February 29, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Beam Us Up, Scotty; California Drought Spurring Ideas:

Ideas come fast every time California endures a drought of several years. Each time, some of them are accepted and put into use, thus making the next drought a bit easier to handle.

Back in the 1970s, the last time this state saw as protracted a dry spell as today’s, snickering and cries of “yuck” ensued when some environmentalists proposed reusing water from dishes, baths, showers and more to irrigate grass and shrubbery rather than merely disposing of it as sewage.

This idea is now called “grey water,” and it is required of much new industrial and multi-family construction like apartments and condominiums, along with low-flow faucets, shower heads and toilets.

During that same drought, which ended abruptly with a huge storm season starting in December 1977, the late Kenneth Hahn, a longtime Los Angeles County supervisor who fathered both a Los Angeles mayor and a current congresswoman, suggested snagging icebergs as they calved from Antarctica and dragging them north to become drinking water.

That idea has not yet taken, even as the same global warming trend that some believe responsible for the severity of California’s latest dry period now sees more icebergs than ever dropping from Antarctic cliffs.

The modern drought is also producing new ideas, including several proposed methods for desalinating sea water far more cheaply than via the current reverse osmosis filtering technique.

It’s also seeing rehashes of old ideas. One of the most prominent is the notion of building pipelines to bring California water from faraway sources plagued by more precipitation than they need.

This one gets its most recent push from actor William Shatner, the Captain Kirk of Star Trek fame. Shatner, 84, proposes building a pipeline on the scale of the Alaskan oil pipeline to bring water south from Washington state, where he says there’s an excess. Shatner proposes a Kickstarter campaign to raise the approximate $30 billion this one would cost to build.

Trouble is, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee this spring declared a drought in 13 of his state’s river basins. Any visitor to the Evergreen State will see swaths of once-green conifers turning brown. So it doesn’t look like Shatner will be able to beam this one up anytime soon.

Like the Antarctic icebergs, a Pacific Northwest water pipeline was also a Kenny Hahn pipe dream, this one during a somewhat shorter but still severe drought in the early 1990s, a time when then-Gov. Pete Wilson, an ex-Marine, asked all Californians to save water via “Navy showers,” turning the water off while they soaped down.

Hahn found a political partner for the pipeline idea in then-Gov. Walter Hickel of Alaska, who traveled to Los Angeles to pursue the notion of selling ice water to California in huge quantities. As in Antarctica, some Alaskan glaciers were then calving icebergs steadily, and still are.

Hickel proposed fabricating this pipeline of plastic on a giant barge as it was being laid on the ocean floor from southern Alaska to Southern California. Plastic, he and Hahn believed, would be far cheaper and more flexible than the usual steel and concrete used for oil pipelines. Plus, any leakage of pipeline water – unlike oil – would be harmless.

Some thinkers today hear of flooding and record blizzards in the East and Midwest and propose building a water pipeline from there. “You wouldn’t have to worry about leakage, like with oil,” one Google engineering manager said recently, echoing Hickel. “If water leaked, it would do no harm.”

Drought in the Northwest (several Oregon counties also are in official states of drought now, too) makes it unlikely California will soon get water from there. But a water pipe from the Midwest is conceivable under two circumstances: 1) the price of water rises enough to pay for construction, the same pre-condition needed for new desalination plants, or 2) California is able to extract enough natural gas from the Monterey Shale formation to free up one of the three major gas pipelines bringing that fuel here from Canada, Texas, Oklahoma and the Rocky Mountain region.

These ideas may sound far-fetched today, or even silly to some, but if gray water could become a reality, why not a water pipeline from someplace very wet?

in Opinion
Related Posts

S.M.a.r.t Column: Gelson’s Looms Large

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

Our guest column this week is by SMCLC (the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City). SMCLC is a well-established...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Clock with Mayor Brock

December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023

I became Santa Monica’s Mayor on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, following a simple “switch of the chairs” transition with outgoing...

S.M.a.r.t Column: SANTA MONICA CITY COUNCIL 2024

December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023

Position:Seeking Santa Monica City Council Candidate(s) Introduction:Exciting opportunity for the right candidate(s) to work with like-minded Council members committed to...

S.M.a.r.t Column: ARB (NOT Ready to Build!)

December 3, 2023

December 3, 2023

Santa Monica City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), established in 1974, acts “…to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance...

SMa.r.t. Column: We are thankful for….

November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023

SMa.r.t. would like to wish you all a great Thanksgiving with friends and family and also to thank its readers...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Make the City New Again

November 19, 2023

November 19, 2023

When the COVID crisis struck, it cut the city’s income in half, demolishing many businesses and causing widespread layoffs and...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Four Futures

October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023

As well described by Paul Krugman, all cities have a core competency: things they do well or better regionally or...

SMa.r.t column: Beautiful Quartz Countertops Are Hurting Workers and Should Be Banned

October 9, 2023

October 9, 2023

Quartz countertops are super popular because they’re tough and can handle stains, scratches, and heat. But there’s a big problem:...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Architect’s Son Reflects On Civic Auditorium

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Welton (David) Becket (1902-1969), pictured above, backed by a picture of our Civic Auditorium, was the designer of that famed...