The East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) recently relaxed drought restrictions, citing 93% reservoir capacity and 26% reductions in consumer use. Although the rainy season this year was a welcome relief, the drought may not be over yet.
Paleoclimatology research (the study of long term climate patterns) indicates that California regularly experiences multi-year droughts, some lasting up to decades or even a century. According to some researchers like Dr. Lynn Ingram at UC Berkeley, the past 100 years have given wetter-than-average rainfall. During that time, California built a complex water infrastructure supporting many cities and farms. The historical pattern indicates that California may be headed into an extended period of drier-than-average rainfall. This, along with the predicted decrease in rainfall in California due to climate change, points to even less water in years to come.
In order to continue living in the arid West, we must alter our water infrastructure to adapt to long-term drought and extreme weather patterns associated with climate change. These adjustments could include:
- common sense irrigation restrictions (maximum 2x/week, no irrigation 9am-6pm)
- continued rebates on water-efficient installations
- increased support (via rebates, easy permit process or other) for green infrastructure installations like greywater systems, rainwater collection, and stormwater management
- tiered rates for water use (efficient vs. excessive)
- emphasis of programs and services for communities most impacted by climate change
The consumer water use reductions cited by EBMUD were inspired by people's genuine concern for the drought and supported by government policy and funding priorities. California needs to build its climate resilience to weather the storms and droughts ahead.