As California experiences a historic drought amplified by global warming, Governor Gavin Newsom on Thursday released a new plan to adapt to the state’s hotter, drier future by capturing and storing more water. , recycling more wastewater and desalinating seawater and salty groundwater.
The governor’s new water supply strategy, detailed in a 16-page document, lays out a series of actions to prepare the state for an estimated 10% cut in California’s water supply by 2040 due to rising temperatures and decreasing runoff. The plan focuses on accelerating infrastructure projects, strengthening conservation and modernizing the state’s water supply system to adapt to the increasing pace of climate change, ensuring enough water for approximately 8.4 million households.
“The hots are getting a lot hotter. The dry ones get a lot drier,” Newsom said. “We have to adapt to this new reality and we have to change our approach.”
Newsom called it “an aggressive plan to rebuild how we source, store and deliver water so our children and grandchildren can continue to live in California in this hotter, drier climate.”
Newsom spoke of the plan in Antioch, where a desalination plant is being built to treat brackish water.
Newsom also announced the appointment of his gubernatorial rival and former Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, as his new infrastructure czar.
The state’s plan calls for increasing water storage capacity above and below ground by 4 million acre-feet; increase average groundwater recharge by 500,000 acre-feet; accelerate wastewater recycling projects; construction projects to capture more runoff during storms and the desalination of seawater and salty groundwater.
The projected 10% loss of the state’s water supply within two decades translates to a loss of 6 to 9 million acre-feet per year on average – more than the volume of Lake Shasta, the largest reservoir in the state, which holds 4.5 million acre-feet.
The state plan refers to how warmer temperatures triggered by rising levels of greenhouse gases are leading to what many scientists describe as aridification. A warmer climate makes the atmosphere “thirstier,” drawing more moisture from the landscape through evaporation and increasing the amount taken up by plants, leaving less runoff to flow into streams and rivers.
“Regardless of drought or flooding, in this altered climate there will be less water available to people,” the state plan says. “To keep pace with climate change, California needs to act smarter and faster to update our water systems. Updating our water supply systems will help replenish the water that California will lose due to warmer and drier weather.
The extreme drought and high temperatures during the 2012-16 drought, followed closely by the current drought since 2020, “send a strong climate signal that we must heed,” the plan says. He says these more extreme conditions make it clear that California should “double down” on a set of actions to bolster the state’s water supply “with haste.”
State officials said execution of the strategy, which builds on the governor’s water resilience portfolio released in 2020, will require coordination with local and federal agencies and tribes.
“The best science tells us that we need to act now to adapt to California’s water future. Climate change means drought will not last just two years at a time as it has historically,” Newsom said in a statement. “Extreme weather is a permanent feature here in the American West and California will adapt to this new reality.”
The plan includes goals and timelines, such as expanding brackish groundwater desalination to 84,000 acre-feet by 2040 and increasing the state’s capacity to capture stormwater by 500,000 acres. -feet by 2040. For comparison, Los Angeles’ total annual water consumption is nearly 500,000 acre-feet.
Among other things, the state plan calls for the creation of a groundwater recharge coordinating committee to help implement projects that will capture water and replenish aquifers.
To offset increased evaporation and reduced supplies caused by climate change, the plan states that “California must capture, recycle, desalinate and conserve more water.” It says the new set of priorities “will use water that would otherwise be unusable, expand supplies efficiently, and expand our ability to store water from large storms for dry spells.”
The plan says this approach is designed for a “climate prone to weather whipping.”