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.
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.
More than 45,000 small community water systems exist in the United States. These small community water systems, defined as those serving fewer than 10,000 people, are distributed across the country. Altogether they serve 53 million people across rural and urban settings, on Tribal reservations, in the midst of huge metropolises, and in growing communities.
Water systems in most large urban areas like California’s Silicon Valley are linear and highly centralized. Water is cleaned at a central treatment plant, distributed to homes and businesses through a vast and decades-old system of pipes, used once, and then returned through another set of pipes to a wastewater treatment plant, before being discharged into a nearby waterway like the San Francisco Bay.
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