Tree Torture Labs

Two visually striking experiments are attempting to find out how trees will respond to climate change:  Sevilleta LTER, and Aspen FACE at Michigan Technological University. These science experiments invoke several recent landscape architecture projects, but are purely functional.

Sevilleta LTER

But we have to kill the trees to understand how they die. Not a lot of them, just a few.”  “We need to understand the mechanistic side if we’re going to model the effects of climate on a large scale, we need to understand why and where trees die. When we can do that accurately, we’ll have a shot at knowing the broader effects.– Nate McDowell

The experiments at Sevilleta focus on Pinon-Juniper woodlands of New Mexico and are subject to several experiments by researchers from Los Alamos National Laboratory (U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science’s Program for Ecosystem Research).

To observe the impact of higher temperatures, 18 trees are wrapped in 15′ tall plastic cylinders with heaters that keeps the temperature about 7 degrees warmer than ambient conditions to simulate the predicted climate of 2100.

more images at NPR.org

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Ghosts of NAWAPA

Cross posted from the aqueductfutures blog

The Bureau of Reclamation is proposing a massive uphill diversion from the Missouri River to Denver. The Missouri River Reuse Project [pdf] would provide 600,000 Acre-Feet of water to the Front Range to as an alternative to desiccating the Upper Colorado even more.  This evokes the ghost of the continental engineering of North American Water and Power Alliance (1964) or towing icebergs from Alaska to provide water to Los Angeles.

Water Piped West to Denver Could Ease Stress on Colo. River - NYTimes.com

“The idea of constructing conveyances to move water resources between other basins and the Colorado has been raised before and was once again submitted as an idea in this process,” Bureau of Reclamation public affairs chief Dan DuBray said in a statement. “Any proposal will be evaluated for feasibility, broad support and realistic funding potential before further consideration would be given.” – The Denver Post

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Water-default swap crisis

Worse than the credit-default swap great recession that we are slowly recovering from, America is depleting our future by squandering our water resources. Once our fossil water is all flushed down the drain, it will not be coming back.

Julie Jacobson/AP

The American illusion of water abundance – latimes.com.

Fall mid-review

The public is invited to attend the fall mid-review presentations for LA301L and LA401L at Cal Poly Pomona on Monday, October 29th.

301L teams are identifying culturally relevant sites along the LA Aqueduct and discussing the landscape character. 401L students have mapped the water-energy nexus for Los Angeles and are selecting sites to enhance the resilience of the Aqueduct (plus there is a team who are hoping to win the EPA’s Campus RainWorks Competition).

Guest Jurors

  • 301L: Andrew Kanzler, Perry Cardoza
  • 401L: Robert Lamb, Jonathan Linkus

Cal Poly central campus map [pdf]

Please send a note if you are interested in being a guest juror for either mid-review session or final presentations (November 28th)

Aqueduct Futures Workshop – October 15th

The Owens Valley community is invited to a free public design workshop, 6-9pm on October 15th at the Methodist Center, 205 North Fowler Street, Bishop, California 93514.

This workshop will explore designing resilience and adaptation into the landscape of Owens Valley with California State Polytechic University Pomona Landscape Architecture students. The Landscape Architecture students will be visiting Owens Valley on a field trip as they learn about designing large-scale sustainable infrastructure systems as part of the Cal Poly Pomona’s Aqueduct Futures Project.

Please RSVP to help us plan the event: http://owensvalleyfutures.eventbrite.com/

Eventbrite - Owens Valley Design Workshop

If you wish to participate in the resource fair, please email: blehrman@cpp.edu


Press Release

Solar Southwest

The Solar Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement (Solar PEIS) from by the Bureau of Land Management and Department of Energy’s EERE have just issued the final report for public comments that identifies 17 zones covering 445 square miles of public land in the Mojave Desert appropriate for fast-tracking large-scale industrial solar energy development along with the mitigation strategies, policies and regulations. If all the sites get developed, they could generate 24,000 megawatts of carbon-free electricity by 2030. (But what about their water consumption?)

Original PDF [18mb] here

 As significant as defining appropriate sites for development, the Solar PEIS defines exclusion areas like the Ivanpah Valley on the CA/NV border where BrightSource Energy is already building two projects.

Thirty-two categories of lands are proposed for exclusion from solar development through the Final Solar PEIS (see Final Solar PEIS, Chapter 2). The exclusions proposed include (1) explicit exclusions that will be delineated in the Solar PEIS ROD by a land base that would not change except by future land use plan amendment; and (2) implicit exclusions that will be defined in the Solar PEIS ROD by the presence or absence of a specific resource or condition where the land base may change over time (e.g., critical habitat). Implicit exclusions will be determined at the time of application for individual solar ROWs, and based on information in applicable land use plans as amended, Species’ Recovery Plans, or similar planning or guidance documents, and verified by site-specific information as necessary.

For the purposes of the Solar PEIS and its associated NEPA analysis, the BLM has mapped and estimated the acreage for proposed exclusions in the aggregate based on best available existing information. Data were available to map the following exclusion categories:

  1. BLM-administered lands where development is prohibited by law, regulation, Presidential proclamation or Executive Order (i.e., lands in the National Landscape Conservation System [NLCS]),
  2. Lands having slopes greater than 5%,
  3. Lands with solar insolation levels less than 6.5 kWh/m2/day,
  4. BLM Areas of Critical Environmental Concern,
  5. Critical habitat for USFWS designated threatened and endangered species,
  6. BLM Right-of-Way Exclusion and Avoidance Areas,
  7. BLM No Surface Occupancy Areas,
  8. Special Recreation Management Areas (note these were not excluded in the State of Nevada or in a portion of the Yuma East SRMA in Arizona), and
  9. Greater sage-grouse habitat in California, Nevada, and Utah; Gunnison’s sage-grouse habitat in Utah; and Desert Wildlife Management Areas, Flat Tailed Horned Lizard habitat, and Mojave Ground Squirrel habitat in California.

As desert tortoises are the charismatic megafauna most impacted by solar farms and a favorite topic of infrascape design, I couldn’t resist sharing this picture accompanying the LATimes article on the PEIS:

Mark Boster/LAtimes

Drought induced Blackouts

Water energy nexus

The water-energy nexus goes both ways. It takes energy to supply potable water to our homes, and it takes massive amounts of water to produce the energy we use. Prof. Micheal Webber of UT Austin wrote an op-ed for the NYTime about the dangers faced by the climate change induced drought the US is experiencing.

Our energy system depends on water. About half of the nation’s water withdrawals every day are just for cooling power plants. In addition, the oil and gas industries use tens of millions of gallons a day, injecting water into aging oil fields to improve production, and to free natural gas in shale formations through hydraulic fracturing…

All told, we withdraw more water for the energy sector than for agriculture…

energy use by sector

New carbon emissions standards can also help save water. A plan proposed by the Obama administration (requiring new power plants to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour generated) would encourage utilities to choose less carbon- and water-intensive fuels. Conventional coal plants, which are very thirsty, exceed the standards proposed by the president. But relatively clean, and water-lean, power plants that use wind, solar panels and natural gas combined cycle, would meet them. Thus, by enforcing CO2 limits, a lot of water use can be avoided.

Drought induced blackouts

via Will Drought Cause the Next Blackout? – NYTimes.com.

Related in the NYTimes – more reporting on how the weird weather is causing unanticipated failures at power plants, transportation networks, and water system.