by Ken Jenkins, Chief Water Resource Sustainability Officer
Around the globe, people are facing the consequences of climate change. Here in California, our communities have been braving record-breaking heat waves that push our power grid to the brink and living with intense wildfires that leave devastation and harmful smoke left in their wake. These climate change impacts, along with longer and more severe droughts, threaten the water supply we need to survive and thrive. Over the next month, we’re raising awareness about the impact of climate change on our water.
Cal Water is already planning for, and taking actions to address, these immediate and long-term impacts of climate change, while considering new methods to adapt to its impact on our operations. Last year, we developed a comprehensive Climate Change Risk Assessment & Adaptation Framework. This report outlined the risks and vulnerabilities climate change poses to the quality and reliability of our water supply, such as longer, more severe droughts, intense weather patterns, and increased wildfire risks.
Here at Cal Water, we believe adapting to climate change is a societal as well as business imperative. And, thanks to this report, we have created a model for prioritizing these risks and strategies to address them so we can protect our customers and employees and continue delivering a safe, reliable, and affordable water supply to our communities.
To support our customers and employees, and adapt to more dangerous and impactful wildfires, Cal Water has developed a holistic method to recognize and respond to critical weather conditions before a wildfire even sparks. By upgrading our water systems, managing vegetation at our facilities, and training our employees, Cal Water is ready and able to respond on a company-wide level to increase the reliability of our water service and support our neighboring communities and emergency services.
As the frequency and intensity of wildfires and heat waves increase, Cal Water is proactively addressing these climate-driven threats on water quality as well. After conducting a systemic analysis to identify these climate-driven changes to our water quality and review of our own treatment plants, we are implementing new treatment techniques and infrastructure upgrades to ensure we filter out these contaminants and continue providing safe, high-quality water.
Cal Water is also planning and preparing for longer and more severe droughts, which lead to increased demand, reduced surface water supply availability, and further impacts to our groundwater supply. We’re making improvements in our demand modeling, including the addition of evapotranspiration, updating climate projection inputs, and working to diversify our supply sources through alternatives such as recycled water and brackish desalination.
Every day, more than two million people rely on us to deliver water that’s safe for everyday and emergency needs—a responsibility we at Cal Water take very seriously. By working and learning together, we can confront our most pressing climate challenges and find solutions to protect our planet for generations to come.