Sunday, November 19, 2006

Flooded with Disinformation

Richard Perry/The New York Times

In June, a road was washed out in Roscoe, by the Beaverkill River in the Catskill region.

NYTimes: Our Towns
TimesSelect After 3 Floods, Trying to Brace for No. 4
(TimesSelect wall)

Here’s what’s at stake: The Delaware River is the longest nondammed river east of the Mississippi, extending 330 miles from the Catskills to the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Nearly 15 million people — about 5 percent of the nation’s population — rely on it and 216 tributaries for drinking water and industrial uses. New York City gets half of its water from three reservoirs on the Delaware, and countless towns from here to the Atlantic exist because the river does.

From 1955 to 1996, there were no major floods. Now, it seems, there’s one every year. The Delaware River Basin Commission, which manages the river system, has begun a flood mitigation study, but on Thursday you could hear the frustration in the voice of every resident who spoke.

“I hear the word rain, and I hear a four-letter word,” said Joan Homovich, a retired teacher, who estimates her basement has flooded 10 times since 2003 and now obsessively goes online studying water releases from the reservoirs on the river. “When I thought about this rain I couldn’t eat.”

Part of the difficulty is a blizzard of conflicting agendas.

New York City, which controls the reservoirs, wants to be assured of drinking water for more than eight million people. Upstate residents want the city to also use the reservoirs to manage river flows and minimize flooding. Fishermen and environmentalists want to protect fisheries and limit man-made disruptions on the river. Towns want to be able to dredge and clean out streams to improve water flows that would prevent flooding.


Residents want the agency to release water and lower the reservoir levels, creating a void that could trap rainfall that could otherwise cause flooding. The agency says its options are limited because the reservoirs are not built for flood control. But for the first time it has said it would make efforts in that direction.

Residents say the city is already failing to deliver. (The agency says reservoirs are now at 100.5 percent of capacity. Normal is 70 percent.)


This year in the Catskills is among the wettest on record, but who knows what to read into a few years of wet weather. Freak of nature? Global warming? Thirty-year rainfall cycle? Act of God?

No one knows, and there are acts of nature that are beyond the machinations of man.

But despite the weaselly words with which the NYTimes ends its piece on the floods in the Catskills, these types of floods are predicted by the science of climate change. I heard Al Gore describe this type of weather scenario in An Inconvenient Truth.

Al Gore, transcript (unofficial), An Inconvenient Truth

What is often unnoticed the fact that global warming causes more precipitation but more of it coming in one time big storm events because the evaporation off the ocean puts all the moisture up there when storm conditions trigger the downpour before it falls down.


The places where people live were chosen because of the climate pattern that had been pretty much the same on Earth since the end of the last ice age. Here on [my] farm, patterns are changing. It seems gradual in the course of a human lifetime but in the course of time as defined by this river, it's happening very, very quickly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I interviewed Al Gore last week. The topic wof course was climate change. Check it out at: