These photos were all taken from the same place: the Honey Lake Rest Area on Highway 395, betwen Milford and Janesville, two small towns southeast of Susanville, California, and north of Reno, Nevada. The lower two photos show nearly the same view, with the last photo taken almost exactly one year earlier than the upper two photos. Besides the slightly different weather, warm and sunny last week and slightly cooler with clouds a year ago, the upper photo shows no water in the lake while the lower photo shows water.
In the most recent photos, Honey Lake looks brown to dark brown and muddy. At the rest stop and while driving by, I could see water way out on the east side of the lake, in the eastern arm: the lake is by no means completely dry. I'm hoping, also, that water is being maintained in the wetlands in the Honey Lake Wildlife Area, though I haven't been out that-a-way for more than a year. It's a great place to spot birds, in case you are ever driving through the area.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, this lowering of the lake level might have something to do with Washoe County's water project to import water from the Honey Lake Valley. It might, however, just be a dry year - other lakes in northern California are at low levels, levels I haven't seen for about 5 years or more - and water from the Fish Springs Ranch probably didn't start flowing to Reno's north valleys until sometime in August.
ChrisM of Pools and Riffles, was concerned about how the Fish Springs Ranch project might affect the recently signed Truckee River Operating Agreement (TROA), which was finally signed by all parties on September 6, although the plan was already in place via an interim agreement signed several years ago. It's possible that the Fish Springs Ranch project may have helped with the TROA by relieving water demands on Reno area wells, thus making it easier to send water down the river to Pyramid Lake. That last bit, however, is just a speculation on my part.
The TROA still has to be approved in federal court. An excellent timeline showing the history of this agreement is presented here by RGJ.com.
Desalination is being seriously considered in southern California and northern California, and one plant located near Oceanside, California - Poseidon's plant in Carlsbad - received approval in early August to begin construction. Santa Barbara is considering re-opening their moth-balled desalination plant, a plant that has been non-operational since 1992.
Desalination can have some environmental problems; the Carlsbad plant will be required to create 55.4 acres of marine habitat to make up for marine habitat loss during operation. Somehow, that area seems small to me, but I'm not sure what the re-habitation project actually encompasses. Also, the Carlsbad plant will test a new pump that's designed to use less energy in pumping the huge amount of water needed. Energy use for desalination is one of the environmental problems; it's equally one of the economic problems.
A few desalination facts from UNESCO, as of May, 2008:
- In 2002 there were about 12,500 desalination plants around the world in 120 countries. They produce some 14 million m²/day of freshwater, which is less than 1% of total world consumption.
- The most important users of desalinated water are in the Middle East, (mainly Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Bahrain), which uses about 70% of worldwide capacity; and in North Africa (mainly Libya and Algeria), which uses about 6% of worldwide capacity.
- Among industrialized countries, the United States is one of the most important users of desalinated water (6.5%), especially in California and parts of Florida [although other references implied that very little desalination is actually underway in California].