Farmers, Ranchers, the Railroad and Water: How the (Rio Grande) Valley was Built

Editor’s Note:  

If you’ve been following this blog for some time, you may remember reading about a cross-country move a few months back. Moving from Northern California to South Texas was a major change in cultures as well as states. It’s necessitated learning about the environmental issues (of which there are many), the climate (dramatically different), how to garden here (different climate means different viruses, etc.), and even language challenges (mine).

It’s also meant diving back into Texas history. Being Texas-born, I learned a great deal of Texas history growing up. Amazingly, in Texas, we learned ONLY Texas history until high school, where we were introduced to world history – a big eye opener!

But here is a glimpse of the history of the area where I grew up and now live again. The research was fascinating. Hope you enjoy my latest story which appeared in the November/December 2016 issue of AgMag Magazine.

Irrigation in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas

Irrigation in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas

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Net positive water status in buildings becoming a reality

Sydney, Australia's Barangaroo South - a net positive water project, photo by Lend Lease

Sydney, Australia’s Barangaroo South – a net positive water project

Water is a hot topic. With water tables dropping around the world, lakes and rivers are drying up. Annual rainfalls are changing, often dramatically. As temperatures around the globe heat up, drought is becoming the new normal. So builders and architects are turning their creative minds to innovation to recycle and reclaim water in order to turn once waterhog-ish buildings into net positive ones.

A recent article highlights a new urban renewal project in Sydney, Australia, that focuses on just this.

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How a new source of water is helping reduce conflict in the Middle East

Editor:   The following is an excerpt of an article by Rowan Jacobsen. It offers an intriguing idea and opportunity that not only could help bring water to countries (and villages) parched by continuing drought but also help resolve conflicts between warring nations.

Scientists and others look to desalination as a way to unite longtime enemies in a common cause.

Israel's Sorek Desalination Plant - an opportunity for water and easing conflicts

Israel’s Sorek Desalination Plant – an opportunity for water and easing conflicts

Ten miles south of Tel Aviv, I stand on a catwalk over two concrete reservoirs the size of football fields and watch water pour into them from a massive pipe emerging from the sand. The pipe is so large I could walk through it standing upright, were it not full of Mediterranean seawater pumped from an intake a mile offshore.

“Now, that’s a pump!” Edo Bar-Zeev shouts to me over the din of the motors, grinning with undisguised awe at the scene before us. The reservoirs beneath us contain several feet of sand through which the seawater filters before making its way to a vast metal hangar, where it is transformed into enough drinking water to supply 1.5 million people.

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Trillions of gallons of water wasted in the U.S.

Water wasted thru water main breakIf you think that slow leak or drip doesn’t add up, think again. A report revealed that Americans waste 2.1 trillion (with a T) gallons of water each year due to old and leaky infrastructure such as aging and leaky pipes, broken water mains and faulty meters.

Listen to this segment from NPR. Then maybe it’s really time – and cost-effective – for cities and residents to invest those funds to repair and replace those old pipes before more of our growingly scarce water gets wasted.

The environmental hazards of microbeads

Plastic microbeads  – tiny, toxic, plastic beads – are in many of our personal care products, like face scrub and toothpaste. They’re so tiny that they are washing down the drains and into our precious waterways.

graphic courtesy of 5 Gyres Institute

graphic courtesy of 5 Gyres Institute

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Film Fosters Community By Helping to Restore California Delta

If you’ve flown into or out of the Sacramento airport, looking down you’ll see a lush river area meandering through acres of rice fields. That’s part of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the biggest estuary in the West Coast of North America and the focal point of the new documentary “Over Troubled Waters”.

The film, which debuted on August 9th, chronicles the complex issues surrounding California’s tug-of-war struggle for water between the north and south state.

To find out more about this remarkable film and the history and issues surrounding the Delta, go to http://bit.ly/Rl1QrD.

California’s Troubled Waters: the Estuary vs. the Tap

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, focus on Governor Brown’s latest water war, photo by Media Creations

On Wednesday, California Governor Jerry Brown and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced what they consider a landmark solution to the state’s water shortage: plans to build a massive twin tunnel system that will bring precious water from the San Joaquin River Delta to farms and cities. These two 33-mile-long tunnels have stirred the pot of an ongoing water war. This controversy is at the heart of a new documentary, Over Troubled Waters.

To understand the issues and some surprising history that’s been concealed, and have a chance to win tickets to the Sacramento premier of Over Troubled Waters, see http://bit.ly/NyVftn.