More than two decades of devastating droughts, exacerbated by human-caused climate change, mean California needs to harvest, recycle and desalinate much more water, the state governor said Thursday.
Unveiling an “aggressive” new strategy to combat a dwindling water supply, Gavin Newsom said he wants to strengthen aging infrastructure to keep up with the rapidly changing environment.
“Climate change means the drought will not last just two years as it has in the past,” Newsom said in a statement.
“Drought is a fixture here in the American West and California will adjust to this new reality.”
The blueprint, unveiled Thursday, calls for more above-ground storage as well as better ways to capture the billions of liters of rain that normally just flow into the ocean.
It also includes plans to recycle much more water and desalinate seawater.
The American West has been in its worst drought in over a millennium for more than 20 years.
As part of an effort to weather the drought, Southern California residents have been told not to water their lawns more than once or twice a week — the cause of much grumbling among some of the area’s wealthiest homeowners.
Scientists predict that California’s already-strained water supplies will shrink by another 10 percent in the coming decades, with the current drought believed to be part of a long-term drying up of the region.
This process is being accelerated by global warming, where mankind’s uncontrolled burning of fossil fuels continues to pump insulating gases such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
The planet has already warmed an average of 1.2 degrees Celsius since pre-industrial times and is projected to get hotter even as governments meet their pollution reduction targets.
The higher temperatures worsen the effects of drought as more moisture evaporates from the soil, even as plants try to soak up more of it — and allowing less to flow into rivers and streams.
“Regardless of drought or flooding, in this changed climate, people will have less water available,” the state’s 16-page plan reads.
“To meet the pace of climate change, California needs to be smarter and faster to modernize our water systems. Upgrading our water systems will help replenish the water that California will lose due to hotter, drier weather.”
“California needs to capture, recycle, desalinate, and conserve more water… to utilize water that would otherwise be unusable, efficiently expand supplies, and expand our capacity to store water from large storms for dry seasons.”
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