News Feature | December 5, 2022
Federal Water Managers Warn Californians To Prepare For ‘Extremely Limited’ Supply
By Peter Chawaga
In a definitive sign that ongoing drought in the American West is only poised to grow for the foreseeable future, federal officials have issued new warnings around California’s future drinking water consumption.
“Federal water managers … warned California cities and industrial users … to prepare for a fourth year of drought and possibly ‘extremely limited water supply’ during 2023,” CNBC reported. “The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, an agency of the Interior Department that oversees water resource management, said drought conditions in California have persisted … and warned of looming conservation actions.”
The reclamation bureau pointed out that its California water storage is approaching its lowest levels in history, jeopardizing supplies for millions of acres of farmland, major urban centers, and about 2.5 million consumers per year. It expects to provide more details about water allocations in the region in February, but it’s clear that conservation measures are likely.
As the epicenter of a megadrought that has impacted nearly all of the Southwest, California has already been forced to take unprecedented measures to protect its drinking water. The state has forced agricultural cutbacks and is poised to reduce its consumption of Colorado River water in the near future.
But even these reduction measures have not been enough to protect the state’s environment and rural consumers from the existential threats posed by water scarcity.
“Drought, human-caused climate change, invasive species and a ‘legacy’ of environmental issues are permanently altering California’s landscape and placing some communities and ecosystems at increasing risk,” according to the Los Angeles Times. “Also, rural communities, many of whom are lower income and rely on privately owned wells, are disproportionately contending with water contamination and scarcity amid recurring cycles of drought.”
As California’s source water struggles grow into the next year, many argue that additional conservation actions may not be enough. Forthcoming policies should also take into consideration the state’s most vulnerable environments and residents.
“For ecosystems, integrating them into water policies, identifying ecological oases and managing groundwater to ensure species have access to it during droughts will be critical,” per the Times. “As for rural communities, (UC Davis Professor Jay) Lund suggested we look at how and why urban and agricultural spaces have responded more effectively to drought: Their missions are focused; they have reliable funding sources; they have organized authority and expertise; and they have accountability via voters, regulators and ratepayers.”
To read more about how states across the U.S. are adapting to drought conditions, visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.