Oh, the Horror!

By Keith Kloor | January 1, 2012 7:55 pm

In north Texas, a resident blanches at the idea of major water restrictions kicking in because of the area’s drought:

In Garland, it’s a major concern for resident Charlotte Piercy, who has lived in her neighborhood for 56 years. Piercy already hates her grass looking brown because of the Winter, but she fears, come the spring, it won’t get green again.

“I would hate to see us go to that stage,”¬Ě said Piercy. “The neighborhood would start looking like grasslands, like dried up prairie lands.”

John Fleck tweets:

Note: You live in a dried up prairie.

 

CATEGORIZED UNDER: drought
MORE ABOUT: drought, Texas
  • Alexander Harvey

    Here is a news link:
    ¬
    http://www.nbcdfw.com/news/green/Stage-Four–136454298.html
    ¬
    Which contains a link to this:
    ¬
    http://www.ntmwd.com/downloads/plans/plansmodeldrought.pdf
    ¬
    which explains the Stage 4 restrictions that might be implemented. Which seem to amount to doing whateve it takes (within their powers) to keep water usage withing limits.
    ¬
    Alex

  • Eric Adler

    It will be interesting to see how public opinion in the Southwest of the US reacts to the coming drought and water shortage.¬
    http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2007/2007-04-05-01.asp
    It is one of the most right wing areas, where opposition to environmental regulations and government in general is very strong. Will they oppose the strict conservation measures that will be needed to maintain the current level of human habitation in the area? Will they continue to elect politicians who oppose the science behind AGW? Will people start to leave the affected areas because of he water shortage?  Will they try to institute massive diversions of water to the area to make up for the deficit?

  • Fred

    Eric:
    ¬
    At least one city in the area, Hays, Kansas has faced the water shortage issue head on and done very well. In 1983 it used 3,600 acre feet (AF) of water and in 2009 it used 2,000 AF of water, despite an 25% increase in population and a 35% increase in businesses and households during that period. See how they did it at:
    ¬
    http://skyways.lib.ks.us/ksleg/KLRD/Resources/Testimony/EEP/10-07and08-10/15-HenrySchwaller-Hays.pdf
    ¬
    The county Hays is located in gave 32% of its vote to Obama in 2008, so it looks like Republicans can conserve water as well (probably better) than anyone else.
    ¬
    The Southwest has had massive droughts in its geological history. Linking this drought to AGW is senseless.

  • huxley

    And those nice liberal folks in Palm Springs live in the desert. Your point?

    There are plenty of green lawns, golf courses, and swimming pools in Palm Springs. The cafes even have little pipes that exude a soft mist as you drink your latte.

    All Ms. Piercy is saying that she hopes she can keep her grass green next year, which she has presumably enjoyed for most of her life.

    But she’s a red stater. Time to feel superior!

  • Fred

    Many who do not believe in harmful AGW think that due to solar changes and negative Atlantic and Pacific Decadal Oscillations we are entering a cooling phase of global temperatures. Cooler periods across the geological time are, if anything, more linked to both floods and droughts than warmer periods. For one example, see:
    ¬
    http://www.worldclimatereport.com/index.php/2008/04/24/floods-and-droughts-and-global-cooling/
    ¬
    Thus, drought in the Southwest, if related to global changes, is fully consistent with global cooling.

  • Fred

    Eric:
    ¬
    You worry about the response of “right wing” areas of the Southwest to prolonged drought conditions. Where I would not want to be is in “left-wing” areas of the Southwest if local governmental action is required. Such areas will react incompetently and then cry for federal bailout dollars. Think the contrast in the response to Hurricane Katrina by “left-wing” New Orleans and by the harder-hit “right-wing” areas of coastal Mississippi.

  • Eric Adler

    Fred @ 3,
    The article about Hays Kansas’ reaction to a water shortage was really interesting. Basically they focused on conservation and wise use of water.¬† They had an advantage that the arid areas of the Southwest don’t have – a decent level of rainfall: 22 inches, and a sparse population.
    Looking at a rainfall map of the US, you see that the Southwest has a much bigger problem, especially in the populated areas like Los Angeles and Phoenix, that have 8inches or less.
    http://maps.howstuffworks.com/united-states-annual-rainfall-map.htm

  • Fred

    The focus here on a perceived natural vulnerability of a “right-wing” area of the country is interesting. If “right-wingers” started speculating on how “left-wing” population areas are in huge deficit conditions to “right-wing” areas for both agricultural and energy supplies things could get interesting.

  • Keith Kloor

    The response of the Texas resident is interesting to me not for what it says about a supposed red state mentality, global warming, or even drought. I’ve long been interested in cultural geography and the human/landscape interplay.

    It was an original theme of this blog and one I’ll be returning to more frequently.¬†

  • hunter

    Yes, wicked red state redneck whining about her yard, blah blah blah.
    People adapt as needed. Texas had a worse drought ~60 years ago and things turned out just fine. If we get a multi-decade mega drought, people will either adapt in place or move. The snarkiness of the AGW believers is not unexpected, but its ignorance and reationary aspects are still pointless and annoying. 

  • Matt B

    My father, from at least the 1970′s, always harped on the idiocy of mass settling of the Southwest. “Where will they get their water from”? he would ask. He would then follow with “Where we live is ideal!”, our home being in upstate New York. Well, the mass re-population of upstate hasn’t exactly happened yet (there are a few other things in the upstate climate that qualify as less than ideal) but his fundamentals were right on.
    ¬
    If you live in the Southwest, you have to have heard about the Colorado River frequently drying up before it hits the Gulf of California…….are people really going to be surprised when it truly hits the proverbial fan?¬†¬†

  • EdG

    I’m all for maximum water conservation, especially in areas like the Southwest. Makes perfect sense.

    But it seems rumors of that ‘permanent’ drought are just more scary talk from the usual suspects:

    http://www.real-science.com/permanent-drought-expert-skill

    http://www.real-science.com/2-5-inches-permanent-drought-week-texas

    This site has plenty of bite sized pieces that have kept up with this story and, more importantly, put this NOT ‘unprecedented’ event into historical context.

    Plus I must admit that I love the sharp satirical wit used to present these stories.

    P.S. That ‘drying up’ Lake Powell poster child isn’t anymore, and there is another major snowpack now to fill it up even more next year.

  • hunter

    Fred,
    It might be illuminating, since it is now OK to wonder if alleged political leanings justify social suffering, to explore how Boston or Chicago or New York would do if oil, gas and coal from the wicked red state scum was cut off from the enlightened blue staters of those cities and their power plants. Maybe states that refuse to permit oil and gas exploration in their coastal waters, or to permit pipelines, or refining, could pay an excise tax to those states that take the balanced aproach to provide something that everyone needs but few seem willing to permit close to home.
      

  • Jeff Norris

    ¬
    This discussion is an example of how AGW is crowding out more immediate and very pressing concerns.  Though they spelled the name wrong in the article Lake Texoma is at 80% percent capacity but is currently unusable because of the Zebra Mussel.  Essentially 25% of NTMWD supply has been removed from distribution since 2010.  I doubt very few water agencies could handle that over a period of time with or without a drought.
    ¬
    Originally the consensus of scientist was that the water would be to warm for them to establish in Texas, so much for the consensus.  After looking around the web I have come to the conclusion that most of the government money is going towards awareness programs than to eradication programs.  That is probably because there no proven eradication program for large reservoirs.  Of course this is then countered by the fact if you were to try any active eradication you would have to get a permit from the National Environmental Protection Act and Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act besides any other federal or state agencies. A water district in CA found the  mussels in one of their lakes 4 years ago, they are expecting to request the  federal  permits sometime in 2012 which should be approved in one or two years.  Until the mussel is gone the water cannot be used.
     

  • EdG

    #14 Jeff Norris

    Thanks for that very interesting insight. I had not heard of the zebra mussel problem down there at all. As I have never looked into that scenario in any detail, my ignorance probably says something about the AGW fixated media coverage of that recent drought.

    I wonder what they will do when there is a major high water event and they are forced to let water spill out of those reservoirs?

    On the bright side, those mussels have done wonders to ‘clean’ lakes such as Lake Erie of algae and provide an abundant new food source for many diving ducks. But that doesn’t compare to the down side for our water systems and so much else.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #9,
    You say what the post wasn’t about, but I’m not sure I followed what it was supposedly about. (That may be why it functioned as an ink blot test in which people read whatever message they were expecting to see. That in itself was quite interesting for the psychological insight.)
    ¬
    Presumably the point is that humans have modified the landscape to make it more habitable, and a woman is complaining that because of the weather it has temporarily reverted to its natural state. As a message about how significant and effective human technology normally is in supporting life, in adapting to climate, and in controlling our environment, I can see some point to it – but am I only reflecting my own psychology in thinking that was your intention?
    ¬
    I’m not sure what people think the woman was supposed to say. “This drought is really great! My lawn has shrivelled up marvellously!” Presumably the junior reporter was sent out to get a “public reaction” to the drought from a member of the public, to fill out the template of the idealised news report. Presumably the member of the public responded to cue as expected with a statement of the blindingly obvious. Personally, I thought it said more about the tired and transparent cliches employed by lazy journalists than it did any sort of cultural geography. Although maybe the journalist’s point was actually that people’s biggest concern is no longer about famine and death, but about their gardens, and this was their especially subtle way of poking fun at all the people wailing doom and disaster. “The Nightmare Global Apocalypse has started: suburban lady’s lawn goes slightly brown.”
    ¬
    Weather is not climate, of course – unless of course it promotes the orthodoxy to suggest that it is.

  • Dean

    The point of the woman’s quote to me is that she apparently does not like what nature normally looks like in her part of the world. I wouldn’t exactly prefer to live in dry grasslands either, which is why I don’t live in the Southwest (and only one of the reasons I don’t live in Texas). I have chosen to live in an area where I generally like how nature tends to make things look. I really enjoy visiting the desert, but wouldn’t want to live there.

    When I lived in Colorado, I replaced my bluegrass lawn with xeriscape. Although I think that there is an ideology connected with living in harmony with nature, and the recent version of it may have come from New Agers, once upon a time it was called conservative. It still is traditional conservatism as far as I’m concerned, which is very different from right wing politics that uses the word conservative for something very different.

  • Fred

    hunter (#12):
    ¬
    A tax paid to energy and agriculturally productive regions is a great idea. Politicians under the sway of AGW theory have proclaimed that high fuel prices are good/acceptable. Topping off a pickup with diesel fuel by those who need to for their work is now $150 and the proceeds of such a tax could help them out.

  • Keith Kloor

    @16
    “You say what the post wasn’t about, but I’m not sure I followed what it was supposedly about.”

    Why must every post have some intent behind it? But if you must, I indicated what I found interesting when I mentioned cultural geography in this thread.

  • Nullius in Verba

    #19,
    Thanks. Yes. It was the mention of cultural geography that I didn’t understand.
    The first sentence of #9 looks at the start like it was going to explain what you did find interesting about it, but stops before doing so. The second mentions an interest in cultural geography, but doesn’t say what the quoted excerpt has to do with cultural geography (I’m not yet convinced that it has anything to do with it) and doesn’t say why this is interesting, or what it tells us about CG, or why this quote was picked out from all the billions of innocuous statements people make every day vaguely related to what things are like in the place they live.
    ¬
    That it was a random ‘ink blot’ statement with no actual meaning other than whatever the reader might read into it, that you happened to see and picked for no particular reason, did occur to me. But then you said you had a particular reason for being interested in it (or so I read #9) and it was something to do with cultural geography. I thought that if that was the case, and you assumed we had understood, it might move things forward to let you know that I at least, and possibly others, probably hadn’t. I was curious as to what it might be.
    ¬
    But never mind. Clearly I was imagining it.

  • Tom Gray

    =================
    Note: You live in a dried up prairie.
    ==================

    I live in a cold climatye. it was -24C outside this morning. So far, the winter has been very muled and we have not experienced a really cold day yet. We should be having cold mornings of -35C to -40C.  I would like to have some comforts and not live in a tent at -40C

  • DeNihilist

    LMFAROTFP!

  • DeNihilist

    Keith @ 9. I think I get it.

    Out here on the left coast of Canada, we own our own hot water tanks. Yet in parts of Ontario, they Lease them. The Company that leases these tanks tried to bring this busyness plan to us on the left coast. I think they lasted all of 1 year.

  • Eric Adler

    Fred @5,
    You claimed that drought in the US Southwest is consistent with cooling. During the Medieval Warm Period, the Indians of the Southwest had to migrate as a result of the period of extended drought.
    http://www.pnas.org/content/107/50/21283.full
    A period of low solar activity did not stop 2010 and 2011 from being among the warmest years.¬† The fact that some global warming deniers are predicting cooler temperatures due to ocean oscillations and reduced solar activity is not significant.¬† These are cyclical in nature, while the increase in global heating due to increasing GHG’s are continuing and are slated to outlast the cyclical factors you have mentioned, even if the predictions you are quoting actually come true.

  • Eric Adler

    Garland is close to Dallas Texas. The Texas drought map, has 5 levels of intensity, with exceptional drought being the highets.  Garland lies in the lowest or second from the lowest level.  It is hard to tell which. So a good part of the shortage is probably due to zebra mussels making the water unusable.

  • kdk33

    It is a little known fact that during the medievel warm period Indians of the Southwest elected a leftist leaning chief – a very hopey changey kinda guy.¬† The chief couldn’t tell the difference between his corn and everyone elses corn (similar problem with wives, but it’s another story).¬† He gave lots of corn to people he liked and took corn from those he didn’t.¬† Eventually the indians that grew corn grew weary of theivery and moved to Texas.¬† The indians that took corn then grew hungry and moved to California.

    It didn’t have much to do with temperature.

  • EdG

    #24 “while the increase in global heating due to increasing GHG’s are continuing and are slated to outlast the cyclical factors you have mentioned”

    Alrighty then! I guess if they have been “slated” the debate is over.

    After all, their slating record has been impeccable and 100% of those who believe in their premise believe in it.

    To go along with that ‘concrete’ record of the recent ‘hottest years’ there is more solid slating available now, from yet another impeccable source:

    “Met Office 2012 annual global temperature forecast
    4 January 2012 – 2012 is expected to be around 0.48 ¬įC warmer than the long-term (1961-1990) global average of 14.0 ¬įC, with a predicted likely range of between 0.34 ¬įC and 0.62 ¬įC, according to the Met Office annual global temperature forecast.

    The middle of this range would place 2012 within the top 10 warmest years in a series which goes back to 1850.”

    http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/news/releases/archive/2011/2012-global-temperature-forecast

    Rumor has it that they now have a doublesuperslating computer running sophisticated slating models, so the future is now settled.

  • Fred

    Eric (#24):
    ¬
    “During the Medieval Warm Period, the Indians of the Southwest had to migrate as a result of the period of extended drought.”
    ¬
    So what, that is irrelevant to my point that droughts are frequent during cooling periods.¬
    ¬
    As for 2010 and 2011 being “among the warmest years” that is nonsense. And I don’t want to waste my precious time arguing that point.

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Collide-a-Scape

Collide-a-Scape is a wide-ranging blog forum that explores issues at the nexus of science, culture and society.

About Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a NYC-based journalist, a senior editor at Cosmos magazine, and adjunct professor of journalism at New York University. His work has appeared in Slate, Science, Discover, and the Washington Post magazine, among other outlets. From 2000 to 2008, he was a senior editor at Audubon Magazine. In 2008-2009, he was a Fellow at the University of Colorado’s Center for Environmental Journalism, in Boulder, where he studied how a changing environment (including climate change) influenced prehistoric societies in the U.S. Southwest. He covers a wide range of topics, from conservation biology and biotechnology to urban planning and archaeology.

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