October 22, 2014

Meeting water needs through savings, not tunnels

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There are better ways to address California’s water challenges through regional solutions to improve water security–improving water independence, creating jobs, and reducing environmental impacts.

  • Residential water-efficient technologies. Landscaping uses roughly half of residential water. Replacing thirsty lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping, installing smart irrigation technology, using rainwater and graywater, and promoting aggressive rebate programs for efficient appliances could reduce urban water use by 30%.
  • Maintenance of existing infrastructure. About 10% of urban water is lost through leaks in aging distribution infrastructure, wasting energy and precious water. Let’s fix the leaks.
  • Water meters for all households. California should accelerate the timeline for every home and business to have a dedicated water meter. Cities currently have until 2025 to complete this process.
  • Detailed usage reports for consumers. In one portion of an East Bay pilot study, home usage reports led to a 6.6% reduction in water use.
  • Water recycling. Recycling of municipal wastewater could be expanded to save up to 2.3 million acre-feet annually, according to the Department of Water Resources.
  • Improved agricultural water efficiency. Agriculture uses 75 – 80% of California’s water. Agricultural conservation strategies—including weather-based irrigation controllers, drip irrigation, and climate-appropriate crop selection—could yield over 3.4 million acre-feet in water savings.
  • Sustainable groundwater management. California is one of the few states in the nation that does not regulate groundwater. As a result we’re experiencing unsustainable levels of overdraft (removing too much groundwater), damage to aquifer (underground) storage capacity, and dramatic land subsidence.
  • Water-neutral development. SB610 and SB221 require proof of available water supply for new development projects. These laws should be strengthened to more effectively prevent unsustainable growth.

Such measures could reduce statewide water demand by 9.7 million acre feet/year. That’s more water than is exported from the Delta even in rainy years.

The tunnels are a risky and expensive proposition.

The tunnels would provide a false sense of water security and encourage unsustainable use of water in cities and farms across the state.

This project would burden Californians with an enormous financial commitment without guaranteeing any additional water for agriculture or urban areas. In dry years like 2014, which scientists predict may become the norm due to our changing climate, there may not be enough water to move through the tunnels.

If we gamble $67 billion on building the giant tunnels, there will not be enough money to invest in local solutions that would improve water security throughout the state and create local jobs through investment in smaller infrastructure projects.

WhatYouCanDo

Write to the Governor at:

State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 95814
http://govnews.ca.gov/gov39mail/mail.php

Ask him to continue focusing on developing regional resilience to drought and to drop his proposal for Delta-damaging tunnels.

For more information, go to http://california2.sierraclub.org/issues/waterandwetlands/baydeltaprotection#.UyLFaq6veRk

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