Weather Extremes Drive Home the Case for Water Infrastructure

  • by Cindy Tuck
  • Jan 23, 2023
  • Voices on Water

As if we needed more proof, the long series of atmospheric rivers that have soaked California not only provided a deadly and destructive reminder of how our climate is changing, they also drove home the fact that the planning for, and investment in, water infrastructure are critical to securing California’s water future.

California’s existing water infrastructure was not designed to sustain our cities, communities, farms and environment through the intense drought and flood patterns brought on by climate change. Successfully adapting to this new reality requires continued and increased investment in water infrastructure, including above- and below-ground storage. 

Nothing expresses this critical need more clearly than California simultaneously being in declared drought and flood emergencies.

This call to action is being heard, and ACWA advocacy in collaboration with our member agencies has had a lot to do with getting this message across. With support in Washington D.C. and action by California’s leaders, the past few years have seen important appropriations of funding for water infrastructure at the federal and state levels. Local and regional public water agencies and their customers will continue to do their part. But additional funding assistance is needed to provide climate and water resilience for California’s future. ACWA is pleased that the governor wants to explore the advancement of a natural resources bond. Working with the ACWA State Legislative Committee, ACWA is already engaged in this topic.

California also needs more investment in other water management tools such as groundwater banking and groundwater recharge projects. One challenge is getting flood water to where it will do the most good, including at critically overdrawn groundwater basins. This is where we need to continue investment in conveyance, such as in the repair of California’s canal system. The integration of storage and conveyance is not only critical for returning groundwater basins to sustainability, it is also critical for collecting water for use during dry times.

California needs to continue research into atmospheric rivers. Modern tools such as Forecast-Informed Reservoir Operations can utilize forecasting advancements to protect against floods or to retain water in storage when it is safe to do so. 

ACWA member agencies have a valuable tool in building public support for water infrastructure investment. ACWA’s Quench California campaign – www.QuenchCA.com – gives water agencies a way to both share and customize messaging for outreach to their communities. 

ACWA will continue to work with policy makers in Sacramento and Washington D.C. for water infrastructure funding that California needs to be climate resilient. As the impacts of the drought and the recent storms have shown, the stakes could not be higher.

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