I've been watching the Life After People videos on streaming Netflix. Its interesting in several ways, but not the obvious ones. Its a showcase for civil engineers, about the sorts of work they have to do. Its a good guide to maintenance in the Post Oil world, and highlights the costs involved with keeping up the remains of the material excesses of the Oil Age. Steel and glass high rises, likely to end up bought by China and emptied, with nobody responsible for their upkeep much like the half million abandoned homes in Detroit being overtaken by the climbing vines and trees that will gradually tear them apart. Highrises don't do well when their windows fall out, and without maintenance that's going to happen. The show details again and again how nature takes over very quickly. This is not exaggeration either. I've seen that personally. Grasses, legumes, brush, and eventually trees grow up and through a paved road if left uncleared. Someone has to clean that off. Else it is lost to nature's unwavering demands. The apocalypse is green.
Here in California (PRK), there are a thousand miles of dikes/levees in the San Joaquin and Sacramento river delta. These keep flood waters out of the wide swaths of land which are technically below sea level and would almost certainly be completely flooded swamp without them. The cost of maintaining dikes, even with people around to do it, is not small. And the consequences of slightly faster flowing water during less-well controlled flood events means that rivers naturally undercut the dikes and cause them to fail. Its ironic, since the creation of reservoirs upstream in the Sierra foothills actually makes the water more erosive while those same reservoirs fill in with silt and sand as the water slows, thus less able to hold up sediment. And body of water without a serious outflow and turbulence to maintain sediment carrying capacity eventually fills in. Lake Mead is a famous example. In a few decades it won't be a lake anymore, just a mud flat that will gradually grow grasses and trees. Nature wins.
The narrow river channels lined by levees means the water speeds up again, able to carry more silt and takes it from both the river bottom and the dikes and every turn leads to changing velocity and variation in sediment capacity from inside of the turn to outside, increasing the erosion. Civil engineers know this, and efforts to protect the dikes have been an expensive series of challenges. The former Governator had a bill put through to pay for the dike upkeep, but then the economic collapse hit and it was defunded under emergency rules. So now there's no way to pay for it. The Fedgov doesn't care because disasters are sexy photo ops where they announce, too late, how much they care about their suffering and money thrown at it which gets funnelled into favored campaign contributors (see Katrina reconstruction corruption scandals) but crews fixing dikes are expensive and bad photo ops. So they don't happen. The PRK could literally have its own Katrina level event in the Central Valley in one warm spring week following extra heavy snowfall and sufficient siltation of the reservoirs. Kinda like New Orleans. Also ironically, it would flood Stockton which is a truly awful slum these days filled with people who can't afford to live in Oakland anymore and has noteworthy crime. When the levees inevitably break some Spring flood day, the drowned orchards and the ruined dikes will be written off as their crops aren't actually that valuable compared to the insurance bailout costs. The real question I have is will it stay freshwater or will the tidewaters reach there? If it goes brackish or full salt marsh, certain types of plants and animals can live there, but others can't. Salmon and steelhead can manage fine in mixed waters, and the floods will greatly help their survival. Sea birds would be fine there too. If it stays freshwater and the tides remain in the bay rather than the delta, then the fresh water will be good for bass, catfish, and the many freshwater fish species until such time as siltation claims the basins and more typical curving oxbow lakes are created. These are good places for swamp, and the native cottonwood and willow trees will likely surge once soil is tall enough. The upside of this is swamps clean water. They also absorb floods and storm surges. They're good habitat for many migrant bird species, and if this territory is ceded back to nature will eventually fill in the sub-sea level and end the flood risk.
The question of salt in the water is especially ironic since the inlet for pumping 60% of LA's water supply is near Tracy, pulling from this same area of the delta. If the water goes brackish/salty and tidal flow runs all the way from Sacramento and Manteca and Stockton down to the Bay, and that's VERY complicated hydraulics even I can't predict, then LA may find itself under severe rationing. It may start making sense to either boot out the poor and middle class so they can live on that 11 inches a year they typically get in the LA Basin, or pay a fortune for sea water desalination, which is energy intensive and probably about the same cost as pumping from Tracy, depending on salinity.
The Mississippi floods are controlled by the US Army Corps of Engineers. Thousands of miles of dikes, dams, pumps, flood control canals, a hugely complex mess of expensive and complicated infrastructure. Letting barges in and out of the river isn't easy either, and without sufficient compensation or standards, who is going to do this high pressure job? Without extensive maintenance, the same factors which make the California Delta finicky also impacts the Mississippi. Most engineers agree that eventually the river will break through into its alternate paths instead of the sea channel cutoff near New Orleans. Without lots of people working, it will fail.
When you stop and think about it, there's not that many jobs requiring US citizens to work in manufacturing. You only need so many things before you're satisfied, or at least the cost benefit analysis says enough is enough. Repeat with each new household, though many of those things can be had used from junk stores, so even those needs are pretty minimal. Compare that against the maintenance costs of keeping up roads, rust control on bridges and railroads, sewer systems and water systems, dams, power grids, phone networks. When you start adding things up, you end up with a LOT of maintenance jobs needing to be done, just to keep what we've got going as long as we can. And it will get less reliable anyway. Having machinists build replacement parts to keep that critical infrastructure going eventually leads to committees deciding whether that's critical after all. Some things get set aside to rot or rust or fail. Every ghost town is an example of this. Every abandoned public or private building. Without good reason to maintain or restore infrastructure, you end up with a rather grim math. How much of your cultural resources is it worth to keep this relic working? How many babies or new projects? Budgetary decisions are based on these things. And budgets result in taxes many households won't be able to pay in a post-industrial world with very few real jobs.
Now throw in the standing water that normally gets treated by mosquito abatement techs in every county. All that water is ideal for breeding billions of mosquitos. Mosquitos that carry diseases like malaria, bird flu, West Nile virus, and various strains of meningitis, which is endemic here in the PRK. Malaria was endemic in the Mississippi and Missouri river basins. You either get resistant to it or it kills you. I'm unaware of any real resistance to it, other than Sickle Cell Anemia. So those of us who lack that genetic disease will have to deal with Malaria using current medications which are effective though harsh. Tonic water sold in stores ISN'T the real quinine, btw. Real quinine is so medicinal as to be a capable purgative. Doctors and pharmacies will need to stock this regularly, and doctors will need to keep their costs down so people will be able to afford to see them or else see their wages mandated by govt. We have maintenance costs too. How can we afford to pay our population to maintain everything? Well, our currency is worthless, but you gotta eat. Gardening is good for veggies to flavor your main carb sources, things like rice, wheat, potatos, and corn are best grown en masse by experts, leaving you to do the more finicky stuff to make it taste good. Its easier for you to raise chickens in a pen at your place than pay an expert and transport them post oil. The cost of shipping feed is much lower than eggs themselves. Eggs will keep you alive, provided you've got carbs to eat and veggies for your vitamins.
It is worth noting that influence peddling suggests that should the levees eventually fail in the PRK, the state will be forced to bankrupt itself to handle the disaster and repair costs before the Fedgov steps in, too late as usual, to not fix the problems either, raising taxes on everyone but remaining PRK residents the most. This is how govt works. Its all about making you poorer. Accept this early and you'll adjust to reality sooner.
Oh, and buy a bicycle. And maybe some kind of water purification pump gizmo. Water is fuel when you ride a bike. Always remember that.