Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Draining California

National Geographic has an article about the California drought in the October issue called When the Snows Fail. The magazine comes with a fantastic pull-out map showing the natural and manipulated ways that water flows out of the Sierra Nevada into the Central Valley, the heartland of US agriculture.
The printed map sprawls across several flaps and shows a broad view of the entire regional water system in a way that can't possibly (or legally) be shown here. The image above gives an idea of much of what is shown on the map including aqueducts  (light blue lines), agricultural areas in green, dams, reservoirs (with information about  percentage above or below capacity) and various other bits of textual information.

Their web site has an interactive graphic that captures some of the map's information. Click on the second tab for the graphic, the first one is the article. The graphics do a nice job of showing the flow of water from the headwaters of the Rubicon River, near Lake Tahoe, into reservoirs, lakes, the American and then Sacramento Rivers. Three years of drought have left dry shorelines, lower volumes of surface water and increased use of wells causing subsidence of the land.
The interactive web graphics are very well done, but also are a good illustration of how computer images still cannot provide the awe inspired by a large paper map. I highly recommend getting a hold of the magazine and taking a look at the full "centerfold."

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