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Home > Natural Resources > Water Strategies to Preserve Natural Resource Supplies and Quality

SoCal Residents and Businesses Urged to Reduce Water by 10%

California's water supply is vulnerable and every citizen, agricultural user and business is affected.

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California water conservation California's water supply is vulnerable and every citizen, agricultural user and business is affected.

While the state dodged a drought this year, a little fish has taken a big gulp out of California's water supply, prompting voluntary cutbacks and rate increases. Districts across the state are urging residents to reduce water use by about 10 percent.

Ventura County Star reporter Scott Hadly writes about a growing phenomenon in Southern California -- voluntary water reduction to cope with rising legislation, rising prices and rising concerns about California's future water supply.

The massive Metropolitan Water District of Southern California approved a rate increase, as did small water districts such as Callenguas in Ventura County.

While the state dodged a drought this year and regional water reservoirs have benefited from back-to-back storms, a little endangered fish has taken a big gulp out of California's water supply, prompting voluntary cutbacks and rate increases.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta is a major supplier of water for much of California -- including as far south as Los Angeles. The federal district ruling in 2007 states that state and federal agencies must reduce their take of fresh water from the Delta by about 1/3 for almost six months per year to protect the sardine-sized delta smelt.

What's at issue is the environmental health of the Delta. The particular fish species is an indicator species of the looming problems of salt creeping upriver into the ecosystem; the change in vegetation, the encroachment of development in the delicate wetlands...and other environmental impact on this essential and delicate ecosystem.

The Delta receives water runoff from the Sierra Nevada through the state's two major rivers and it is the heart of Califronia's massive water network.

The water is used to supply 25 million Californians with water and more than 2 million acres of farmland with irrigation water.

The landmark decision to protect the 740,000-acre Delta points to the vulnerability of the state's watr supply. And how arid much of California is.

Irrigation and massive redistribution of water for urban populations has created increasing pressures on natural water supplies. For example, Ventura County averages just over a foot of rain a year. Yet irrigated agriculture uses water piped in from the mountains, rivers and deep wells... and urban residents rely on those same distant sources that supply the massive arid expanses of the state.

An acre-foot is enough water to fill an acre of land with water to a depth of one foot — supplies enough water for two average households in a year.

The "solution" talked about most by water officials involves conservation, recycling water, better and more storage for dry years and, more significantly, possibly re-engineering the delta. Local agencies are pushing for conservation, innovative use of recycled water and even desalination of reclaimed water to bolster supplies.

Some water agencies are having their water meter readers report excessive runoff from lawns, while others give out incentives if a homeowner installs low-flow toilets. Farmers are being encouraged to install high-tech irrigation systems in an effort to conserve water. Along with recording temperatures and humidity, remote weather station sends data from soil moisture sensors buried in the ground among acres of agricultural lands.

The goal is to be as precise as possible with water use in how to use an increasingly precious commodity. In California, about 80 percent of the water used goes to agriculture, according to the state Department of Water Resources.

Local water districts are teaming up to conduct water audits and encourage residents to install low-flow toilets and limit outdoor watering.

Like many cities in California, the Las Virgenes Municipal Water District pushed for retrofitting homes with low-flow toilets and efficient fixtures. Because of some of those changes, Ventura's water use is the same as it was in 1973 when it had 70 percent fewer people.

Conservation can make a dramatic impact!

Edited by Carolyn Allen, owner/editor of California Green Solutions
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