Increased pressures on California’s water supply, including from population growth and intense periods of drought exacerbated by climate change, are leading to the overuse of surface water and groundwater. But with existing technology and conservation methods, the state can take vital steps to improve its resilience to drought and plan for a more sustainable water future. This issue brief, produced in collaboration with the Natural Resources Defense Council, is a statewide analysis of the potential for improved efficiency in agricultural and urban water use, water reuse and recycling, and increased capturing of local rainwater.
It seems as though the two things the Bay Area has the least of are housing and water. The region has a shortfall of 699,000 housing units, which has driven housing costs to astronomical heights, and pushed 35,000 of our neighbors into temporary housing or onto the streets. Our colleagues at San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association (SPUR),a public policy think tank, have found that the region needs to build an astonishing 2.2 million homes by 2070 to meet future demand and make up for the present shortfall.
The San Francisco Bay Area is projected to add two million jobs by 2070, attracting millions more people. To prevent housing from becoming even more unaffordable, the region needs to build 2.2 million new housing units.
Water utilities throughout the US offer customer incentives, such as rebates and technical assistance, to motivate action and foster engagement with their customers. In addition to providing water-related benefits, many of these programs generate additional co-benefits, such as reducing energy required for heating water or increasing carbon sequestration in landscapes. These co-benefits present water utilities with an opportunity to build collaborative partnerships and co-funding for customer incentive programs through stacked incentives.
Community water systems in California’s San Joaquin Valley face a host of challenges that threaten the safety and reliability of drinking water, including pollution, periodic drought, and chronic groundwater overdraft. Moreover, shallow wells, some of which serve community water systems, are vulnerable to short-term and chronic declines in groundwater levels. For example, during the 2012-2016 drought, many domestic wells and some public supply wells went dry.
In the U.S., the vital responsibility of continuing safe water supply during the pandemic is decentralized, spread among nearly 50,000 community water systems. More than 45,000 of these are small community water systems (SCWS), serving fewer than 10,000 people each. Together, SCWS provide water to more than 53 million people — 18 percent of the national population — across urban and rural areas, on tribal reservations, in the midst of larger utilities in huge metropolises, and in growing communities.
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