Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

California Water Crisis = Rising Consumer Costs for a Vanishing Resource

Posted by STP Editorial Team on Thu, Apr 09, 2015 water covers nearly three-quarters of the earth’s surface, only 0.033 percent of the world’s total supply is fresh water available for human use. Water is essential to every form of life, but is often taken for granted by consumers, who generally have maintained an attitude that plentiful water of the highest quality will always be available and is their right, a notion perpetuated by legislation. In 2013 the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) established, under Section 106.3 of the California Water Code, that every human being has the inherent right to clean, safe, affordable, accessible, and adequate water for human consumption, cooking, and sanitation. That’s wonderful…when there is plenty of water to go around.

Water has traditionally been an undervalued commodity because of its perceived abundance in California. Unfortunately, the era of “inexpensive” water is coming to an end. There are a number of reasons for rising costs, including water re-allocations, promotion of water conservation measures, increased general production costs, replacement of infrastructure, increased use of chemical treatments, upgrades to treatment facilities, and ongoing drought conditions, which continues to place additional stress on California’s water supplies.

Yes…never mind that consumers will have to pay more for the maintenance and improvement of the existing water infrastructure, if something isn’t done soon, the era of abundant water itself may be coming to an end.

In a March 12, 2015 article in the LA Times, Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory/Caltech and a professor of Earth system science at UC Irvine, reports, “As difficult as it may be to face, the simple fact is that California is running out of water…NASA data reveal that total water storage in California has been in steady decline since at least 2002…Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain.”

Famiglietti goes on to note a few steps he thinks should be taken right now, including:

  • Immediate mandatory water rationing across all water sectors, from domestic and municipal through agricultural and industrial. 

  • Implementation and acceleration of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act of 2014.

  • A task force of thought leaders to lay the groundwork for long-term water management strategies focused on solving the long-term needs of a drought-prone, perennially water-stressed California.

So, who is responsible for solving this crisis? Beyond Californians and their own state regulatory bodies, we all should take this seriously, because “water is our most important commonly owned resource.” Click here to learn more about what California is doing to preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of their water resources and drinking water.

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photo credit: Lake Hume in Vic_6525 via photopin (license)

Tags: Environmental risks, Environmental, EHS, EPA, climate change