He even began a kickstarter campaign to raise the 30 billion dollars necessary to build the pipeline.
But maybe Shatner was on to something, but simply got the idea reversed.
Why move Northwest water to California when you could move California agriculture to the Northwest?
Romulan insanity? A Borg deception? A ridiculous offer to Shatner's Priceline?
As Mr. Spock would say, it is highly logical.
California is an arid region with a large population and an immense agriculture. Too many people and too much agriculture for even the current climate. And it will get only worse as global warming increases temperature (more evaporation), reduces snowpack over the mountains, and lessens precipitation over the southern portion of the state (or so our climate models tell us). Summer temperatures will increase so much that some areas may become too warm for their current crops.
California needs to DECREASE its water-intensive agriculture, including a switch to less water-hungry crops. Less almonds, for example.
In contrast, the situation if very different in the Pacific Northwest. Global warming will reduce our snowpack but will modestly INCREASE our total precipitation. You read that correctly. We will have the same or MORE water. Our growing season will lengthen as temperatures warm, allowing increased agricultural productivity. We also have lots of land in eastern Washington that is fertile, but unirrigated.
What does this situation imply for the Pacific Northwest? Agricultural OPPORTUNITY.
But we have a problem. Most our precipitation falls in the winter season (we have a Mediterranean climate, believe it or not) and agriculture here is mainly a warm-season affair. Traditionally, much of our summer water supply is derived from melting snow, but global warming will cause more of our precipitation to fall as rain. So with less snowpack, summer water supplies could be reduced.
But we can fix this problem in two ways: (1) create more reservoir capacity, and (2) use our water more efficiently.
Imagine if we greatly increased our reservoir storage, storing more of the bountiful winter rains that will occur in the future. This will cost far less than Shatner's pipeline. Use the stored water to massively increase agriculture in the Northwest (including BC).
In short, instead of moving NW water to California for THEIR agriculture, keep the water here and radically expand OUR agriculture. California could then decrease their acreage in many crops (e.g., grapes). In other words, MOVE California agriculture to our region, rather than moving our water to California.
It really makes sense. And wait...there is more. We could increase our renewable energy capabilities at the same time by getting hydropower out some of the reservoirs as the water is released. And the water could be used to maintain streamflow and improve fish survival in our rivers and streams.
But before increasing reservoir capacity other steps must be taken. First, we must stop wasting water. Increased use of drip irrigation, better water distribution, less waste around the farms, and better water delivery are important. I can't tell you how many times I have driven around eastern Washington, seeing farmers spray water during the heat of the day and strong winds. The loss due to evaporation would be huge. Particularly during the afternoon when the winds are blowing strong.
The crop mix may need to be altered to reduce acreage of crops that require huge amounts of water, particularly those of less economic value. For example, less water for thirsty alfalfa for export to Asia.
Second, the crazy system of senior and junior water rights must be scrapped. Right now, we have folks with senior rights that are essentially guaranteed water, allowing (encouraging) them to waste some it. In contrast, junior rights folks, some of which are growing more valuable crops, face cut off (like this year). Water is a communal resource, much of which was made available by huge public investments. An annual water bidding system, where folks would compete for the limited resource, would ensure a more rational distribution of water and that water is not wasted on low-value crops.
But after we have optimized our use of the current water supplies, we will probably need to increase the supply, particularly if we are to displace some of California's agriculture. To do so will require increased reservoir capacity. Some plans to do so have already been drawn up for the Yakima systems by a group of farmers, government representatives and environmental groups: The Yakima Basin Integrated Plan.
Adaptation to climate change is one of the great challenges of the next century. If I were the Governor I would start with two things: (1) invest in the research to solidify our estimates of the impacts of climate change on our state, and (2) establish a bipartisan State Climate Adaptation Board that would recommend actions needed to increase our state's resilience to global warming and natural climate variability.
The ideas presented in this blog reflect the need to deal with natural variability and to adapt to climate change. This year is giving us a taste of the future impact of global warming (even though the cause was natural). No wonder a former starship captain is thinking about it.
Announcement: On June 3, I will be on the Seattle Channel's Civic Cocktail with Governor Inslee. If you would like to be in the audience, you can get tickets at: http://www.seattlechannel.org/CivicCocktail. They charge, but you get appetizers with their no-host bar.