Aging infrastructure and climate change are two woes facing California’s water management teams.
To tackle these problems and encourage investors to get behind improving California’s water system and future-proofing it, a couple of Standford researchers based in civil and environmental engineering have suggested that a diversified water supply portfolio would help address the issues.
“A water supply portfolio is the combination of water supply sources available to a utility. Diversifying means we’re not putting all of our eggs in one basket, so if something happens to one of the supplies like a disruption to the physical infrastructure or a water quality concern or a cutback due to drought, we still have a portfolio of other options available. Water supply diversification should pursue different types of water sources such that each supply has different risks and also different strengths. For example, water reuse is typically considered a robust supply that is resilient to drought. Similarly, diversification means not only having many different water sources available, but also leveraging those sources to reduce stress on the more traditional supplies.”
Climate change has played a big role in the research, and there is agreement that 20th-century infrastructure is no longer suitable for 21st-century climate patterns.
Higher temperatures, changes in rainfall versus snowfall, and rising sea levels all play a huge part in which water sources need to be tapped into and which should be abandoned. The Standford researchers conclude that statewide implementation would be ideal for this portfolio to be effective.
The Pys.org article “Making California’s water supply resilient” explains further what factors would make a state-wide implementation successful:
“Collaboration and innovation. Collaboration because our water systems are inherently very fragmented with jurisdictions that don’t always overlap with municipalities, counties or other agencies such as regulators and land-use planners. Working together can open up doors to identify opportunities that are both locally minded and regionally relevant. Innovation needs to happen not only on the technology side but also in the form of creative governance and financing mechanisms to make the necessary changes possible.”
If California could achieve this, it stands a good chance of being prepared and resilient within its water supply and infrastructure management and being an exemplar for other states and cities around the world.