California dreamin' ... of water. As the Golden State moves further into its fourth year of a historic drought, elected officials, infrastructure agencies, environmentalists, and others are struggling to come up with solutions to what many are considering "the new normal," as opposed to a particularly severe cyclical change. Here's a look at four strategies – some more realistic than others – that could keep the taps flowing.
1. Conservation On April 1, Governor Brown ordered a 25 percent reduction on the state’s 400 local water supply agencies, enacting the state's first-ever mandatory water use restrictions.
“People should realize we are in a new era,” Governor Brown said at a news conference announcing the cuts. “The idea of your nice little green lawn getting watered every day, those days are past.”
The New York Times reports, the mandate is likely to force significant changes in every corner of the Golden State, particularly in Southern California and wealthier communities which use more water to maintain lush lawns and fresh green landscaping than other, less affluent areas.
The biggest challenge will be getting the estimated 38.8 million residents to conserve. Mandatory efforts had only limited success. Many residents already have efficient appliances, and cut back on things like washing cars and long showers.
2. Infrastructure Policy Changes Water management has always been a thorny issue in the Western U.S. In California, there's been minimal water infrastructure development since the 1970s due, in part, to two pieces of environmental legislation – the federal Endangered Species Act of 1973 and the California Endangered Species Act of 1984. In 2014, voters did pass a $7.545 billion water bond too. According to the Association of California Water Agencies, Proposition 1:
... is expected to provide a significant infusion of funding for water projects and programs at a pivotal time in California water. But before bond dollars from Proposition 1 can be disbursed for actual projects, each state agency tasked with administering a competitive grant or loan process must develop and finalize guidelines for soliciting and evaluating project proposals.
While sources including The Washington Post have published articles debunking conservative claims that the environmentalists who support the legislation actually created the water shortage disaster, it is clear that the new bond money is to be used to create more water storage for water not allocated to the environment. Current estimates indicate that 50% of the states water is left to the environment, 40% is used for agriculture, and 10% for human/urban use.
3. Build a Pipeline According to this Los Angeles Times article, Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, wants to build a pipeline to the Pacific Northwest.
“I want $30 billion … to build a pipeline like the Alaska pipeline. Say, from Seattle — a place where there’s a lot of water. There’s too much water,” the “Star Trek” actor told Yahoo’s David Pogue. “How bad would it be to get a large, 4-foot four-foot pipeline, keep it above ground — because if it leaks, you’re irrigating!”
Shatner said he plans to launch a Kickstarter campaign to raise the cash.
4. Take a tip (or two) from the Israelis According to a report in Haaretz:
Until a few years ago, Israel’s wells seemed like they were always running dry. TV commercials urged Israelis to conserve water. Newspapers tracked the rise and fall of Lake Kinneret, Israel’s biggest freshwater source. Religious Israelis gathered to pray for rainfall at the Western Wall during prolonged dry spells.
However, the once perpetual Israeli water shortage appears to be mostly over.
The article lists several strategies used in Israel to make sure there's enough water, including drip irrigation, government ownership of water as a natural resource, and recycling of municipal wastewater.