California Could Cut Water Use by Over 30%

California Could Cut Water Use by Over 30%

A new study from the Pacific Institute finds that the state of California could cut its water use by over 30% in cities and suburbs through smart water management. The biggest potential for water savings, the study reports, is in Southern California. This is because the region houses over half of the state’s population, abundance of outdoor landscaping, experiences higher heat than the Bay Area, and creates a lot of wastewater. By reusing treated wastewater, and collecting runoff from rain, Southern Californian households could reduce water use indoors and outdoors.

Heather Cooley, the Pacific Institute’s research director, told the LA Times that these efforts would result in millions of Californians seeing “short-term drought relief and longer-term improvements in the reliability of their water supplies.”

Pacific Institute: Briefing: The Untapped Potential of California's Urban Water Supply, March 30, 2022.

VICE: 40 Million People Rely on the Colorado River, and Now It's Drying Up, August 14, 2021.

Why This Matters

The West is suffering a historic drought, and water sources are depleting rapidly. After the Sierra Nevada range experienced its driest January, February, and March for over a century, the Sierra snowpack, which provides a third of California’s water supply, is only at 38% of its annual average statewide. The situation is growing so dire that some studies show that the snowpack could disappear within 25 years should global warming continue. It’s not just California -- the past 22 years of megadrought have forced many parts of the Western US, as well as Central and South America to make contingency plans.

PBS: Western states face a bleak future amid the worst drought in more than 1,000 years, February 15, 2022.

CBS: Western drought likely to get worse and expand, climate researchers says, March 26, 2022.

CBS: What the megadrought means to the American West, July 18, 2021.

How To Save Water?

Different drought-affected states and nations are taking different approaches to save water. Arizona Governor Doug Ducey is attempting an ambitious water security plan, aiming to spend $1.16 billion over the next three years to make the state more drought-resilient. Most notably, this plan includes constructing desalination plants in Mexico, which would remove salt from seawater to make it potable.

Chile has planned to ration water for its capital, Santiago. The nation’s water availability has dropped by 10% (to 37%) over the last 30 years and could drop another 50% in northern and central Chile by 2060.

Though the recent study recommends more sweeping water-saving measures, California is currently responding to its dry conditions with new water cuts. Water agencies serving 27 million people and 750,000 acres of farmland will get only 5% of what they've requested this year, down from the 15% allocation state officials promised in January.

Pacific Institute: Briefing | The Untapped Potential of California's Urban Water Supply, April 13, 2022.

CBS: California Falls Behind Water Conservation Goal, March 16, 2022.

WW0: Newsmaker of the Week - Jacob Morrison, director of River's End, October 28, 2021.

ILTV Israel News: How Israel recycles roughly 90% of its wastewater, March 23, 2021.