Jan 17 2014
It isn’t the sky that’s falling, it is the State of California’s reservoirs. What if this is just the beginning of a ten year drought. Does anyone have any idea what the socio-economic consequences could be? The following was quoted from the San Diego Metro Daily Business Report. Other than saving water, do any of the water policy makers have any plans to keep California, especially Southern California, from going dry?
Governor Declares Drought State of Emergency
With California facing water shortfalls in the driest year in recorded state history, Gov. Jerry Brown today proclaimed a state of emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions to prepare for these drought conditions. “We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” said Brown. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”
In the State of Emergency declaration, Brown directed state officials to assist farmers and communities that are economically impacted by dry conditions and to ensure the state can respond if Californians face drinking water shortages. The governor also directed state agencies to use less water and hire more firefighters and initiated a greatly expanded water conservation public awareness campaign.
The proclamation gives state water officials more flexibility to manage supply throughout California under drought conditions.
State water officials say that California’s river and reservoirs are below their record lows. Manual and electronic readings record the snowpack’s statewide water content at about 20 percent of normal average for this time of year.
“Water officials have more flexibility to manage supply throughout California”. Do you know what that means for San Diego County? Bluntly, it means Los Angeles gets the water. That is what the contract between MWD and SDCWA says.
In my book, Water Shock, The day Southern California Went Dry, I discuss the outward migration that will occur, particularly if there is any interruption in the diminishing supply from the Colorado River and/or The State Water Project. San Diego needs upward of 400,000 acre-feet annually to survive. The Carlsbad desalination plant can only provide 8-10 percent of that need.
It is not too late for water policy makers to begin the painful process of letting the consuming public know the price of their water is going up dramatically to pay for the infrastructure to make San Diego water independent. We are already three years late.
I am reminded of a North Dakota farmer (in the Northern US, Minnesotans and North Dakotans take turns using one another in farmer stories) who, when reminded there was a giant hole in the roof of his house said, “No problem, t’aint rainin’”
In gross numbers, since I haven’t seen any reliable numbers coming from the water policy makers, it could take five billion dollars to get San Diego a system that would produce one hundred million gallons per day of potable water. In ten years, the cost would be 500,000 million dollars per year. If the current price of water was doubled for all agri-business and residential users, the funds would be available to build the required infrastructure which is an indirect potable recycling facility taking San Diego Sewage, treating it and dumping it into San Vicente to begin the process all over again. The water we get from the State Water Project and the Colorado River has been through many kidneys. It is not clean. It is dirty and has to be treated to be made into potable, or drinkable water.
As the saying goes, “Whilst we deliberate, it becomes too late.” And no, the sky isn’t falling, it is the level of the State’s reservoirs that are falling.
Milton N. Burgess, P. E., FASPE
Author of “Water Shock, The Day Southern California Went Dry”