Knock on the door of almost any home in California, and the odds are you’ll be greeted by someone who is feeling, or at least seeing, the effects of this historic drought.
The signs are visible all around us – fields have been left fallow, once green lawns are brown and brittle, we’re being asked to conserve. What’s sometimes more difficult to see are the opportunities this drought actually affords us.
For one, communities up and down the state are coming together to address their water management challenges head on. They’re working to sustainably manage groundwater basins and are considering the benefits of regional water management solutions. They’re implementing projects with the potential to yield multiple benefits for cities, farms and the environment rather than just a single purpose. They’re interested in a more integrated and effective management approach that will not only get them over this hump, but prove sustainable long into the future.
Integrated water management isn’t a new concept, but for many communities – and even at the state level – the shift to integration has been a slow process. For decades, California’s water wars have pitted developers against environmentalists or clean water for communities against farming. And while good work to improve water supply reliability was accomplished in regions across the state despite these hurdles, I’d be the first to agree that the gridlock in Sacramento was often unbearable.
Perhaps it’s no surprise then that the public generally became more and more disengaged with regard to water issues. Fortunately though, the drought has not only galvanized communities to develop water management solutions alongside one another, it has reinvigorated Californians’ desire to become engaged in the process.
Fittingly, on November 4, voters will be asked to consider a long-stalled water bond that seeks to address water supply reliability and set aside funding for IWM programs and projects. That the measure is on the ballot is another testament to the power of this drought. It’s important that California’s water infrastructure be able to meet the needs of the 21st century and our ever-growing population. Current and future generations deserve a reliable water supply, which will require investments in a number of projects from water conservation to groundwater cleanup to water storage.
If you want to learn more about Proposition 1, I encourage you to visit The Water Bond Education Project website. The project is a public education initiative spearheaded by the California Water Foundation to help ensure Californians have access to objective, easy-to-understand information about the bond and other important water topics.
To the untrained eye, our drought situation looks dire. In reality, it’s a pivotal moment for water in California. A reliable water supply is vital to our state’s economy, and it isn’t every day that the importance of good water policy resonates with people far and wide.
Please join me in taking the time to learn more about the water management solutions up for discussion, so that we can better understand how they may impact our future.
Ron Gastelum is a principal at Water Conservation Partners and sits on the board of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce.