The Ongoing Collapse of the World’s Aquifers: “Geology is geology…We can’t do anything about that” (Michelle Sneed) — Wired

Types of ground subsidence. Graphic credit: By Mpetty1 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=14698311

From Wired (Matt Simon):

When humans over-exploit underground water supplies, the ground collapses like a huge empty water bottle. It’s called subsidence, and it could affect 1.6 billion people by 2040.

AS CALIFORNIA’S ECONOMY skyrocketed during the 20th century, its land headed in the opposite direction. A booming agricultural industry in the state’s San Joaquin Valley, combined with punishing droughts, led to the over-extraction of water from aquifers. Like huge, empty water bottles, the aquifers crumpled, a phenomenon geologists call subsidence. By 1970, the land had sunk as much as 28 feet in the valley, with less-than-ideal consequences for the humans and infrastructure above the aquifers.

San Joaquin Valley Subsidence. Photo credit: USGS

The San Joaquin Valley was geologically primed for collapse, but its plight is not unique. All over the world—from the Netherlands to Indonesia to Mexico City—geology is conspiring with climate change to sink the ground under humanity’s feet. More punishing droughts mean the increased draining of aquifers, and rising seas make sinking land all the more vulnerable to flooding. According to a recent study published in the journal Science, in the next two decades, 1.6 billion people could be affected by subsidence, with potential loses in the trillions of dollars.

“Subsidence has been neglected in a lot of ways because it is slow moving. You don’t recognize it until you start seeing damage,” says Michelle Sneed, a land subsidence specialist at the U.S. Geological Survey and coauthor on the paper. “The land sinking itself is not a problem. But if you’re on the coast, it’s a big problem. If you have infrastructure that crosses long areas, it’s a big problem. If you have deep wells, they’re collapsing because of subsidence. That’s a problem.”

For subsidence to become a problem, you need two things: The right kind of land, and an over-exploited aquifer. Aquifers hold water in between bits of sand, gravel, or clay. When the amount of clay in an aquifer is particularly high, the grains arrange themselves like plates thrown haphazardly in a sink—they’ve basically got random orientations, and the water fills in the spaces between the grains. But if you start extracting water from an aquifer, those spaces collapse and the grains draw closer together. “Those plates rearrange themselves into more like a stack of dinner plates that you put in your cupboard,” says Sneed. “It takes a lot less space, obviously, to stack the plates that way. And so that’s the compaction of the aquifer system that then results in land subsidence at the surface.”

But wouldn’t pumping more water back into the aquifer force the clay plates back to their random, spacey orientations? Unfortunately, no. “It’ll press those grains apart a little bit—you’ll get a little bit of expansion in the aquifer system represented as uplift on the land surface. But it’s a tiny amount,” says Sneed. We’re talking maybe three quarters of an inch of movement. “They’re still stacked like the plates in your cupboard,” she continues.

So at this point you’ve got a double-barreled problem: The land has sunk and it won’t reinflate, and the aquifers won’t hold as much water as they once did, because they’ve compressed. “And that’s an important point,” says Sneed. “As places around the world, including California, are starting to use aquifer systems as managed reservoirs, the compaction of them prior to now has reduced their ability to store water.”

[…]

But scientists haven’t modeled global risks of subsidence—until now. To build their model, Sneed and her colleagues scoured the existing literature on land subsidence in 200 locations worldwide. They considered those geological factors (high clay content), as well as topology, as subsidence is more likely to happen on flat land. They factored in population and economic growth, data on water use, and climate variables.

The researchers found that, planet-wide, subsidence could threaten 4.6 million square miles of land in the next two decades. While that’s just 8 percent of Earth’s land, humanity tends to build big cities in coastal areas, which are prone to subsidence. So they estimate that, in the end, 1.6 billion people could be affected. The modeling further found that worldwide, subsidence exposes assets totaling a gross domestic product of $8.19 trillion, or 12 percent of global GDP.

True, gradual subsidence isn’t as destructive as a sudden earthquake or volcanic eruption. “But it will cause these indirect effects or impacts that, in the long term, can produce either damages to structures or infrastructure, or increase floodable areas in these river basins or coastal areas,” says geoscientist Gerardo Herrera-García of the Geological and Mining Institute of Spain, lead author on the paper.

Subsidence is uniquely sensitive to climate change—at least indirectly. On a warmer planet, droughts are longer and more intense. “This is very important,” says Herrera-García. “Because no matter the amount of annual rainfall you have, the most important issue is that you have a prolonged drought period.” Dry reservoirs will lead cities to pump even more water out of their aquifers, and once you collapse the structure of an aquifer by neatly stacking those plates of clay grains, there’s no going back. For the 1.6 billion people potentially affected by subsidence—and that’s just by the year 2040—the consequences could be dire, leading to both water shortages and the flooding of low-lying land…

At the end of the day, subsiding cities are up against unstoppable physical forces. “Geology is geology,” says Sneed. “We can’t do anything about that.”

Save the Poudre, No Pipe Dream and Save Rural NoCo are suing the Larimer County Board of Commissioners to contest the board’s approval of the 1041 permit for the #NISP — The #FortCollins Coloradoan

Northern Integrated Supply Project (NISP) map July 27, 2016 via Northern Water.

From The Fort Collins Coloradoan (Jacy Marmaduke):

The lawsuit, filed in Larimer County District Court, contends that former commissioners Steve Johnson and Tom Donnelly were biased in favor of the project and shouldn’t have voted on the 1041 permit. The suit also argues that commissioners’ 2-1 approval of the permit in September violated criteria of Larimer County’s land use code…

The lawsuit argues that Johnson and Donnelly demonstrated bias in several ways, citing a photo of Donnelly speaking at a “Farmers for NISP” event and an online news release from NISP proponent Northern Water reading “Larimer County Commissioners support NISP.”

The complaint also references August 2019 text messages from Donnelly to Northern Water spokesperson Jeff Stahla that read, according to the lawsuit: “You guys are getting ready to blow this deal …” and “Northern has no idea what is in store for them if they let this slide into the next boards (sic) term.”

Stahla told the Coloradoan that Donnelly “reached out to me … when we were in the middle of the (intergovernmental agreement) process.” The county and Northern Water had been drafting an intergovernmental agreement to cover the siting of Glade Reservoir and associated pipelines before they pivoted to the 1041 permitting process.

“… at that point, we were having open discussions with commissioners regarding this project, so we had not yet moved into” the 1041 part of the project, Stahla said on Tuesday…

Stahla, the Northern Water spokesperson, said the NISP 1041 permit application was robust and addressed all the county’s criteria…

He also noted that the Colorado Water Quality Control Commission in December rejected Save the Poudre’s appeal of the state water quality certification. That certification addresses NISP’s anticipated impacts on Poudre River water quality and includes 30 conditions.

He added that it wouldn’t be appropriate for the new class of commissioners to reconsider NISP’s 1041 permit.

“If you file a permit application and county staff recommends approval, the county planning commission recommends approval, and then you get approved by the county commissioners — well then, how far down the road can you have all of those votes changed at a long future date?” Stahla said. “We felt that we met the criteria, and the commissioners, acting in their role properly, approved the application for a 1041 permit, and so we feel we have our permit.”

[…]

Karen Wagner of lawsuit co-plaintiff No Pipe Dream told the Coloradoan that the group had hoped the commissioners would apply their 1041 criteria as thoroughly as they did in their ruling on the proposed Thornton pipeline permit — which commissioners rejected after heavy opposition from No Pipe Dream…

While the county 1041 permit is an integral milestone for the project, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to issue a final record of decision on NISP. That decision is expected in the first quarter of 2021 after years of delays, Stahla said. The Army Corps’ decision could also be contested in court.

White supremacists who stormed US Capitol are only the most visible product of #racism — The Conversation


Known white supremacists have been identified among the Trump supporters at the Capitol on Jan. 6.
Probal Rashid/LightRocket via Getty Images

Ursula Moffitt, Northwestern University

Among the Trump supporters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 were members of right-wing groups, including the Proud Boys, Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.

The increasing violence and visibility of these groups have turned them into symbols of white supremacy and racism. They were involved in the deadly Unite the Right march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017 and street clashes with racial justice protesters in Portland, Oregon, last year. At a Trump rally in Washington, D.C., in December, Black Lives Matter banners were torn from two historically Black churches and destroyed. The Proud Boys’ leader has been criminally charged in those acts.

Many Proud Boys reject the label “white supremacist”, arguing their aim is to “save America” and to defend “Western values.”

White supremacy was itself a longstanding Western value. And white people don’t have to be white supremacists to benefit from the ways it still shapes American society.

White supremacy, then and now

As an ideology, white supremacy is the belief that white people are inherently superior to people of color. It relies on the notion that distinct races of people exist, and ranks those categorized as “white” at the top of the racial hierarchy.

For hundreds of years, American leaders overtly embraced white supremacy. It was used to rationalize the genocide of Native Americans and the enslavement of Africans and their descendants from the Colonial period to the 19th century. In an 1858 debate, President Abraham Lincoln said, “I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races.”

Known for abolishing slavery, Lincoln’s position may come as a surprise. But many U.S. abolitionists wanted white people to maintain power in government and everyday life, including after Black people were freed from bondage.

After abolition in 1865, white supremacy continued in official and unofficial ways. It drove the legal racial segregation of Jim Crow and the banking practice of redlining, which robbed Black families of the loans necessary to buy homes in certain neighborhoods. White supremacy also underlay the forced assimilation and killing of Native Americans.

Black-and-white image of Native students in Victorian dresses holding violins
Boarding schools for Native American youths, like Montana’s Fort Shaw, cut students off from their culture and taught them that white values, practices and dress were American culture.
Montana Historical Society Photo Archives, CC BY

Outright racist policies were banned after the civil rights era of the 1960s. But systemic racism remained. Today’s well-documented inequalities between Black and white Americans in savings, longevity, home ownership and health are directly related to the white supremacist hierarchy created centuries ago.

Hidden white supremacy

White people need not endorse white supremacy to benefit from this hierarchy. As psychologist Beverly Tatum has explained, the privileges afforded to whiteness are so much a part of the structure of U.S. society that many white people don’t even notice them.

Woman wearing a mask holds a sign likening COVID-19 to racism – 'assume you have it'
Decrying the insidiousness of white supremacy at a protest march.
Stephen Zenner/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

For example, a white man is unlikely to be stopped and frisked by police. A white high school student probably won’t be asked if she’s in the right room on the first day of an honors class. And it likely won’t occur to either to reflect on these privileges.

A white person is similarly unlikely to wonder why no one ever asks “but where are you really from?” after introducing themselves. And a white child likely won’t notice that nearly everyone in their textbooks looks like them.

All of these affronts, both minor and major, are experiences many people of color face throughout their lives.

Not noticing one’s racial privilege does not make a white person a white supremacist. That racial privilege affects countless aspects of daily life does, however, mean that U.S. society is still shaped by white supremacy.

All people have a racial identity

Research shows that white people must recognize and understand how they benefit from white supremacy to combat it. Doing so necessitates an awareness of one’s own racial identity – which is something I study as a developmental psychologist.

In general, white people easily identify as white on official forms or in research settings. But when asked about their racial identity – that is, the way they understand themselves in terms of race and their experiences as a member of their racial group – they often have trouble answering.

For example, in ongoing interview-based research with white teenagers, my colleagues and I ask questions like, “How important is being white?” and “What does it mean to be white?” The teens generally claim their race “doesn’t really matter.”

This response reflects a tendency to think of whiteness as normal and invisible, and race as something “other” people have.

Yet many of these same white teenagers also told us stories of witnessing racism in their schools and within their friend groups. They can see and name obvious racism, but most do not recognize their own white privilege as a part of the same system.

For that reason, although racism is often seen only as prejudiced beliefs and behaviors – as embodied by the Proud Boys and other such groups – it is better defined as a system of advantage based on race. Most teenagers in our study do not endorse racism, but they are all growing up in, and benefiting from, a society shaped by it.

If and how white people acknowledge that fact informs their own identities – and affects the society they forge. Research shows people who recognize the history of racism are more likely to identify racism today, in both overt forms like the violence at the Capitol and in more covert daily forms.

Extremists like the Proud Boys are putting American white supremacy in the headlines today, just as the Ku Klux Klan did 50 years ago. But they are merely its most visible product.The Conversation

Ursula Moffitt, Postdoctoral Fellow in Psychology, Northwestern University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Say hello to the new Drought.gov website #drought

Click here to go to the website.

From the website:

NOAA’s National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) has launched the redesigned U.S. Drought Portal (http://www.drought.gov) to better serve stakeholders, decision makers, the media, and the public.

The new website features updated content and new interactive architecture designed to provide actionable, shareable information and easy-to-understand graphics describing current drought conditions and forecasts by city, county, state, zip code, and at watershed to global scales. The Drought Portal also aggregates and presents drought impact data for economic sectors such as agriculture, energy, water utilities, and recreation using interactive maps and data that don’t exist anywhere else.

“The new state of the art U.S. Drought Portal provides numerous decision support resources to enable communities and economies across the United States in efforts to strengthen their resilience to drought,” said Veva Deheza, Executive Director of NIDIS. “Whether you are looking for current drought conditions in your county or needing to make water management decisions during a drought, the new U.S. Drought Portal is designed to be a one-stop shop for data, decision-support products, resources and information on drought.”

Need to find the latest drought status? Head over to the Data and Maps section, where you can get the latest drought conditions, impacts, and outlooks and as well as drought-related maps for temperature and precipitation, wildfire updates, and soil moisture conditions, and more.

The Portal also has the following four major new features:

  • Drought conditions down to the city and county level where you can see current conditions, key indicators of drought, outlooks and forecasts, and historical drought conditions.
  • Historical data and maps, including U.S. Drought Monitor data going back 20 years, standardized precipitation index (SPI) data going back 125 years, and paleoclimate data (e.g., from tree-ring analysis) going back 2,000 years.
  • By Sector section, which shows drought impacts on different economic sectors, such as agriculture, energy, water utilities, and tourism and recreation.
  • Research and Learn section where you can “go back to the basics” on drought with definitions, overviews of different types of drought such as flash drought and snow drought, and learn about initiatives like the National Coordinated Soil Moisture Monitoring Network.
  • Watch this demonstration video to learn more about the new Drought.gov.

    Provide your feedback on how the new Drought.gov is serving you, how you use drought-related information in decision making, and/or what other resources you would like to see available by taking this survey.

    For technical or other questions about the new http://Drought.gov website, please email drought.portal@noaa.gov.

    The latest E-Newsletter is hot off the presses from the Hutchins Water Center

    Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

    There are a lot of warm colors on the maps on the Colorado Basin River Forecasting Center’s Upper Colorado Situational Awareness page, indicating lower to much lower than average moisture conditions. The Center’s forecasted inflow into Lake Powell, as of January 1, is 53% of average. Closer to home, monitoring sites on Grand Mesa are showing a water content in the snowpack of 43% (Mesa Lakes) to 54% (Park Reservoir) of the median for this time of year.

    Upper Colorado, Great, Virgin River Basins: Jan 2021 April-July forecast volumes as a percent of 1981-2010 average (50% exceedance probability forecast).