Recognizing that a reliable water supply is critical to all economies and communities relying on the drought-stricken Colorado River Basin, more than 30 water agencies and providers have committed to take additional actions to reducing water demands and helping protect the Colorado River system.
Running out of time and options to save water along the drying Colorado River, federal officials said they’re considering whether to release less water from the country’s two largest reservoirs downstream to Arizona, California and Nevada. Without enough snow this winter, the water level at Lake Powell — the country’s second-largest reservoir — will drop below a critical level by next November, according to a new report from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation.
Drought has engulfed large swaths of the country, threatening parts of the nation’s food and power supply. And it’s getting worse.
More than 80 percent of the continental U.S. is experiencing unusually dry conditions or full-on drought, which is the largest proportion since the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration began tracking 20 years ago.
Reports of low water levels at a few big hydropower plants in the West over the last few years have made it seem like hydropower is becoming less reliable. Last summer, officials in California were forced to shut down the Edward Hyatt Powerplant when water levels in Lake Oroville, the reservoir that feeds the plant, dropped below the intake pipes that send water into its turbines.
Fall is the perfect time to yank those thirsty lawns and install drought-tolerant landscapes with the help of cooler days and major financial incentives.
Homeowners and businesses in San Diego County can receive between $2 and $4 per square foot for removing grass and replacing it with low water-use plants that are better suited to withstand the hot and dry conditions that continue to hammer the West.
Rebates to remove lawns available; tax incentives
In addition, a newly signed state law exempts local rebates for grass replacement from state income tax, ensuring more dollars can be spent creating beautiful and functional WaterSmart yards.
“Drought conditions make it imperative to boost water conservation in San Diego County and across the state,” said Sandra L. Kerl, general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority. “Using California tax incentives and regional rebates to install WaterSmart landscapes is a clear winner for stretching water supplies both today and for generations to come.”
San Diego County residents can take advantage of savings on water-saving technologies such as high-efficiency clothes washers & toilets, rain barrels — and can schedule free #WaterSmart checkups to make their properties more water-efficient.https://t.co/yFi2DgXixS
— San Diego County Water Authority (@sdcwa) October 16, 2022
Low water-use plants
California is entering a fourth straight year of drought, which climatologists say is one of the worst in state history. To make matters worse, a 22-year “megadrought” has impacted the Colorado River, which is the state’s other key source of California water supply. The impacts of a hotter, drier climate make replacing turfgrass with low water-use plants a key part of conserving our most precious natural resource.
For the past 30 years, the Water Authority and its member agencies have promoted water-use efficiency through a variety of tools such as rebates, classes, and other resources available across their service areas. Overall per capita water use in the county is down more than 40% since 1990, and the vast majority of county residents believe that water-use efficiency is a civic duty.
Help conserve water by transforming your outdoor spaces into a WaterSmart Landscape. @sdcwa offers free do-it-yourself workshops taught local landscape design professionals. You can now watch recordings of past workshops too! https://t.co/4U0zuAc7gO pic.twitter.com/jrnELsKNsk
— San Diego County Sustainability (@SDCoSustainable) October 16, 2022
Landscaping upgrades are particularly important because more than half of all residential water use is outdoors. Rebates and incentives available to residents and businesses in San Diego County are at: www.sdcwa.org/your-water/conservation/.
Information on rebates and other incentives for residents and businesses to reduce water use and increase water-efficiency: https://t.co/1LnJNWpVAo @bewaterwiseh2o @saveourwater @CityofSanDiego @SanDiegoCounty
— San Diego County Water Authority (@sdcwa) October 16, 2022
(Editor’s Note: The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $240 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility. A public agency created in 1944, the Water Authority delivers wholesale water supplies to 24 retail water providers, including cities, special districts and a military base.)
Two of the biggest reservoirs in the Colorado River Basin, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, have lost 50% of capacity within the past five years.
And, it’s only getting worse.
Now, the Interior Department is proposing more solutions to help the dwindling river.
California regulators this week approved a $140 million desalination plant that could convert up to 5 million gallons of seawater each day into drinking water, as the state grapples with a persistent megadrought and plummeting water supplies.
The state’s Coastal Commission on Thursday voted 11-0 to approve the Doheny Ocean Desalination Project in Orange County in Southern California. The plant could be functioning within the next five years and supply water for thousands of people in the South Coast Water District.
The National Weather Service in Seattle posted a graphic this week that contains a startling fact. Since July 1, Seattle, a city synonymous with rain, has been drier than San Diego, a city synonymous with clear, dry skies.
From July 1 to Oct. 9, San Diego recorded 0.65 inches of rain. Seattle, 1,250 miles to the north, had only 0.48 inches.
Collaboration among all water users is key to developing solutions for the Colorado River Basin, which is in the midst of a 22-year megadrought. That was one of the common themes during a webinar Thursday, in which water managers and other officials discussed ways to slow or stabilize the rate of decline of the major source of water for seven states and Mexico.
Almost two months ago, the seven Colorado River Basin states blew past a federal deadline to negotiate significant cuts to their water usage.
There’s finally some concrete action. Water managers in California, which uses more Colorado River water than any other state, have agreed to reduce their usage by one-tenth in 2023.