News Feature | September 14, 2016

California Island Running Out Of Water

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

catalina reg new.jpg

Residents of Catalina, an island off the coast of California, have tried a laundry list of ways to save water, but they still have not vanquished their supply challenges.

That’s why local policy officials are imposing strict new conservation standards on the island. Starting last week, the island’s utility “imposed Stage 3 rationing, requiring everyone to slash their water use by 40 percent to 50 percent,” the Los Angeles Times reported.  

“With the new restrictions, all ratepayers served by the island’s desalination plants are required to reduce usage by 40 percent, and those served solely by groundwater resources must cut back by 50 percent,” the report said.

The crackdown comes as the state, as a whole, loosens its conservation policies. In a major policy shift, California ended its sweeping, historical water restrictions earlier this year amid signs the drought might be subsiding. Analysts called the shift a positive sign for water utilities.

The policy change puts more power in the hands of local officials to respond to the conditions they see in their area. Decisions will now be based on "supply reliability considerations at the local level," according to the State Water Resources Control Board, per NPR.

For Catalina, supply challenges remain.

“With the reservoir at the seriously low 139 acre-feet level, and meteorologists predicting more drought, the time has come to cut back again,” the Times reported, citing Ron Hite, Catalina district manager for Edison.

Desalination has been the major technology solution Catalina has used to address its drought. “The new $3 million plant can pump out an additional 125,000 gallons of potable water per day. But policymakers say it is not enough,” ABC 7 reported.

Residents and businesses have attempted to cut back their consumption. The Times collected a few methods residents have tried:

  • [harvesting] the water that dribbles from air conditioner condensers and [funneling] runoff from their three-minute showers into buckets to quench flowers’ thirst;
  • contractors mix cement with water floated in by barge;
  • some of the finest restaurants in town mop floors with the water customers leave in their glasses or abandoned Evian bottles.

The efforts have not precluded the need to impose new restrictions.

"The only way to eliminate Stage 3,” Hite said, “is rain."

For similar stories visit Water Online’s Water Scarcity Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Catalina Island Day Trip," the ritters © 2008, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: