Published: December 4, 2015

    Alaska Water Proposal Could Help California But Cost Millions

    As California’s drought drags on into its fourth unrelenting year, options are running out. Ninety-seven percent of the state’s population is now experiencing the effects of the drought from mandated water rations and loss of crops to sharp rises in prices. The state’s water supply has now dwindled to shockingly low levels.

    According to the most recent drought update issued by the California Governor’s office the Central Valley reservoirs have a net loss of 73,427 acre-feet since the last update, issued just two weeks ago. This mirrors the patterns throughout the state: Reservoirs are rapidly running out of water. California is now accessing water in certain reservoirs that are tens of thousands of years old. For all the various reassurances California’s residences have received over the last year, it seems inevitable that the drought will reach cataclysmic severity unless drastic changes are implemented.

    In this current climate of quiet desperation California’s lawmakers have turned to unlikely places to hopefully alleviate the ecological burden on their state. U.S. San Pedro Representative Janice Hahn is working on a proposal that would see California receiving aid from a much wetter state further up the pacific. Much, much further.

    Hahn arranged a meeting last month with representatives from the Los Angeles and Long Beach ports as well as Terry Trapp, Alaska Bull Water’s current CEO. Alaska Bulk Water first caught the representative’s eyes when she read a piece in USA Today by Doyle Rice that profiled the company and their ambitious goal – to become the first company to ship massive quantities of fresh water to California to minimize the impact of the drought.

    Buying in “bulk” from a seller located thousands of miles away has its advantages. For one, the lake that Bulk Water draws its water from, Blue Lake in Sitka, Alaska, has more than 9 billion gallons per year that can be accessed by Trapp’s company. That’s quite the haul. Furthermore, it’s some of the freshest water on Earth, according to Trapp, and the process through which the water is obtained is not morally suspicious.

    The proposal hasn’t gained more traction because of its obvious drawbacks. Shipping such quantities over long distances carries a hefty price tag. With the shipping and overhead costs the water would cost roughly 6 cents per gallon as opposed to the half cent per gallon that Californians currently pay. To put that into perspective, at the amounts that Hahn proposes, the plan would cost taxpayers approximately 540 million dollars a year. No matter how you slice it, the cost is high.

    This doesn’t even factor in the necessary infrastructure costs that would be spent developing and expanding the ports in California to adequately offload and store the water. In addition, Hahn herself admits that even a bulk purchase of that magnitude would only supply water for 70,000 families in California per year out of the 12 million families currently residing there.

    The proposal could greatly help California’s citizens, especially as the drought shows no signs of relenting. But with such a high cost, California lawmakers should take a hard look at all options. That said, ultimately the residents of California need swift action from policymakers to combat the drought. Shipping water from Alaska is a start, but until we take a hard look at the industries that continue to drain California of its water, the solution will remain out of reach.