Political Picture | Spring 2015
Water is beginning to replace oil as the commodity of greatest concern to California citizens. This year promised to bring some much needed relief to our water reservoirs.
However the El Nino conditions we anticipated didn’t bring forth the expected precipitation. In a dramatic show of just how bad the snowfall has been, Governor Jerry Brown conducted a press conference earlier this month in a field of brown and green grass that is normally covered by five feet of snow. Since current technology cannot produce rainfall, we are left with a few less desirable options.
The city of Goleta has been dealing with water shortages since I was a kid. Many years ago the city decided to restrict new development by not providing a water connection. You could build a home on your property, but you needed to drill your own well to supply your home with water. Of course with the number of people currently in the state, this solution is a drop in the bucket.
Some cruise ships use desalination to produce drinking water. After all, the ocean water is plentiful so why not take the salt out and use it. Currently the cost for this technology is prohibitive. The raw energy needed for this osmosis process also makes this option less eco -friendly than other options. However, the drought conditions are so severe this year that Santa Barbara is spending $40 million to modernize and reactivate the desalination plant that it shut down in 1992. If conditions worsen, other cities may follow suit.
Conservation efforts began last year in an effort to stave off the crisis. However, with water levels declining further, the governor earlier this month ordered mandatory restrictions to impose a 25% reduction in water use. The specifics of this mandatory conservation effort will be left to the water agencies themselves. The restrictions will likely include car wash and sprinkler use restrictions.
As you can tell, there are no easy solutions to this problem. Perhaps we will get two or three years of healthy rainfall to help us out. The prudent move, however, is to deal with the problem now. Let’s hope water consumers, producers and our state politicians have the courage to do so.