes when management targets an optimal nexus of water and energy.

Those outcomes will turn into outright failure and destruction if interest groups are allowed to manipulate nexus targets to meet their narrow interests (e.g., corn ethanol was supposed to deliver green energy, but the carbon footprint and water consumption/pollution were high; places that integrated sustainable water demand into ethanol production left off food impacts, etc.) The main problem here is that interest groups can propose management goals and rules that favor them and -- because the nexus has higher priority -- harm other sectors.

I suggest separately managing water and energy while tracking the impacts on all other sectors. None should receive precedence.

Dams can be mismanaged in the same way if they target water storage or energy generation without considering other sectors such as environmental flows, small-scale irrigators, floods, etc. Dams can be useful but we need to manage all their costs, cash and non-cash.

All infrastructure, in fact, falls into this category when it comes to understanding costs and benefits. Roads, dams, ports, and canals have permanent and durable impacts on neighboring communities. Those impacts should be gathered into the "infra-shed" (abusing the notion of a watershed), so that benefits and costs are listed, calculated and allocated among locals. The worst projects are those with great distances between those who pay (e.g., US taxpayers) and those who benefit (CVP or CAP farmers).

Bottom Line: All politics are local, and so are costs and benefits. Locals should pay for the local benefits they receive.

16 April 2014

Speed blogging

Still getting caught up, after the book launch and teaching...
  1. Engineers use smarter sensors to test quality and reduce system leaks. Now they only need manager motivated to reduce leaks

  2. Fleck discusses the Bureau of Reclamation's "option" to pay attention to endangered species and puts the "minute 319 pulse" release of water into the Colorado River Delta into perspective (figure). That "environmental experiment" is tiny compared to irrigator diversions that drain the river 98 percent of the time

  3. Brian Richter (of the Nature Conservancy) discusses sources and uses of water in the US. Insightful

  4. Hanak et al. suggest a route to reforming groundwater management in California. Can we get going on this?

  5. Daniel Connell (a governance expert from ANU) critiques (unsustainable and unfair) water management in the Murray-Darling. The response is worth reading

  6. Alibaba (the eBay of China) brings cheap water quality testing to the people in a brilliant, bottom-up move to pressure authorities to address pollution

15 April 2014

Living with Water Scarcity, in paperback, on Amazon

I set at price of $10 for the paperback (Kindle and PDF are $5), but Amazon lowered it to $9.00.

That subsidy encourages you to buy the book.

This blog post encourages your to read it.

Here's a Wordle made from words in the book (click for larger).

(I like reading sentences like "different flows may get farmers prices." What's yours?

Do you understand the VALUE of water?

There are lots of footprint calculators, statistics on use and conservation devices available, but some people still fail to understand (or feel they do not understand) the value of water.

I appreciate the value after many stays in many places where there was zero water or water of unhealthy quality.

DC suggests this approach to helping people understand the value of water to them:
Instead of writing down flushes and glasses of water I "challenged" people to turn off their water at say 10 PM, turn it on in the morning for early ablutions and off again, etc., using water to do things but then turn off again for the next 24 hours. (My guess maybe on/off five six times).

Even interested parties would rather keep track of flushes, brushes, and washes. Just to notice use, but the going downstairs was too annoying...
As I said to an NPR reporter on the Charleston, W VA, spill:
West Virginia residents have -- at least temporarily -- flipped to a Third World experience of water. The real cost isn't just the bottled water and the paper plates. It's the time spent getting basic needs met.

"In the developing world, young girls don't go to school because they spend their entire lives gathering water," he says.
Bottom Line: The value of water depends on how much you have.

For an exceptional exploration of the abuse of "free water," see this (via DR)

(We've got an awesome community here!)

14 April 2014

Monday funnies?

This is funny in a pathetic way.*

Now I know that you looked at terrorism first, but just re-read that and try to understand WTF it's saying. Form 1116? Wow. Surreal.

* I'm so tired of the BS-bureaucratic corruption in the US. I tried to visit a friend in Washington State a few days ago but turned back at the ridiculous border crossing. What kind of country is this? The "economy" of Department of Homeland Security is double the size, per capita, of the economy of Luxembourg, home to the richest people in the world. This means -- I just realized -- that DHS is spending our money at a rate that even les Luxembourgeois would see as ridiculous.

Anything but water

  1. Check out these tools (this or different interface) to understand who is -- or who should -- pay to prevent climate change

  2. Ha-Joon Chang continues to eloquently explain why many economists are wearing no clothes

  3. Canadian environmental minister tries (and fails) to assure that new government policy does not allow oil/gas exploration in parks. (Perhaps the minister has failed to notice she's dealing with the Wild Boar party!)

  4. I really enjoy reading The Anti-Planner for insights and example of where government goes wrong. The most common example is using public money to fund private goods, such as light rail systems. This exceptional post explains why this problem is getting worse:
    Funding agencies out of user fees keeps agency officials in touch with their mission of serving those users. As a result, they tend to make decisions that make the users happy without irritating anyone else, such as taxpayers who might otherwise have to subsidize those users.

    At some point, however, user fees aren’t enough. In the case of Muni, politicians interfered with the agency’s ability to increase fares or reduce costs by replacing rails with buses. They also demanded that Muni pay the highest wages in the industry. Eventually, Muni required subsidies to keep afloat.

    In the case of the Port Authority, bridge tolls brought in so much cash that politicians insisted on diverting some of the money to subsidize subways, buses, and even the World Trade Center, a giant ego project that was totally unnecessary given that Manhattan had a surplus in office space when it was built.

    In the case of the Forest Service, Congress diverted a significant portion of the agency’s revenues to counties, so that many counties ended up getting many times what they would have received in taxes had the forests been private. Meanwhile, Congress also restricted the agency’s ability to charge fair market value for most of the goods and services it offered.

    For whatever reason, eventually all these agencies became dependent on federal, state, or local appropriations. When that happened, the missions of the agencies became muddy. Was the goal of transit agencies to move people or to pay fat wages to transit union members and award giant contracts to rail builders? Was PATH’s goal to smoothly operate the region’s transportation systems or to build monuments for state governors? Was the Forest Service’s goal to provide sound land management for a wide range of forest users or to cater to the most politically powerful users?
Published at on 4/14/14 at 4:14 :) H/T to CD

12 April 2014

Flashback: 7-13 Apr 2013

A year later and still worth reading...

The nexus of bullshit -- don't try to manage energy and water until you can manage water!

Question of the week -- the generation gap may mean that people think differently. I'll add that they also learn and communicate differently. This can lead to confusion and inhibit cooperation.

To centralize or not to centralize? Depends on information, distribution of costs/benefits, politics, etc.