Some things to know about California’s water crisis

Some things to know about California’s water crisis
Date Published: April 13, 2015
Kristi Meyer

First I’d like to make a correction regarding my column last week about Andrea Henke, the Couponing Queen. Her correct email is diamond if you would like to contact Andrea to learn more on how you can save bundles of money couponing please email her or contact me. She would love to hear from you!
So, back to my favorite topic and hopefully yours … water conservation. Last week, our governor announced the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions, in an effort to cope with four (evident) years of the worst drought in the state’s history.
The restrictions require Californians to cut their water use by 25 percent. This looks like the beginning of how we as Californians use water now and in the future.
Due to a lack of winter storms and record high temperatures this past winter, snowpack in California is at an all-time low. This is the fourth consecutive year that the snowpack has been below normal. The state’s hydro-power supply is also threatened when snowpack is scarce.
Not only does California rely heavily on snowpack, a lot of the Western States do as well. Winter snowpack in Oregon and parts of Washington was far below normal this year as well. The Colorado River Basin, which supplies water to Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and San Diego, has also been in a drought for more than a decade, and the river basin’s aquifers have been declining too.
While the 25 percent water use restrictions announced last week are intended to help reduce demand, most of the water in California is used for farming, which was largely not included in Brown’s announcement on restrictions. California’s farms produce and export fruits and vegetables, hay for livestock, meat and dairy products. Surface water for farms is allocated from state and federal water projects.
Farmers may hear of water supply restrictions soon, however, farmers have been drilling groundwater to compensate for surface supply shortages. Last week’s rules require only that agricultural operations improve their reporting of water use to the state.
When surface water supplies are low, we turn to aquifers, or groundwater in which we will drill to make up the shortfall. A large aquifer under the Central Valley is being rapidly depleted to make up for shortfalls in surface water supply. A 2011 study indicated that the Central Valley Aquifer is losing an amount of water each year equivalent to the nearly 29 million acre-feet of water found in Lake Mead, the nation’s largest surface reservoir on the Colorado River. (An acre-foot is one acre of ground covered one foot deep in water.)
California for the first time last year passed
legislation regulating groundwater use, but those restrictions will not come into effect for years.
When California faced a major drought in the late 1970s, fewer than 20 million people lived in the state. Now nearly 40 million live there. While Californians have drastically improved the efficiency of their water use in recent years, if rain and snow do not arrive later this year, the supply of groundwater — much of which
is non-renewable — will continue to decline as it is used to make up for surface shortages.
So the bottom line is we all need to pitch in. We all need to respect the fact that we have no control over when wet weather will come or for how long it will stay. If you see someone wasting water, say something! Teach your kids the value of water and remember to set a good example by conserving water yourself.

Kristi Meyer is a Realtor with Granite Real Estate, located in Downtown Auburn.
For questions, comments or tips, contact Meyer at