Community Voices: Storms highlight need for more effective water storage | Community Voices

Community Voices: Storms highlight need for more effective water storage | Community Voices

Since January 1, as the Sacramento, American and San Joaquin rivers have raged with the blessing of numerous drought-mitigating stormwater rivers, those who rely on the California State Water Project and the Central Valley Project as their primary water source have seen with hopeful anticipation as more than 2 million acre feet of precious water entered the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

That forecast, heightened by the recent suffering of the last three years of extreme drought, has been replaced by questions about why the state’s water projects are not maximizing exports from the delta to move this water to storage in the Central Valley and Southern California. future use. Once again, the ability to export water to storage is limited due to regulation.

Since Jan. 1, the State Water Project has maximized exports to the extent that regulatory limits can yield, but has missed the opportunity to capture an additional 200,000 acre feet of water. 200,000 acre-feet is roughly equivalent to a 5 percent allocation of the State Water Project. This is equal to the total amount of water that the State Water Project provided to its contractors last year alone.

California is no stranger to droughts and water shortages, but recent storms have highlighted the need for more effective water conservation in the state. With climate change resulting in more extreme weather events, California must prioritize water conservation by making additional investments in water storage facilities and modernizing our state’s water transportation systems to be able to opportunely capture this precious water when it is available. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s water plan, which includes the “gulp and gulp” policy, serves as a model for how to effectively manage California’s water resources.

One of the main issues with California’s current water storage infrastructure is that it is not designed to handle the current weather extremes we are experiencing. State reservoirs, as they were designed in the first half of the 20th century, were designed to provide flood protection (flood mitigation) and water storage. However, with extreme weather events such as we are currently experiencing, many of the state’s reservoirs must release water to create reservoir space to provide flood protection, thereby losing stored water.

By modernizing our water transportation facilities and building more strategic water storage infrastructure, such as underground aquifer water storage facilities and expanded reservoirs, California can capture water released from surface water reservoirs when it creates space for flood protection and store more water that falls during storms for use during drought.

Given our current climate reality, it is extremely important not to miss any opportunity to capture and conserve water when it becomes available. This means that our regulatory framework, which controls the movement of water, must also be modernized to reflect current scientific and technical capabilities, including “real-time” monitoring rather than relying on water-carrying limits based on on the calendar. This would allow for more efficient use of the state’s water resources and ensure that California is better prepared for droughts and water shortages.

We cannot miss these rare opportunities to capture water for our future.

Dean Florez retired from the California State Senate and is a member of the California Air Resources Board.

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