Elizabeth Barrette (ysabetwordsmith) wrote,
Elizabeth Barrette

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Poem: "The Promised Waters"

This is today's freebie, inspired by a prompt from [personal profile] ng_moonmoth. It also fills the "water" square in my 9-1-18 card for the Cottoncandy Bingo fest.

"The Promised Waters"

[Saturday, May 28, 2016]

The story of the West Coast
is mostly the story of water:
the places that have it,
and the places that don't.

In 1904, William Mulholland
issued the first public report from
the Los Angeles Department of Water
and Power, stating that they would
have to supplement their supply
from some other source.

He became a modern Moses --
but instead of leading his people
to the promised land, he would
cleave the desert and lead
the promised waters to them.

For over a century, the waters flow,
sometimes disturbed by drought
or politics or economics, but
somehow coming through.

Then the Big One hits.

The water towers come
crashing down in towns
all over southern California.

The water mains break and
bleed away the vital fluid,
turning roads into rivers and
neighborhoods into lakes
before it drains rapidly away.

People try to shut off the pipes,
but it's too little, too late.

The swimming pools crack and
seep chemically treated liquid
into the dry earth, contaminating
everything that lies around them.

One by one, the aqueducts fail
as the earthquakes rip southward
along the welter of fault lines.

The Colorado River Aqueducts
and the Coachella Canal are
completely destroyed, beyond
even the ability to rebuild them.

The Los Angeles Aqueduct takes
substantial damage, losing about
half of its water, but could be
reconstructed. Someday.

The All-American Canal is
intact with only minor damage,
quickly repairable before much of
its water can seep through the cracks.

The East Branch California Aqueduct
is completely intact thanks to a variety
of seismic upgrades in recent years,
and the San Diego Aqueduct has only
a few patches of cosmetic damage.

The reservoirs, too, suffer
from the shaking earth.

Castaic Lake collapses
fast and hard, nothing at all
left to reconstruct on the site.

San Vicente cracks open
and spills its water out,
while Lake Mathews loses
almost half its volume, but
they are reconstructable.

Lake Perris has only a slow leak
that could be repaired, whenever
someone has time for the work.

Pyramid Lake survives with
minor damage, quickly repairable
before much water gets lost.

Diamond Valley Lake, built
to withstand earthquakes,
comes through intact.

Southern California,
already struggling
to support a population
far beyond its water budget,
has lost over half its supply
at a time when severe fires are
breaking out all over the cities
and first aid requires hygiene.

Battered refugees make their way
to relief stations, and rescue workers
do what they can with what they have.

Most of the refugees flee the state
as soon as they can, many of them
never to return home again.

Of the irrigated croplands around
the Salton Sea, only the southernmost
have any water left for the thirsty plants.
Fields of alfalfa, artichokes, asparagus,
garlic, grapes, honeydew, okra, peppers,
sugar beets, summer squash, tomatoes,
and watermelon dry up and die.

The desert, once cloven by canals,
heaves a dusty sigh and reclaims its own.

Eventually, some of the aqueducts
and reservoirs will be reconstructed,
but much of the promised waters have
gone away, never to be seen again.

* * *


"In 1904, the newly created Los Angeles Department of Water and Power issued its first public report. 'The time has come,' it said, 'when we shall have to supplement the supply from another source.' With that simple statement, William Mulholland was about to become a modern Moses. But instead of leading his people to the promised land, he would cleave the desert and lead the promised waters to them."
Marc Reisner, Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles the earthquake strikes at 4:01:40 with magnitude 7.8 and intensity X shaking, destroying many buildings. It lasts for 55 seconds. Even well-built structures are damaged, and unprepared ones crumble. They have many hospitals, and better retrofitting, but they still take a lot of damage and can't accommodate all the casualties. But so much of the infrastructure is damaged or destroyed that the only practical ways out are air or teleport.

7.0 – 7.9 about 15 IX – X major – extensive damage, some buildings destroyed

X. Some well-built wooden structures destroyed; most masonry and frame structures destroyed with foundations. Rails bent.

See the location of Los Angeles in America and in California. Here is a city map. See the ShakeOut maps for probability of shaking and historical epicenters.

The Los Angeles water supply is highly vulnerable to disruption from earthquakes.

San Diego

The earthquake strikes at 4:02 PM with magnitude 7.3 and intensity IX. Even well-built structures are damaged, while unprepared ones are destroyed. Because San Diego has not experienced many strong earthquakes, a lot of the older buildings collapsed. Most residents live within 15 miles of the fault, resulting in many injuries. The earthquake along the Rose Canyon Fault extends offshore, creating a tsunami that reaches the city within minutes. Little of San Diego lies in the inundation zone, so casualties are not too bad.

7.0 – 7.9 about 15 IX – X major – extensive damage, some buildings destroyed

IX. Damage considerable in specially designed structures; well-designed frame structures thrown out of plumb. Damage great in substantial buildings, with partial collapse. Buildings shifted off foundations.

San Diego has a number of faults. Both the San Andreas and San Jacinto faults run near the city. However, the Rose Canyon fault cuts right through the heart of the city. See the ShakeOut maps for probability of shaking and historical epicenters.

When the Rose Canyon Fault gives way, it creates a tsunami. Fortunately, little of San Diego lies inside the inundation zone -- just the beaches and harbors. It's easy for almost everyone to escape the wave, even with the roads a mess from the earthquake. The problem is that the city has historically low threat of earthquakes and tsunamis, so it hasn't practiced as much, and not everyone knows to flee. But they do have an evacuation plan, the routes are marked, and most people if they see other folks running like hell will follow suit.

Most or all perennial crops (grapes, almonds, asparagus, etc.) in California and some elsewhere on the coast will die without irrigation. Aqueducts, canals, water pipes, reservoirs, and other infrastructure are extremely vulnerable to earthquakes. The Cascadian Cataclysm happens at the beginning of the growing season and will wipe out almost everything in West Coast agriculture for 2016. By 2017 some people may be able to plant some annual crops and see if there's anything to salvage from perennials. But it's never going back to what it was.

To calculate the failure rate of specific structures, I first researched the main locations and names. Then I checked their details to raise or lower the chance of success. I used the earthquake intensity as a rough measure for probability of success, meaning Los Angeles area structures had to roll 79 or higher and San Diego ones had to roll 74 or higher out of 1d100. There's a nimbus for minor and cosmetic damage around the pinpoint. The higher the roll, the less damage taken. Middle ranges have moderate damage such that structures can be repaired or rebuilt. Low numbers indicate complete destruction to the point that even rebuilding the structure is impossible, due to such things as heaving, ditches opening, or bedrock breaking.

East Branch California Aqueduct (99, completely intact due to upgrades in T-America)
Los Angeles Aqueduct (50, substantial damage, moderate drainage, reconstructable)
Colorado River Aqueduct (29, complete rapid collapse, useless)
San Diego Aqueduct (83, intact with cosmetic damage)
Coachella Canal (7, completely destroyed, useless)
All-American Canal (75, intact with only minor damage, quickly repairable before much water is lost)

Pyramid Lake (80, intact with only minor damage, quickly repairable before much water is lost)
Castaic Lake (18, complete rapid collapse, useless)
Lake Mathews (64, moderate drainage, reconstructable)
Lake Perris (76, minor damage with slow leak, repairable)
Diamond Valley Lake (intact)
San Vicente Reservoir (40, fast drainage, potentially reconstructable)

Most of the West Coast is living past its water budget. All of southern California, including Los Angeles and San Diego, has much greater demand for than supply of water.  There are water conservation tips, but no amount of residential or municipal conservation can solve the problem.  That's because 80% of the water goes to agriculture.  You could eliminate the entire 20% of urban usage and not fix anything.  However, if you cut the population and the agriculture by a large amount -- which is happening naturally as part of this disaster -- then what's left later will be sustainable.  That's the route Terramagne-America will take.

The Salton Sea has variously been a dry lakebed, a freshwater lake, and a saltwater lake. Right now it's saltwater. Irrigation has turned much of the surrounding area into cropland.
Tags: cyberfunded creativity, environment, fantasy, fishbowl, nature, poem, poetry, reading, weblit, writing

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