The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
4 Reasons Why El Nino Won't Solve California's Epic Drought
El Nino will solve the drought.
You’re hearing this sentiment around California these days. After four years of bone-dry winters, warmer Pacific Ocean waters are expected to bring lots of precipitation to California this winter—a huge opportunity for replenishing California’s depleted reservoirs and aquifers.
But it’s wishful thinking to believe that El Nino—even a Godzilla El Nino as many talk about and skiers dream about—will make the state’s dire water shortages go away.
For starters, warm arid conditions that California has been experiencing the past few years are widely believed to be the “new normal”—the result of the state’s intrinsically dry climate and climate changing trends.
On the heels of the hottest month on record globally in July, new research released last month makes clear that global warming impacts in California are exacerbating drought conditions. It’s basic logic: less snow pack means reduced water supplies and hotter temperatures mean more water is lost due to evaporation.
But there’s another reason why El Nino and any subsequent heavy rain years won’t fix California’s water crisis: We don’t maximize the water we already have. Whenever it rains in California, much of that water is funneled directly into the Pacific Ocean rather than being captured and used. The amount of water being lost is staggering—a one-inch rain event in Los Angeles County can generate more than 10 billion gallons of stormwater runoff, most of which ends up in the ocean. That’s enough water to fill the Rose Bowl over 100 times!
Also, large volumes of treated water are dumped out to sea. For instance the Hyperion Treatment Plant in Los Angeles discharges more than 250 million gallons of wastewater each day into the Pacific Ocean. Instead, this water could be additionally treated and reused.
There have been some successful projects to reverse this trend, but far bigger investments are needed in stormwater capture, recycling and other types of green water infrastructure. While the state’s recent $7.5 billion water bond will help finance some of these types of projects, it’s not nearly enough.
Water lost from leaks in water distribution systems is another significant problem. A 2010 study done by the CA Public Utilities Commission estimated that 10 percent of urban water—870,000 acre-feet—is lost to leaks and that 40 percent of that water could be cost-effectively recovered through leak repairs, pressure management and targeted pipe replacement.
Fortunately, legislation approved just this week by lawmakers in Sacramento will help tackle this problem. SB 555—a bill backed by a half-dozen major California businesses, including The Gap, Dignity Heath and Symantec—established annual requirements for the filing of water loss audit reports by urban water suppliers. These validated audit reports will provide useful and actionable information for individual water suppliers and policymakers as they decide on water-saving investments in the future.
Ceres’ new California water campaign—Connect the Drops—is elevating business voices on the urgency of better maximizing the water that we already have. We work with businesses, which like all Californians, are banking their futures on sustainable water supplies in California. Because, unfortunately, El Nino will not be the silver bullet fix for California.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Elizabeth Pratt
- Hormel, Kellogg's, and Kroger are among the large companies now planning to offer "fake meat" products at grocery stores.
- Experts say the trend toward plant-based meats coincides with consumers' desires to eat less meat.
- However, experts urge consumers to closely check package labels as a product isn't necessarily healthy just because it's described as plant-based.
In grocery stores and fast-food outlets around the U.S., a revolution is taking place.
Many of us think of the Amazon as an untouched wilderness, but people have been thriving in these diverse environments for millennia. Due to this long history, the knowledge that Indigenous and forest communities pass between generations about plants, animals and forest ecology is incredibly rich and detailed and easily dwarfs that of any expert.
By Wesley Rahn
Plastic byproducts were found in 97 percent of blood and urine samples from 2,500 children tested between 2014 and 2017, according to a study by the German Environment Ministry and the Robert Koch Institute.
Medically reviewed by Daniel Bubnis, MS, NASM-CPT, NASE Level II-CSS
Hot yoga has become a popular exercise in recent years. It offers many of the same benefits as traditional yoga, such as stress reduction, improved strength, and flexibility.