California is in the middle of an historic drought, but what is certainly a dire situation has brought about unprecedented conservation numbers—showing that when called upon, residents and communities can meet and exceed water conservation goals.
The conservation targets that have been met throughout the state are nothing short of remarkable, and represent a shifting focus to a “soft path” towards addressing environmental challenges. Rather than building large and costly infrastructure, the new aim is to increase awareness, reclaim wastewater, and reinforce the benefits of efficiency and conservation. These methods have a lower environmental footprint, save money, and can be just as effective at meeting the state's water appetite.
The major challenge of the “soft path,” is communicating and educating residents on the needs and the benefits of being more water-wise. To accomplish this, strong community and municipal leadership is needed. In California, the model has proven successful, and cities across the nation must now step forward on their Path to Positive climate solutions!
Across California this summer, residents have been racking up water conservation numbers that defy expectations — a 27% reduction in June, followed by 31.3% in July.
Perhaps more impressive than the percentage figures, however, is the actual volume of water saved over two months: 414,800 acre-feet.
That's a lot of water — more than twice the amount projected to be available annually from two proposed storage facilities that would cost a combined $3.5 billion to build: the Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River and an expansion of Shasta Dam.
The conservation performance raises a host of possibilities, and profound questions, for water policy analysts and managers as they contemplate California's hydrological future in an era of climate change and increased competition for an essential natural resource.
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