Published: September 4, 2014

    Repercussions of the California Water Drought and Taking Steps to Move Forward

    A long-term drought continues to grip much of California, particularly the southern part of the state. The water shortage has become so severe that Governor Jerry Brown recently declared a statewide drought emergency. Brown also asked that all residents of the state cut their water use by 20% or more.

    How Bad Is It?

    In short, it’s bad.

    Each January, California’s State Department of Water Resources measures the water content of the snowpack to determine what the state’s water supply will look like for the year. The snowpack gives the state as much as 1/3 of its drinking water, as the snow melts into rivers, streams, and aquifers each spring.

    The two initial snow surveys in early 2014 showed that the water content for the state is one of the lowest ever measured. While December was wet in many parts of California, the rain ceased by early spring. In May, the total snowpack in the state was at a shocking 17% of normal, as 2013 was one of the driest winters on record.

    The state of California’s snowpack is not the only problem. California has been suffering from a lack of rain for years. For instance, the Gasquet Ranger Station in Del Norte County is one of the wettest areas of the state, with rainfall averaging 100 inches per year. However, in 2013, it received a mere 43 inches. Sacramento had just 5.75 inches of rain, which is more than three times below its annual average of 18 inches. Meanwhile, in southern California, Los Angeles enjoyed only 3.4 inches of rain, with 15 inches being the normal amount.

    With two record dry years in the books and major concerns about another one on the way, California officials worry that the state will only be able to deliver a tiny 5% of the water requested by water authorities. The shortage means that severe water restrictions are probably in order for the rest of 2014 and into 2015. Major questions remain about the ability of the state to support its booming population growth, as well as its growing agricultural and business job base.

    Other major factors in the water shortage in California include:

    • Water delivery from many key projects in the state are restricted due to environmental laws, while other areas of the state deal with aging infrastructure, which leads to water waste.
    • The population of the state is soaring, with 50 million residents expected by 2050.
    • Climate change appears to be affecting water resources, with changing rain and snow patterns causing reduced moisture throughout the year.

    Another growing factor in water waste in California is the use of conventional, salt-based water softening systems at home. These systems remove magnesium and calcium from water, but require regular backwashing and rinsing of the system, which wastes water. How much? As much as 150 gallons of water per week. Add it all up over a year and you get 7,800 gallons per system down the drain. In some areas with very hard water, a salt-based softener can waste a shocking 23,000 gallons per year!

    This is why many environmentally concerned customers are switching to a Pelican NaturSoft® Water Softener Alternative with Salt Free Technology. Our salt-free system effectively neutralizes hard water minerals without wasting water or dumping harmful salt brine into the water table. Also, a water softener alternative does not require any electrical current, and there is no need to buy expensive salt replacements every month. By saving 7,800 gallons of water per year with our water softener alternative, you’ll be playing your part in reducing the chronic water shortage in California.

    What Else Can Be Done?

    There are many other water-saving tips to follow that can lead to big water savings wherever you live, such as:

    • Using the laundry machine only for full loads, and installing a water-efficient appliance – it will save 16 gallons per load. Also, use cold water on dark clothes; it saves water and energy.
    • In the kitchen, run the dishwasher only when full. A water-efficient dishwasher will save you three to eight gallons per load. Note that a dishwasher usually uses less water than washing by hand, too.
    • Install a low-flow showerhead in the bathroom and save three gallons per use; a great choice is the Pelican Premium Shower Filter, which can save water and filters out many dangerous chemicals and contaminants from tap water.