8 Apr 2009

The Delta's Levees Will Fail

...with a 57-95 percent probability by 2050. That statistic was included in the PPIC's second report on Delta Alternatives that I blogged on here and JFleck mentioned it recently at his blog. (His reaction -- like mine -- was "holy crap.") Note that this probability is now closer to the upper end of this range because of the new projections of sea-level rise.

So, now what?

If When the levees fail (They are really dikes built around "polders" -- land that's below water-level), the "islands" will be submerged under water and it will be VERY costly/difficult to export much-saltier water from the Delta. The ecology will be fine, since fish will swim and tides will flow over a larger area.

The pro-Peripheral Canal people (I was once one of them) say that such a failure makes it imperative that the PC be built.

But that's only if you care about continuing water exports from the Delta -- something that I do not see as imperative. I'd say that we should concentrate on increasing the scope and scale for water trading south of the Delta, so that the cut-off in water exports results in very little harm/disruption. See next post.

Bottom Line: We cannot continue to build walls on top of walls and tunnels over tunnels when the tide is coming in. Remember how UNsuccessful King Canute was at stopping the tides.


  1. David, if the idea is that markets will deal with this as most things, where is this water trading water going to come from if the Delta's 50% proportion is taken out of the mix?

    If your reply is that the market will just make water more expensive and as it does use will go down so radically that south of the Delta folks won't need Delta water, then why not just tax it now and make it real expensive?

    The problem with market solutions is that they ultimately don't fix another of King Canute's problems: a dysfunctional state budget hamstrung by Prop 13 etc. Isn't it true that taxes (not susbsidies) and regulation does this, not markets?

  2. @dnpadmin -- you are right, twice: dysfunctional politics may keep a market from working; and a market for less water will be for expensive water. The trouble with your other idea -- taxing it -- is that total S of Delta use is not falling, which is something that some people want or Nature will provide.

    I think we need to move to markets, the sooner the better, so that people get used to prices that rise (and fall -- as they would be with this winter weather).


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