Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

April 21, 2009

Dry now, fires now, more of each soon

Filed under: Preparedness and Response — by Philip J. Palin on April 21, 2009

Much of California, Gulf Coast Texas, and Florida are experiencing severe drought.   Economic, ecological, and other consequences are mounting. 

“The drought is one of the driest on record for Texas and is currently the worst in the U.S., which has seen persistent dry weather across several Western states, Florida and even Hawaii, according to academic and government monitors,” the Wall Street Journal reports.

In California, “The state has said it will deliver only 20 percent of the water typically allocated for cities and farms this year,” according to the Los Angeles Times.   The shortage is increasing competition between urban and rural water consumers.

“We’re beginning to get to the real cost of water,” says Colin Sabol, vice president of marketing for ITT Corporation, the world’s largest provider of pumps and water equipment. He notes that US consumers pay on average only one-third of what Germany pays for its water,” according to the Christian Science Monitor.  Germany “charges a price that allows them to reinvest in their infrastructure,” Mr. Sabol says.

Floridians are feeling as if they must choose between the frying pan – hurricanes – or the (wild)fire.

The profoundly dry conditions obviously increase the chance of wildfires. “Federal officials report there have already been almost twice as many wildfires this year than during the same period last year, and the outlook through the middle of the year for more fires in Texas, Florida and California is not good,” Scripps-Howard tells its subscribers.

As of mid-April the National Interagency Fire Center found there had been 24,126 open forest and grassland blazes this year, involving more than 668,000 acres.

In the 2009 Quadrennial Fire Review, the several Jeremiah-like findings include:

  • “The effects of climate change will continue to result in greater probably of longer and bigger fire seasons, in more regions of the nation.  What has already been realized in the past five years: Shorter, wetter winters and warmer drier summers, larger amounts of total fire on the landscape, more large wildfires will persist and possibly escalate in an irregular pattern termed asymmetric fire.  Fire mitigation efforts must be prepared to cope with moving potentially to a 10-12 million annual wildfire acres range over the next five years.”
  • “Cumulative drought effects will further stress fuels accumulations. The current drought cycle is expected to last for another twenty years.  In terms of impact, competition for water in ecosystems, continued problems with exotic invasive and insect kill, and faster drying of vegetation will make fuels more flammable and drive fire behavior.  Drought effects in the Southeast, Southwest, and West will make these areas especially vulnerable in terms of fire risk.”
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2 Comments »

Comment by William R. Cumming

April 21, 2009 @ 7:33 am

German corporations have purchased many private and small municipality water systems in the US over the last three decades often using corporate fronts. Thinking long term.

Also EPA has consistently refused to adopt security standards for water systems in US. Despite legal authority to do so.

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