Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Didion and Water

Sacramento native Joan Didion loves water and the technology surrounding it.

In the essay Holy Water, from her marvelous 1979 book I just re-purchased, having given away or lost my original copy years ago, The White Album, she writes about moving water around California.

An excerpt.

“In practice this requires prodigious coordination, precision, and the best efforts of several human minds and that of a Univac 418. In practice it might be necessary to hold large flows of water for power production, or to flush out encroaching salinity in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, the most ecologically sensitive point on the system. In practice a sudden rain might obviate the need for a delivery when that delivery is already on its way...It takes perhaps another six days to move this same water down the California Aqueduct from the Delta to the Tehachapi and put it over the hill to Southern California. “Putting some over the hill” is what they say around the Project Operations Control Center when they want to indicate that they are pumping Aqueduct water from the floor of the San Joaquin Valley up and over the Tehachapi Mountains. “Pulling it down” is what they say when they want to indicate that they are lowering a water level somewhere in the system...”LET’S START DRAINING QUAIL AT 12:00” was the 10:51 A. M. entry on the electronically recorded communications log the day I visited the Operations Control Center. “Quail” is a reservoir in Los Angeles County with a gross capacity of 1,636,018,000 gallons. “OK” was the response recorded in the log. I knew at that moment that I had missed the only vocation for which I had any instinctive affinity: I wanted to drain Quail myself. (pp. 61-62)