Rethinking Water Use during the California Mega-Drought
California, which has just declared a "drought emergency," is just one of several states in the American Southwest to suffer from a drought that threatens large shortages and huge price increases in the coming months. Due to a reduction in rainfall and relatively high usage in the water-poor region, California's main water sources are unable to keep up with the area's demand. Beginning as a simple reduction in rainfall over a dry winter, this drought has become increasingly problematic, to the point that the state predicts that up to 17 towns and water districts could run completely out of water by mid-May. The problem is so pervasive and intractable that President Obama himself pledged an additional $183 million from existing federal funds, with promises of another $1 billion to be sought from Congress for "climate resiliency" programs.
The impact on California's residents has been profound: mandatory water conservation policies have been implemented, requiring cutbacks of as much as 30%. In addition, regional suppliers of imported water are increasing conservation rebate programs in anticipation of increased demand.
Furthermore, the price of water has increased beyond reason: farmers are paying 10x what they previously did to irrigate the same piece of land, and suburban families are in an equally tight pinch. This has lead many to call upon California's farmers to adopt water-saving or water-conserving technologies to help facilitate a more sustainable industry, and avoid similar problems in the future.
Luckily, both California's state government, and the United States Federal Government have many programs in place to aid farmers and citizens alike in adopting a more water-efficient lifestyle:
- The USDA's Farm Service Agency (FSA):
- Accelerated Disaster Assistance Program- made $100 million available on an accelerated schedule (60 days after application rather than 6-8 months)
- Emergency Loan Program- offers loans to help producers recover losses from natural disasters
- Emergency Conservation Program- provides assistance to land damaged by natural disaster
- Disaster Set-Aside Program- allows loan payments to be commuted by a period of one year
- Works to provide financial assistance for land-owners engaged in agricultural, forest production, etc. to implement approved conservation practices (i.e. irrigation efficiency, orchard pruning, grazing land protection, etc.)
- Provides rebates and incentives for water efficiency and conservation within California
- Eligible practices include: installation of high-efficiency toilets and urinals, use of irrigation controllers, rotating nozzles for sprinkler heads, and soil moisture sensor systems, installation of cooling tower pH and conductivity controllers, and use of dry vacuum pumps
4. Local Programs
- A large number of county or town-based incentive and aid programs exist to help manage water efficiency and use. Some examples can be found here
- Consult your regional resources for local programs
For California property managers, this drought will likely drive up monthly water bills exponentially. Property managers should begin focusing on measures to mitigate the harms they will face in the coming months by limiting water use. Such measures include limiting or eliminating the use of waterfalls and sprays in the pool, shutting off water to unused areas of your buildings to prevent leaks, and encouraging residents to embrace water-conscious behaviors, such as taking shorter showers. Check out Water Use it Wisely for 100+ ways to conserve water and live better during this tough time.