Making Water Conservation Part of Every Season

Ken JenkinsFebruary 28, 2023
by Ken Jenkins, Chief Water Resource Sustainability Officer

While everyone can agree that California has had an intense—and in some cases, devastating—start to 2023, with heavy rainstorms causing loss of life and millions of dollars in damages, there are many questions and growing uncertainty surrounding what the state can expect next. Will the rest of winter be dry? Will Californians experience more extreme weather patterns this year? How does this affect water supply? We are still waiting to determine the full impact of these storms on water supply, but one thing remains clear—Californians should make water conservation a part of daily life.

We at Cal Water, among other experts and scientists in our field, believe that the focus should be on long-term adaptation efforts as California endures the effects of human-driven changes to our climate. While the deluge of rain brings a welcome relief to some water levels, the contrast of extremes from abnormally dry climate to devastating floods stems from rising global temperatures. As these weather patterns exacerbate California’s already unstable rainy seasons, we should strive to continue using water wisely to ensure we maintain a reliable water supply.

Over the past two decades, on average, wet winters have been no match for California’s increasingly drier climate, as unseasonably warm spring and summer temperatures quickly melt away snowpacks. Drier weather leads to hotter temperatures, faster water evaporation, and increased wildfires. But, in a climate paradox, that same warmer air can hold more moisture, increasing the probability of intense storm sequences capable of causing the kind of catastrophic damage that we have witnessed over recent months.

At Cal Water, we have long recognized the impacts of climate change on our water supply and the risks and vulnerabilities posed by these intense weather patterns. In 2021, we expanded on our previous work to develop a comprehensive Climate Change Risk Assessment & Adaptation Framework in collaboration with independent consultant ICF. The framework identifies and prioritizes climate-driven risks to Cal Water’s facilities, operations, and water supply portfolio. In fact, Cal Water is already directing infrastructure investments to address climate change risks, from wildfire preparation to a systemic review of our treatment plants.

Beyond adaptation, Cal Water has integrated climate change into our long-term planning process, using science-based climate projections to ensure we continuously deliver a reliable water supply to the communities we serve for generations to come.

We are thankful to our customers and partners across our districts, who have achieved significant water saving levels over the last eight months. By working together to save water every day, we can all play a part in lessening our environmental impact on the planet.