Newsom Floats Massive New Plan Against California’s Water Crisis

Gov. Newsom has proposed a new, more “aggressive” water plan in response to a predicted 10 percent loss in California’s water supply by 2040

As temperatures across the American West rise and California’s never-ending drought persists, lawmakers are attempting to speed up plans that they hope will mitigate the Golden State’s water crisis. 

Governor Gavin Newsom released a detailed plan on Thursday outlining a strategy for making the most of the little water the state does get, the Los Angeles Times reports. The new plan focuses on ways to more efficiently store and recycle California’s water supply, as well as supplementing water collected from precipitation with desalination plants. 

The goals of the latest approach are more “aggressive” said Newsom during a speech in Antioch, where a desalination plant is being built to treat brackish water, according to the Times.

The Governor emphasized the need “to rebuild the way we source, store and deliver water so our kids and grandkids can continue to call California home in this hotter, drier climate.”

Scientists have predicted a 10 percent decrease in California’s water supply by 2040, one reason being that the soil is growing increasingly arid due to drought. As temperatures increase, the soil becomes parched and begins to suck up more water, resulting in less runoff that can be collected for use. The projected 10 percent loss translates to 6 million to 9 million acre-feet of water per year, which is greater than the volume of Shasta Lake, the state’s largest reservoir, the Times reports.

In order to counteract the water loss from drier soil, the Governor’s new plan, which expands on the Water Resilience Portfolio issued during his first few months in office, aims to build water storage space for up to 4 million acre-feet of water, recycle and reuse at least 800,000 acre-feet per year by 2030, free up 500,000 acre-feet per year by eliminating water waste, capture 500,000 acre-feet of stormwater by 2040, and desalinate ocean water and brackish groundwater.

It would cost about $10 billion to achieve the 2030 goal and $27 billion to achieve the 2040 goal of recycling an additional 1.8 million acre-feet of water, according to the plan. 

Currently, the total annual water use of Los Angeles is nearly 500,000 acre-feet. The plan states that “recycled water offsets about nine percent of the state’s water demand, about 728,000 acre-feet per year.” 

For perspective, we discharge roughly 1.5 million acre-feet of treated wastewater per year into the ocean. And while not all of it can be recycled, we can certainly reduce the massive quantity of usable water that goes to waste each year. 

The State Water Board has invested a total of $1.8 billion in recycled water projects over the last five years, which are predicted to generate an additional 124,000 acre-feet of new water supply, the plan claims. 

The hope is that the new plan can satisfy the water needs of the more than 8.4 million households in California. 

“The hots are getting a lot hotter. The dries are getting a lot drier,” Newsom said in a statement. “We have to adapt to that new reality and we have to change our approach.”

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