California could gain over 10 million acre feet of water a year by implementing urban and agricultural water use efficiency, water reuse, and stormwater capture, says a recent report titled The untapped potential of California’s water supply. The entire Southwest could benefit greatly from supply and demand reduction too.
“The blue bars show our estimate of what efficient use would be if we were comprehensively using the technologies and practices we know work, that in fact we’ve been developing and applying in California for several decades, but not completely,” he said. “The green bar is the really optimistic, if we were really efficient, if we were maximizing technology and the policies and practices that we might do – Some of the things that Australia did after eight or nine years of drought when they were really up against the wall and they really had to push beyond the kinds of things that they had been doing day to day.”
The experience of Australia shows that huge reductions in water usage can be accomplished. This is good news, even if the Southwest might be headed for a mega-drought.
He noted that with really aggressive savings, we could cut residential water use substantially, as much as up to 50%. “We know that from experience in Australia that these are achievable; this is what really efficient residences could look like. There’s a conversation to be had here about what kind of gardens we want and what kind of lawns we want, if we want lawns and gardens. But these are achievable. Whether your savings occur inland or whether your savings occur at the coast make a difference as well.”
If the Southwest drought continues, lawns may simply have to be banned. Golf courses too. Groundwater pumping will need to be strictly regulated and water will need to be metered, with pricing that encourages conservation. It can be done. And probably will have to be.