As droughts strain water supplies across Western states, some cities and farmers have struggled with mandatory cutbacks. Determining who gets cut is decided by the foundational pecking order of Western water: the older your claim to water, created as the country expanded westward, the better protected it is. When there’s a shortage, those with newer water rights have to cut back first, sometimes giving up their water completely before older claims lose a single drop.
Most of California exists under dueling states of emergency. Since February, storms have caused emergency-level flooding and damage in 47 of the state’s 58 counties, yet most of California only recently exited a drought emergency.
One rainy season can’t supplant years of drought, but images of flooded cities and towns — and the injuries and deaths caused by these disasters — are made more painful when we hear that our state is running out of water nevertheless. The question that water managers and state policymakers must address is how to adapt our water system to eliminate the dual states of emergency.
When physicians want to take a look at a patient’s vascular system to see things that aren’t visible to the naked eye, they often turn to MRI technology. That is what experts with the California Department of Water Resources are doing to analyze the state’s water system – specifically the underground aquifers that collect and store precipitation and other surface water.
Residents in Earlimart, California, lost water service when a 50-year-old well on Mary Ann Avenue failed in late May.
When it came back on, the main source of drinking water for more than 8,000 residents became a well contaminated with a chemical from banned pesticides. And most residents didn’t know.
The Escondido City Council met on June 3 to discuss options for rehabilitating Lake Wohlford Dam, instead of building a replacement dam, and to award contracts for the Lindley Reservoir Replacement Project.
The council heard a report on the possibility of rehabilitating the Lake Wohlford Dam, which was first constructed in 1895 as part of Escondido’s local water system, to address seismic deficiencies rather than replacing the dam altogether.
According to the report, replacing the dam would cost more than $46.4 million, an amount much greater than the 2012 preliminary cost estimate of $30 million. Furthermore, it would cost an estimated $3.5 million to offset known negative impacts to the environment.
The coronavirus pandemic is shining a spotlight on the weaknesses of social, economic and health safety nets we’ve long taken for granted, including our water system.