Is 2013 the Year of Water in California?

150 150 Ed Coghlan

California aqueduct (Photo Credit: Marianne Muegenburg Cothern)

The headline is a little misleading. Every year is the “year” for California water. It is a chronic issue in the state. Thus far this winter, the news so far is good.

The early winter storms have been wet, which has state managers optimistic about the California water supply. Maury Roos, chief hydrologist at the California Department of Water Resources said, “It looks very good. We know we’ve got at least a partial supply already in the bank, either in reservoir storage or in snowpack. However, it still depends on the remainder of the season, and about two-thirds of the wet season is still left.” 

Lake Oroville and Shasta Lake are two big and important sources of water in California. Both are above normal thus far this year.

As we look forward to 2013, expect that the state’s water infrastructure again comes up for major discussion. Governor Brown, who has called water one of California’s four chronic issues, has promised to address the issue. He was distracted in the last half of the year, getting his Proposition 30 passed. Now he has to figure out how to convince wary Californians how to invest in water infrastructure. The LA Times’ George Skelton, for one, thinks the Governor needs to put a meat cleaver to the water bond and whack some of the fat (aka “political pork”) out of it before sending it to the voters.

Some facts about California water:

About 75 percent of California’s water is found north of Sacramento while 80 percent of it is used in the southern two-thirds of the state. By definition, we have to learn to move it better.

But we also have to figure out a better way to store it. During a wet year, like this one promises to be, we will lose 43 million acre feet that will flow out the Golden Gate into the Pacific Ocean. When you consider each acre foot represents 325,851 gallons of water, provided you can do the math, you see the problem.

We simply need to become better stewards of our water. The California Economic Summit has identified the water issue as one of seven signature initiatives to improve job creation and the California economy. We invite you to read those recommendations.

By the way, do you have any idea how much water you use?

The Pacific Institute issued this report (PDF) late last year that said the average Californian consumes about 140 gallons of water a day through drinking, showering, irrigating etc, but that our total water footprint is about 1500 gallons per day. That’s the total amount of water used to produce everything that we use, eat, drive etc. It’s an interesting read.

What’s your water resolution for 2013?


Ed Coghlan

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