Conserve More Water
Costs of water conservation versus dams
While California has numerous success stories in water conservation, as a state we must do better. As the two charts (left) show, the costs of urban water use efficiency/conservation are relatively low compared with the potential yield of water from increasing efficiency. By comparison, the costs of two major new dam proposals (Sites Reservoir in the western Sacramento Valley and Temperance Flat Dam on the San Joaquin River) are quite high while the water yield from such investments is low and would benefit only a narrow sector of the California economy—agribusiness.
Some agribusiness interests hope that these two dam projects can be built from the water bills signed by Governor Schwarzenegger in November 2009. But as these charts show, these projects have very high costs relative to the water they would produce.
Use Pacific Institute's WECalc survey tool to figure out your water footprint and learn about personal strategies to conserve water.
A study by the Los Angeles County Economic Development Corporation in the summer of 2008 found that urban water conservation for southern California scored high on a variety of economic and environmental characteristics (including greenhouse gas emissions) and over a 30-year period had costs of $280 per acre-foot (about 326,000 gallons of water, a year's supply for two typical California households), while "surface storage" (meaning dams and reservoirs) would cost between $760 and $1,400 per acre-foot.
In their study, Waste Not, Want Not: The Potential for Urban Water Conservation in California, the Pacific Institute staff announced that:
"The largest, least expensive, and most environmentally sound source of water to meet California's future water needs is the water currently being wasted in every sector of our economy....Furthermore, the state's natural ecological inheritance and beauty do not have to be sacrificed to satisfy our water needs."
The Pacific Institute produced another report on agricultural water conservation, More With Less: Agricultural Water Conservation and Efficiency in California - A Special Focus on the Delta that concludes aggressive use of four agricultural water conservation strategies would in combination with each other save California enough water to "help satisfy the legal restrictions on Delta withdrawals, reduce groundwater overdraft in the region, and help restore the heath of the ecosystems, while still maintaining a strong agricultural economy." The strategies include:
The Pacific Institute also stated, based on state and federal studies, that "permanently retiring 1.3 million acres of drainage-impaired lands in the San Joaquin Valley would save 3.9 million acre-feet of water per year, while also reducing clean-up costs and minimizing the social and environmental impacts associated with polluted surface and groundwater."
The Pacific Institute followed this report with its vision of California agriculture in 2050, Sustaining California Agriculture in an Uncertain Future.
The Board of the California Water Impact Network believes that California's water resources are wastefully allocated and must be reformed so fragile Delta and Central Valley ecosystems can be restored while urban and agricultural water systems obtain greater assuance of reliable supplies—in order to live within our water budget. This "soft water path" can:
The people and the state of California can plan for reliable water, economic, and ecological futures!