California doesn’t have a water crisis because of a drought or because of climate change. The state’s water crisis is the direct result of bad regulations, poor planning, and a generation of politicians unwilling to tackle California’s issues.
By leveraging new technologies and common sense water management practices, we can provide more than enough water for all Californians.
I unveiled my plan to solve our water crisis at the California Republican Party’s spring convention. The plan offers a four-pillar solution to the problem.
First, we must reduce the water that is wasted in our state because of leaking pipes. The EPA has estimated that as mush as 16% of the water used nationwide is lost through leaking pipes. In California, more water is lost each year than is used by residents. This is absolutely unacceptable. I am proposing a seven-year plan to replace these old pipes, which could provide water for a third of California residents.
Second, we need to tap into better practices for reusing water. Countries like Singapore, Israel and Australia lead the world in water recycling. California would do well to learn from them. By putting in place “catchment” practices, we can collect rainwater that falls on buildings and freeways. This water can be pumped to recycling plants and collected for use instead of being lost as runoff. Recycled water is used for outdoor irrigation and indoor, non-potable uses. By using water more than once, we can stretch the current supply farther, providing water for millions of California families.
Third, the water supply in the state needs to be replenished. At the height of the drought, California’s water storage was severely depleted due to poor management. We need to take a hard look at the way that we manage our forests, particularly in the Sierra Nevada. Decades of fire suppression and logging restrictions have allowed the forests to become dense, with more vegetation pulling water from the ground that would otherwise flow down the mountains and into our water supply.
Additionally, we should harness the power of desalination to provide clean drinking water for Californians. Many other countries have used this technology, yet California lags far behind. There is only one desalination plant operating here. Often the cost of using desalination plants is higher than other means of water production. However, much of this cost is due to high energy costs and lengthy permitting processes. The cost of desalination plants pales in comparison to the cost of a water shortage.
Finally, we need to increase our water reserves. Droughts are part of the climate in California. They have been, and they always will be. We need to plan for them proactively, instead of merely reacting to the water crises often associated with them.
While the state has added 21 million acre-feet of storage since 1959, only 1 million acre-feet of storage has been added since 1989. More water storage must be added to keep up with the state’s growing population. If we don’t have the water today for 40 million residents, how will the state be prepared for 50 million residents as soon as 2032? There are options, which range from building new water storage reservoirs to using better technologies to forecast weather and runoff.
We should hold a statewide water summit in California next March to put this issue front and center and make real progress for Californians. I firmly believe that we cannot simply conserve, ration or fine our way into a prosperous future. While conservation and the more efficient use of water are essential, we must modernize our current water management system. We must also increase our current water supplies from a variety of sources.
My full plan can be read on my website at TomDel.com.
Tom Del Beccaro is the former Chairman of the California Republican Party and a current candidate for U.S. Senate.