If you were visiting Southern California, you would be led to believe that it is a verdant, lush land. Swimming pools, green grass lawns, trees growing bountifully. This lovely image is sadly a farce. It never rains in arid and semi-desert Southern California. Only 65% of the state receives less than 20 inches of rainfall per year, making for brilliant, sunny summers and not very wet winters. Consequently, the water supply in Southern California is limited and highly dependent on aqueducts.
The Los Angeles Aqueduct relieves Southern Californians from making this situation more critical. It transports water from the Owens Valley to Los Angeles. Equally important, the Colorado River Aqueduct brings water from the Colorado River south to urban and highly populated Southern California. The Imperial Valley is supplied water by the Imperial Dam and All-American Canal. The Central Valley and its important farmlands are irrigated by the Central Valley Project, also providing water to the Bay Area. The San Francisco Bay Delta delivers farmers in the Central Valley and Southern California as well. Not to mention the Hetch-Hetchy Aqueduct and the Mokelumne Aqueduct that supply water to the Bay Area.
For this reason, California presently has four massive water projects and several local projects to aid some relief to the pressing water supply needs. The largest is the California State Water Project, delivering to 2/3 of the state’s population. It stores and delivers water of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants, and pumping plants. It distributes to 29 urban and agricultural water suppliers throughout the state. 70% of the water goes to urban areas and 30% goes to agricultural areas. Funding is generated mainly by revenue bonds by the Project’s beneficiaries and general taxpayers. Other funding includes oil revenue, investments, federal control payments and recreational usage.
Transporting water because of California’s limited water supply costs the state a great deal of energy. It accounts for at least 6.5% of the state’s total electricity usage. True, hydroelectric power produces some of the energy back, but more energy is still used than produced by all of these projects.
Groundwater only accounts for 30% to 40% of the water supply. The rest is imported. It all depends on where in Southern California one lives. San Diego, for example, is supplied by the Colorado River Aqueduct. The need and dependency varies from region to region.
Extending water supply services to areas throughout the state will involve money, strong policies, and good institutions that can be accountable. Many political wars have surfaced over the years because of unsatisfactory managing of California’s water supply. Competing ideas have only led to endless controversies. With a growing population comes a strong demand and short supply with very few solutions for clean and reliable drinking water.
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