Unless…Earth-Friendly Friday – Pulse of the Salinas River (and about California’s severe drought)

This post continues on the WordPress weekly Earth-Friendly challenge with the theme of water.  For the first week we learned about our watersheds.  In Monterey County and the Central Coast, our watershed is the Salinas River Watershed.

Monterey Bay in context of Region 3

The second water challenge theme included taking a “Water Footprint Calculator” developed by National Geographic.

For this week, the challenge was to learn about dams that alter the flow of our river and tributaries, and the purpose of the structure (Economic? Social? Environmental?).

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The Salinas River near Highway 1, water headed towards the Pacific Ocean.

This challenge was truly…well,  a challenge!  I did not get to the other questions to consider AFTER I learned about the dams in the Salinas river because the answer to this question was not very easy to find.

What made this challenge confusing was that the Salinas River actually covers two counties.  Searching for dams in the Salinas River first yielded information about the “Salinas Dam” built in neighboring San Luis Obispo County (South of Monterey county and where the Salinas River begins).

The contract to build the “Salinas Dam” in San Luis Obispo County was signed seven months before the Pearl Harbor attack. It took 3 years to build this particular dam, for water headed to San Luis Obispo.  I include this information in my blog post because their local paper (The Tribune) had a series of blog posts called “Photos from the Vault” that revisited local history.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a connection to the Philippines (where I grew up) on one of the headlines related to the Salinas Dam, after Japanese troops took over the Philippine capital Manila  during World War II:

Salinas Dam WWII

It is a coincidence that had me sidetracked about information that was already a challenge to research.  It brought back memories of stories told by my aunts and uncles about their difficulties during the war, when they had to hide out in the jungle and head to the mountains when our area was occupied — beginning when my mother was still a toddler.

But back to Monterey County…where, (alas!) I found California State University at Monterey Bay’s “Central Coast Watershed Wiki” and this information:

The main tributaries of the Salinas River are the Nacimiento, San Antonio, Arroyo Seco, San Lorenzo, and Estrella Rivers.

Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia

Nacimiento_River_photo via wikipedia

The Salinas River watershed has three large dams in its upper portion: The Salinas Dam, built in the 1940’s; the Nacimiento Dam, built in the 1950’s; and the San Antonio Dam, built in the 1960’s. The Salinas Dam is managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers, and the Nacimiento and San Antonio Dams are managed by the Monterey County Water Resources Agency.

Nacimiento_River_Dam

Nacimiento River Dam photos via Monterey County Water Resources Agency

Further…

The Lower portion of the Salinas River is often referred to as the Lower Salinas River. The division of the river and its watershed in upper and lower portions is for administrative purposes only.

The Salinas River drains to both the Salinas River Lagoon and the Moss Landing Harbor in the center of the Monterey Bay.

So I will post this information for the challenge with this basic data, and will consider other questions posted for this challenge as time permits at a later time.

This information is important to learn, considering we are officially in our 4th year of drought here in California.  However, it is overwhelming and I am only beginning to understand all the organizations involved in providing water to the Central Coast Basin and their various roles (e.g., the Monterey County Water Resources Agency  and the California Department of Water Resources).

Based on the information below, sourced from government related websites…

Quality Water in Short Supply in Central Coastal Basin

…and because the area near where we live has already had seawater intrusion (I’ve posted information about this and sea level rise for the California King Tides Project) I’ll keep my blog post update for this particular challenge focused on seawater intrusion — at least for now.

Information on the California Drought

Several days ago, California’s drought conditions hit national news because our snow pack water content hit a new record low.  The annual measurement was at 5% of average, which broke the previous record of 25% of average in 1977 and 1991.

The photo below — where California governor Jerry Brown is standing at the podium — is at 6,800 feet elevation.  Normally, and for this time of the year, they would be standing on 5 feet of snow.  Instead, they are standing on grass!

California Governor Drought News

It is going to be a challenge to meet the new MANDATORY water reduction goal of reducing water use by 25%.  So, whether we like it or not, we are all going to be learning a lot more about water use, and our water sources…which makes this focus on water for the March Earth-Friendly challenges very timely.

To learn more about the latest California water content measurement (Sierra Nevada Snowpack) click here.  Excerpt:

The California Department of Water Resources (DWR) found no snow whatsoever today during its manual survey for the media at 6,800 feet in the Sierra Nevada. Thiswas the first time in 75 years of early-April measurements at the Phillips snow course that no snow was found there. Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. observed thesurvey, which confirmed electronic readingsshowing the statewide snowpack with less water content today than any April 1stsince 1950.  Attending the survey with Governor Brown was DWR Director Mark Cowin, who said Californians can expect to receive almost no water from the meager snowpack as it melts in the coming weeks.
More here…

For more information on this Unless…Earth Friendly challenge, hosted by JustAnotherNatureEnthusiast.org, click here.