California’s Drought – Is it just the beginning?
California is often considered a place where dreams come true whether you strike gold, make it big in Hollywood, or invest wisely in a promising high-tech company. Conjuring up images of beautiful beaches, stunning wine country, and fruit orchards, it’s difficult to imagine that the state is currently experiencing a possible mega-drought that could last for more than 100 years.
A historically arid state, it’s water infrastructure was built during the wettest century in hundreds of years. Water allocation decisions in the 20th century had to support rapid population growth and the expansion of large agricultural areas. Consequently, key infrastructure was built during a time of relative water abundance. Some of these large investments included building enormous dams, rerouting rivers, and developing large urban areas in addition to spurring a $45 billion agriculture industry. These decisions will have long-lasting effects on California’s ability to recover from the current drought.
California has a long history of politically-fraught water wars that play out both internally between urban and rural areas and externally with other Western states. It seems these disputes will continue as the state government has taken several urgent actions in response to the drought. The California Department of Water Resources announced on January 31 that it will limit long-time water rights holders in some parts of the state (cutting their water supply by 50%) and request that the State Water Resources Control Board change any requirements that impede the conservation of stored water. The Department also issued a zero-allocation announcement meaning no water will be allotted through the State Water Project, a “water storage and delivery system of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants” that sells water to 29 public water suppliers.
On March 1, the California State Assembly unanimously enacted emergency drought legislation in the form of a $687 million recovery package. The package will expand water recycling programs, storm water recapturing, and improve groundwater storage efforts. An additional $183 million in federal funds were allocated in February for similar drought-relief measures.
Like many states that go through boom-and-bust economic cycles, California is currently limited to certain approaches that are more economically feasible. Boosting water conservation and working within the existing infrastructure is the more cost-effective alternative to replacing key infrastructure. At best, most states look for the best possible remedial measures that leverage available technologies.
In addition to policy changes and the recovery packages, an exciting development took place earlier this month. On March 5, a memorandum of understanding was signed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and California Governor Jerry Brown to promote collaboration between Israel and California in the research and development of water technologies. Israel is a leader in the development of water conservation technologies, such as desalination, wastewater recycling, and drip irrigation.
As a global leader in water network management that uses data analysis to inform optimal short- and long-term planning decisions, TaKaDu is well-positioned to contribute to solutions. As the details of the memorandum unfold, TaKaDu will closely follow this important water management and conservation dialogue.