Harvesting ‘Atmospheric Rivers’ to Replenish Aquifers and Fill Reservoirs

A recent article in the San Francisco Chronicle caught my attention. It spoke of harvesting the rainfall from otherwise catastrophic “atmospheric rivers” to refill reservoirs. Another piece by the Environment Defense Fund in Oct. 2021 discussed research being conducted by the California Department of Water Resources and UC Santa Barbara on harvesting excessive rainfall to replenish underground aquifers.

Meanwhile, we are reminded daily that the Colorado River is drying up and both Lake Mead and Lake Powell, as a result, are suffering reduced levels that threaten the water supply and could even sideline vital hydro-electric turbines.

 I’m reminded of those amazing 20th Century California projects which moved water all over that state to meet both agricultural and urban demands, and it got me thinking about the possibility of creating another grand project to divert some of those ocean-bound flood waters to both in-state reservoirs and to the Colorado River.

Not only could that help with the Colorado River shortfall, but it might help in some small way to reduce flooding. 

Replenishing aquifers is a good idea, but can that be done at speed? I’m not knowledgeable in this area, but it seems to me that new reservoirs would have to be built to hold the water that is to be pumped into those aquifers.

Capturing flood waters on our side of the Continental Divide is already handled by the many reservoirs such as Chatfield and Cherry Creek Reservoirs designed for that purpose. Chatfield is owned by Denver Water, but Cherry Creek is owned by the Army Corps of Engineers. The dams for each are higher than needed in order to accommodate sudden downpours, flooding only open land and park facilities.

PS: Here’s a related article from TheConversation.com:

Climate Change Vulnerability Is Increasingly an Issue for Homebuyers  

It’s not surprising, given the extreme weather we’re witnessing, including here in Colorado, that 63% of people who moved during the pandemic say that climate is or will be an issue where they now live, according to a Redfin survey of 1,000 Americans who moved since March 2020. Many of the respondents said they researched climate issues before making their move.

In another survey by ValuePenguin, more than half of Americans fear they would not be able to recover financially from a climate-induced catastrophe. An earlier Redfin survey showed that Americans between the ages of 35 and 44 were most likely to say that “natural disasters, extreme temperatures and rising sea levels” all influenced or will influence their decisions on where to move. 

Here in Colorado we’ve been blessed to experience fewer and less dramatic impacts from climate change. But those impacts are knocking on our door. Consider last summer’s fire smoke, or this month’s hurricane-force winds, or our current drought.

Our water supply depends on snowpack, and rising winter temperatures result in more rain and less snow. Even though we’re east of the continental divide, we, like the Western Slope and the states west of us, are dependent on the dwindling Colorado River water, which is transported from the Western Slope to the Front Range through tunnels.

Because we experience fewer effects of climate change, I foresee increased migration from other parts of the country, including “tornado alley,” to Colorado as their current homes experience climate change’s increasing impact.

In researching this topic, I came across a Fall 2021 white paper from SitusAMC entitled “The Burgeoning Insurance Costs for Real Estate.” It assesses the impact of increased losses from catastrophes, mostly caused by climate change.

Although the focus of the white paper is on the ability of insurers to cover increased claims and the effect of those increased claims on residential and commercial insurance rates, it also made some interesting observations about the migration of people to and from states with high insurance claims and expected future risks from climate change.

So guest what? With the sole exception of California, people are moving to states where they will be more at risk rather than less. Texas, which accounted for 40% of all insurance claims in the first half of 2021, has had the highest influx of people from other states. Florida, despite its risks, was a close second.

In recent years I’ve seen many of my sellers relocating to Florida, and it’s hard for me to understand.

So there you have it — a Redfin study that says Americans are considering climate change risks before making their move, while another study shows that more people are moving into states and areas of high risk. Could both be true? I’m not sure what to believe now!