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Archive for the ‘WATER’ Category

By KEVAN WILLIAMS

2013 aerial view of Morelos Dam in the Colorado River with Mexico in the background. Photo:  Bureau of Reclamation

A 2013 aerial view of the Morelos Dam on the Colorado River. Mexico is in the background. Photo: Bureau of Reclamation.

The once expansive and vibrant Colorado River Delta has been dry for a long time. Most of the river’s water is currently captured and siphoned off at numerous upstream dams, leaving empty riverbeds and dry land where once there was a vast estuary. But as part of an agreement between the United States and Mexico known as “Minute 319,” a spring pulse flow has returned the dry Lower Colorado River to life, at least temporarily. The pulse flow is an artificial release of water from upstream dams, designed to mimic the sustained high flows of a snow melt or significant rainfall. More than 100,000 acre-feet of water is now moving down the old river channel, making steady progress toward the sea.

Although occasional high flows have washed down the river, for many decades it’s been largely dry, with devastating ecological consequences. Invasive plants such as tamarisk (also known as salt cedar) have been creeping into the region, taking advantage of changing conditions, and native species have struggled to hold on.

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On the blog Energy Economics Exchange, Maximilian Auffhammer, a professor of sustainable development at the University of California, Berkeley, conjectures why economists, while they are flocking to the field of energy economics, are not paying as much attention to water economics. “The reason is simple,” he writes. “The data are terrible.” He expands on this point, and a few others, in an open letter/rant to his water utility, which keeps urging its customers to conserve water during the drought that grinds on in California.  We took particular note of the following:

I get a letter every three months telling me how much water I consumed. I have no idea or way to figure out how much water the drip irrigation I put in with my bare hands uses (compared to the inefficient spray system the previous owner had). Trust me. I tried. I lifted the 30 pound concrete plate over my water meter and chased away a few black widows the size of chickens to find out that my water meter is analog (yes with a needle). Even running my irrigation system at full speed for 15 minutes did not move it significantly. There must be a better way. I can monitor real time electricity load for my house using my cell phone and a rainforest gateway. It must be possible to replace the 19th century meter on my house with something that uploads consumption data to my phone. The black widows want to be left alone.


The way households are left to measure their water usage is archaic, Auffhamer taunts: “How about you roll out some real time meters and let us energy people do some experiments in your service territory!”

 

(via Brett Walton @waltonwater)

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Shute's Folly Island: Redefining Tourism Site Plan. Courtesy Zheming Cai.

Shute’s Folly Island: Redefining Tourism Site Plan. Courtesy Zheming Cai.

Undergraduate Zheming Cai’s ASLA award-winning student project to reimagine the historic military site of Shute’s Folly Island off coastal South Carolina took on the twin behemoths of preservation and tourism and forged them into a refined solution that balanced the site’s architectural and landscape histories. The project, Preservation as Provocation: Redefining Tourism, won a 2013 ASLA Student Honor Award and was praised by the “very impressed” jury for its sophistication. Cai’s design of the historic fortification “broke away from the military history” and “built on other reasons to visit,” according to the comments. Now a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Cai talked with us about how to use flooding as an interpretive tool for historic places, understanding the genius loci, and taking a landscape perspective on tourism.

You won the ASLA Student Honor Award for a project that was about preservation and tourism in South Carolina while you were a student at Purdue University. Can you tell us how you got interested in these two concepts and how you chose the site?
This was my senior capstone design project. The previous semester, I had taken a more architecturally oriented historic preservation course with Ken Schuette, who is also my adviser. I had focused on community, cultural heritage, and downtown areas, so that took some of my initial interest in that direction. Schuette discovered a student competition for Castle Pinckney sponsored by the American Institute of Architects and the Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture. He asked me if I had any interest in doing a competition for my capstone, and I said yes, I will do it.

The reason I picked this competition was that I was reading through their brief and they had this attached image of the castle (Castle Pinckney). Lots of my undergrad research is on the genius loci, the spirit of a place, and it reminded me a lot of the picturesque Tintern Abbey kind of image, and that got me really excited. I’m a landscape architect, so I wanted to stick my hat into the ring and do this competition from a landscape perspective. I didn’t win because my project wasn’t architectural enough, which was pretty interesting.

So initially it wasn’t my intention to apply for an ASLA award, but my adviser highly recommended it. At the time, I had graduated already and I was traveling in Yellowstone with my parents, so I had to put it all together in a little cabin.

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Courtesy the North Coast Design Competition.

Courtesy the North Coast Design Competition.

Sean Burkholder has been thinking about the industrial landscapes of the Great Lakes for more than 10 years. He is currently an assistant professor of landscape and urban design at SUNY/University of Buffalo, and his teaching and research include topics that are salient to the region, including the reuse of urban infrastructure, urban vacancy, and the management of dredge materials. Next month, Burkholder will be launching the North Coast Design Competition with project sites along the riverfront in Toledo, Ohio. We talked with Burkholder about the region’s particular character, how the competition will harness local expertise, and why Toledo needs a dredge research site.

Tell us a little about the industrial landscape of the Great Lakes. What makes it different from other working ports, and how does that inform the competition’s program?
The interesting thing about the Great Lakes is that it’s a tremendous resource of fresh water. It’s 200,000 square miles of a drainage basin, and though that’s not big compared to the Mississippi River basin, it’s still 30 million people right on fresh water. With that access to fresh water comes the fresh water ecologies and habitat that are tied to it, so it’s a completely different system than on the coasts.

The Great Lakes was the industrial core of the country. Material made it to the Great Lakes and was then shipped out through the canals or the Saint Lawrence seaway. With changing populations, migration, suburbanization, and de-urbanization, the region has suffered in the postindustrial period. So, it’s a region that’s trying to reinvent itself in a lot of ways. I’ve worked in a lot of the cities around the Great Lakes region, and that work has primarily dealt with vacancy and postindustrial urban sites.

The competition is designed to look topically at issues that are in some ways endemic to the entire basin. The idea is to look at the issues at a graspable scale so that a designer can work on a problem with special contextual conditions in a specific place, but also allow for wide-ranging application.

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BY JAMES R. URBAN, FASLA

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From the January issue of LAM:

Most projects don’t have a soil scientist as a consultant, which leaves landscape architects to make important field decisions during construction. We need to specify soil moisture as part of the process of installing and compacting soils, and managing soil moisture is a critical part of plant establishment afterward. Working with wet soils can damage the performance of those soils, and allowing root balls to dry out can create tree stress problems that may affect tree growth far beyond the guarantee period.

Soil, grading, and planting specifications often require that soils not be delivered, worked, or graded when wet, muddy, or dry. Some specifications include references to soil moisture, using terms such as optimum soil moisture, field capacity, wilt point, or saturated. What do these terms mean? And how can landscape architects in the field, with no time to send samples to a lab, determine how moist the soil is?

Landscape architects need to understand soil moisture terms so they can make their specifications accurate and defensible.

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ALI's high-resolution geospatial model maps stormwater as potential groundwater augmentation supply in the San Fernando Valley.  Courtesy ALI

ALI’s high-resolution geospatial model maps stormwater as potential groundwater augmentation supply in the San Fernando Valley. Courtesy ALI.

Back when we first took note of the Arid Lands Institute (ALI) in the October 2012 issue of LAM, co-founder Hadley Arnold was talking about the William Turnball Drylands Design Competition: An Open Ideas Competition for Retrofitting the American West. In a partnership between Woodbury University, where ALI is based, and the California Architectural Foundation, Arnold envisioned an ideas competition that would promote “placing design in the ring with science and policy” in order “to find a radical, pugnacious beauty in new water thinking.” The competition resulted in an exhibit on Drylands Design at the Los Angeles Art and Design Museum, among other activities.

Now they’re back and they have a new program, titled “Divining LA: Drylands City Design for the Next 100 Years.” The initiative focuses on Los Angeles, and brings many of the ALI’s primary concerns to bear on the region, primarily the variablity of water sources and flows and the impact of climate change on hydrology.  Architect has a posted a piece from its December issue on ALI, and the work of Hadley Arnold and her partner Peter, to bring attention to L.A.’s complex water profile.

ALI will take its show on the road in January and February to Kansas, Utah, and Montana but you can also hear Hadley Arnold talking about L.A.s groundwater on KCRW’s venerable “Which Way LA?”

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POWER TO THE PEOPLE

BY MIMI ZEIGER

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You’ve likely heard of William Mulholland. There’s a ridgetop road in the Santa Monica Mountains, Mulholland Drive, named after him that offers breathtaking views of the Los Angeles basin and was the namesake of a David Lynch movie. Tall tales and mythologies swirl around Mulholland, the civil engineer who founded the Los Angeles Aqueduct and brought water to the desert. The aqueduct, which opened on November 5, 1913, and recently celebrated its centennial, would eventually become the water half of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) and Mulholland’s life would transform into legend. But if the story of L.A. water is well known, what of the power supply, the last letter in LADWP? That’s the question posed by the exhibition LADWP Power, on view at the Los Angeles headquarters of the Center for Land Use Interpretation (CLUI) through February 2014.

The one-room show, presented on three touch screens and two walls of the center, examines the overlooked electrical infrastructure that seamlessly, almost invisibly, illuminates and drives Los Angeles. “The DWP is iconic and welded to the city’s culture,” says Matthew Coolidge, who founded CLUI in 1994 and is its director. “Mythologized through various media, such as the film Chinatown, it’s part of the noir history of L.A.”

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