After three weeks of continuous rain, which brought flooding and disaster declarations to California, is finally a dry forecast. While the rain filled the state’s reservoirs and restored groundwater, droughts will continue to threaten Californians.
The problems caused by droughts in California have been detrimental in recent years, being the driest three-year period in state history.
Barring the weather conditions of early January, droughts will continue to be a problem that California will have to deal with for the rest of 2023. The accumulated water after the rain is not enough to put the state out of danger.
For example, residents of the San Joaquin Valley rely on groundwater basins for their primary water supply. As thousands of wells have gone dry, they become difficult to replenish, and it would take several years of rain like the state recently experienced to make a difference.
California gets its water through importation, groundwater, and rivers. However, as droughts continue to ravage the state, there are problems with these sources.
The importation of water from distant sources is carried out frequently. The two main locations are the Sierra Nevada and the Colorado River, but even these sources are threatened as the Colorado River has suffered a prolonged drought since 2000.
Meanwhile, groundwater management regulations make pumping groundwater impractical. The rivers into which spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada goes will have to conserve most of their water to support fish populations.
And those inefficiencies leave the state with few options for a long-term sustainable water supply. California cities were previously designed to channel water through rivers and streams back into the ocean, making most stormwater inaccessible unless captured by a reservoir.
But now that the state needs all the water it can get, the water that runs off into the ocean is a valuable resource that must be stored and used as a water supply.
Stormwater capture is cost effective and will allow California to use a previously untouched water source. However, the problem is that the current infrastructure has not been able to withstand the excess water that fell in the first days of 2023.
Costing just $600 to $1,800 per acre-foot, depending on treatmentrainwater capture is much more profitable than $2,200 per acre-foot charged by the Bay Area Water and Conservation Agency.
The biggest concern when it comes to stormwater is the pollutants it collects as it runs down the roads. For that reason, an investment in water treatment would be necessary, but this is an essential and relatively manageable step to guard against droughts across the state.
In addition, it is necessary to maintain the stored water by redesigning waterways in cities to prevent it from flowing back into rivers and oceans.
Avoiding stormwater from rainy seasons like early January would be essential to the survival of many California communities as they continue to battle drought.
While San Francisco’s water supply is replenished, other regions, such as the San Joaquin Valley, still face the harsh reality of water shortages every day. The state is in the midst of one of its worst droughts in recorded history, a reality that is very much in the eyes of the beholder as of this moment.