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The state of California in the United States is currently facing a massive water shortage issue. Officials are concerned about the water supply throughout the summer, for they fear the water will not be enough for the state’s residents. Southern Californians will have to brace themselves for unprecedented water restrictions. Residents and industries can only solve the issue of California’s water shortage if they are willing to cut back on their water usage. The California water shortage is a recurring issue; the state is no stranger to water problems.
California has faced several prolonged droughts, such as the recent five-year-long drought between 2012 to 2016. Almost 75 percent of available surface water originates in the northern third of California (north of Sacramento). And 80 percent of water demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of California.
The state’s groundwater supply increases from 40 percent to 60 percent or more during the summer season. The water demand is the highest during the dry summer months with less precipitation and snowmelt.
According to the state’s top natural resources officer, the California water shortage emergency clearly shows the climate crisis in action. Scientists believe that the West’s current drought is the worst in at least 1,200 years, and human-induced climate change has made the drought 72 percent worse.
For the past couple of years, climatic conditions in the West witnessed prolonged droughts with fleeting bursts of wintertime precipitation which was never enough to overcome the region’s severe water shortage.
California generally experiences snow build-up in the Sierra Nevada throughout the winter. It stores precious water that eventually melts through the spring and early summer and refills reservoirs. According to the Department of Water Resources, snowmelt would provide 30 percent of the state’s water during a typical year. However, by April 2022, California’s snowpack was only 4 percent of normal. By May, there was no snow at all.
Climate change is clearly visible in California and across the entire American West. It is accelerating in alarming ways and faster than experts predicted even 10 or 20 years ago. This means that the country needs to move rapidly as governments, as water agencies, and as communities to save water.
As the state braces itself for another dry summer period in 2022, state officials in April announced that they were cutting down water allocations from 15 percent to 5 percent. Metropolitan, one of the largest water suppliers across the United States, is the system’s biggest contractor- and the water usage reductions were sharply felt.
Water demand generally increases over the summer months when days get excessively dry and hot. However, in 2022, southern Californians residing in districts supplied by the State Water Project will have significantly less water to work with. Metropolitan has restricted outdoor watering to only one day a week and is limiting users to around 80 gallons of water per person per day. This results in a 36 percent drop from the 125 gallons of water the average southern Californian generally uses.
The state’s residents have experienced and found their way out of droughts before. The implementations and approaches adopted by the state in previous years helped prepare them for limited water use. According to Heather Cooley, director of research at the Pacific Institute, no one knows how long the drought will go on, so every drop of water we save today will benefit us later.
Nearly half of California’s urban water use is used for outdoor purposes. Around 80 percent of water is used for landscaping in some parts of the state. Agriculture claims the most significant share of the state’s water supply; however, the state is still trying to reduce urban and residential water use. Experts demand more substantial water reductions as climate change rapidly unfolds in California.
Global warming is intensifying droughts and other natural disasters in California. Less snowfall and rapid melting reduce the runoff from what’s essentially the state’s water-saving account. According to the California Water Board, the expected runoff through April and July is forecast at just 41 percent of average. Rising temperature and heat waves bake moisture from the ground, spreading evaporation and stressing plants, animals, and agricultural systems that require more water to manage.
According to a study from the Pacific Institute, statewide water use in towns and suburbs can reduce by more than 30 percent with more effective systems. The study found opportunities to more than triple municipal water reuse and the potential for stormwater recapture.
Metropolitan is looking for ways to strengthen its water supply, explore various improvements to existing infrastructure, and invest in new sources such as recycled water. Desalination is also under consideration; however, it is a more controversial approach with the potential for negative ecological impacts.
For now, conservation is the best action. The state’s residents did a tremendous job in terms of reducing their gallons per capita per day- primarily reduced indoor water use. There are still several opportunities to reduce outdoor water use and options to navigate drought events, even as they intensify. Residents and policymakers can overcome the California water shortage issue by collaborating and utilizing renewable water sources.