California’s new water supply plan to combat drought

Josue Torres
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According to a plan made public this week by Governor Gavin Newsom, California should spend tens of billions of dollars over the next two decades on water recycling, storage, and desalination to bolster its supply as the state becomes drier and hotter.

According to Department of Water Resources forecasts, the state would lose 10% of its water supply by 2040 as a result of the ongoing drought in the U.S. West. At the location of a facility being built to remove salts from river water that should be fresh, the governor explained the concept. He said that the state will require additional projects of this nature in the future.

In order to make treated wastewater suitable for consumption, his suggested water recycling objectives would cost $27 billion by 2040, according to his plan. The plan also depends on billions of dollars that have already been approved in previous state budgets. According to the proposal, both state and federal funding would be used to fund this project.

He plans to increase water availability by about 3 million acre-feet annually in total; one-acre foot can serve roughly two homes.

Additionally, his proposal calls for an increase in water storage of around 4 million acre-feet in both above-ground reservoirs and subterranean aquifers, which is almost enough water to fill Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir. New storage infrastructure will help the state collect more water.

The plan comes amid the state’s second drought in the previous ten years, which is in its third year. After the state had the driest January through March in at least a century, the majority of the state’s main reservoirs are far below average levels.

Meanwhile, the Colorado River, Southern California’s main water supply, has dropped to concerning low levels. The Newsom administration wants to cut back on reliance on river exports and other forms of water export.

Concentrating on producing more water

As governments and communities find their water supplies endangered by protracted droughts, interest in water recycling is growing throughout the West. There are now about 20 municipalities that use some recycled water for drinking, but this number is predicted to rise.

A significant water recycling project is being built by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, which supplies water to about half the state’s people. The infrastructure bill enacted last year by Congress contained $1 billion for water reuse projects in the West.

The proposed approach does not mandate any quick or immediate reductions in water consumption in agriculture or in cities. Instead, he wants the water board to create efficiency goals for each district; however, they wouldn’t be implemented until the following spring, if there is another dry winter. Additionally, he suggests investing $1 billion to remove 500,000 square feet of lawn.

He earlier ordered the state’s more than 400 local water agencies to carry out their own water-saving strategies, and he established a few statewide regulations like the prohibition on watering ornamental grass. He has not imposed a statewide requirement for water reduction.

Additionally, Newsom stated that he wants the Legislature to take into account a statute allowing the state to restrict people’s water rights even when there isn’t a drought. To control how much water towns, farms, and other entities are allowed to consume and from where the state maintains an antiquated system of water rights. Records that define such phrases, some dating back more than a century, are being digitized.

Only about 3% of the additional water supply that Newsom is requesting would come through desalination; the majority would come from brackish water, which is less salty than water that comes from the ocean.

His proposal doesn’t specify how much water will result from the more contentious method of desalinating ocean water, but he is requesting that state officials establish a procedure for designating such projects by 2023.

The plan said that in order to improve water resilience in California, which is becoming hotter and drier, residents must become more resourceful with the “strategic opportunity” that 840 miles of ocean coastline provide.

Instead of recommending additional funding to increase water storage, he is pushing to expedite projects that have already been suggested. For hundreds of initiatives aimed at making it simpler to replenish groundwater storage, the state has already set out $350 million.

He also pledges to advance seven water storage projects, including a postponed reservoir project, that was funded by a 2014 bond approved by voters.

While supporting the construction of additional reservoirs, water recycling, and desalination, Brian Dahle, the state senator challenging Newsom in this fall’s election, expressed concern that the governor’s proposal would really be implemented. He cited the fact that no projects had been finished using the state-passed bonds from the previous eight years.

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