News Feature | June 19, 2014

California Water Utilities Square Off With Drought

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


California water utilities are trying to crack down on leaks as they face the effects of the record-breaking drought. 

The dry spell has been rough on water providers. "The prevailing sunny and dry conditions — notwithstanding a few brief storms in February and March — have forced 30 public water utilities to date in the hardest hit areas, mostly in central and northern California, to impose or prolong mandatory water conservation measures, according to the Association of California Water Agencies," GreenBiz reported

"This includes many small municipal water districts with limited supplies, such as the wine-growing communities of Cloverdale and Healdsburg in Sonoma County, where the restrictions include no daytime outdoor irrigation and no car washing except at facilities that recycle water," the report said. 

Water cuts have been ubiquitous. "Some mid-sized and large water agencies also have called for mandatory cuts. Silicon Valley’s Santa Clara Valley Water District, for example, whose territory includes tech giants such as Apple, Google, Facebook, Intel, Yahoo and others, passed mandatory measures in late February as its local reservoirs trickled toward 30 percent capacity. The water district, a wholesale supplier, is relying on the local agencies and municipal retailers it serves to implement the mandate," the report said. 

"The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power has had water restrictions in place since 2009. Among the measures is a ban on landscape irrigation four days a week. Like many water utilities around the state, LADWP gives away free items such as water-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators, and also offers rebates for conservation measures such as installing rain barrels to capture storm water and replacing water-intensive lawns with 'California-friendly' landscapes, such as succulent and cactus gardens," the report said. 

Combatting leaks is one way water utilities are trying to cope with the severe conditions. 

"Whether large or small, private or public, California’s water utilities this week are leveraging the drought to highlight" federal efforts promoting infrastructure fixes, the report said. In March, the EPA held "Fix A Leak Weak," urging ratepayers and utilities to attend to leaky infrastructure.

"We're chasing down leaks! Household leaks can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water annually nationwide, so we're hunting down the drips during Fix a Leak Week. Race over to your plumbing fixtures and irrigation systems, fix the leaks, and save valuable water and money," the agency said. 

How destructive are leaks?

"Household leaks alone can waste more than 1 trillion gallons of water a year nationwide," the report said, citing the government. 

According to a new report from the Center for Neighborhood Technology (CNT), "water utilities and water consumers – basically, all of us – are watching money go down the drain. Every single day, nearly six billion gallons of expensive, treated water is simply lost." 

Fixing infrastructure is not an overnight solution. 

"California has reported $39 billion in drinking water infrastructure needs over the next 20 years," according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. 

Image credit: "Effect of the Drought on Uvas Reservoir," © 2014 donjd2, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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