Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Washington's Silver Linings Snowpack

(Photo: David Goldman, AP)
For those of you still reeling from the Seahawks' loss, the UrbanFarmJunkie is here to perk you up. Don't know if you noticed from the television coverage, but nobody in the whole rest of the country seems to have a clear idea where exactly Washington State is, or to be more than intermittently aware that we have sports teams. I understand (yet still resent) this attitude when it comes to my beleaguered Seattle Mariners, but when a team plays as well as the Hawks, and the commentators still only talk about/root for whichever opponent the Seahawks take on, this tendency gets irritating.

From my week's readings, however, I'm beginning to think that statewide obscurity isn't all bad. For one thing, all of us who own property in Washington are probably sitting on a long-term goldmine--maybe even the California of the late 21st century. You might have seen the map issued recently from NOAA about 2012 being a Hot One for the United States:
Nobody was "Normal" or colder than normal. But take a second look, and what do you see? That's right: only Washington--only, only Washington was not colored the fatal Canteloupe (Much Above Normal) or Tomato (Record Warmest)!

And now check out the Drought Map for 2012:

Yeah, baby. Only Maine, New Hampshire and parts of Florida had it better than yours truly. If 2012 was an indicator of things to come, as we all go down the Climate Change spiral, Washington looks like it will be spared for longer.

These things have been on my mind because I recently read Robert Glennon's Unquenchable: America's Water Crisis and What to Do About It. An amazing book! I learned so much about a wide range of water-related topics: where Americans in different regions get their water; the connection (cycle, really) between energy and water; why dams and diversions and endless well-drilling have finally caught up to us; the catch-22 of bottled water versus what's still in our city drinking water; conservation tips and larger-scale hope on the horizon for making the best of the water we have.

Who knew that our beloved internet requires ginormo, water-cooled "server farms"? All my UrbanFarmJunkie posts and emails and shared pictures sit out there on some server, sucking down electricity and gazillion ccfs of water. If I really wanted to be environmentally correct, I should curtail my cyber life!

Reading Unquenchable opened my eyes to the complex job politicians and citizens will have sorting out the growing issues around water, who gets it, what it costs, and why. Glennon does a thorough job covering the historical and geological reasons that things are the way they are, as well as alerting us to the crisis ahead if things don't get dealt with.

We in Bellevue can be grateful for its clean, abundant drinking water, its separate storm and wastewater systems, and that the projected snowpack supplying our Cedar and Tolt River watersheds stands, as of January 2013, at 148% of normal, compared to the yearly average. (Who knew that there's actually a snowpack report that gets updated monthly?) Be grateful as well that we don't live downstream from other large cities whose meds and antibiotics can't be purified out of the drinking water. (I'm looking at you, Mississippi River Valley.)

Not that we want to squander our riches. I came away wanting to take shorter showers, to capture perfectly good water running down the drain, and to replace my old washer with a more water- and energy-efficient model.

So forget your Seahawk sorrows and lose yourself in a fascinating book! I highly recommend this read. And, oh yeah--hang onto your Washington real estate.

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