The drought in California is in its 4th year. Water conservation and development of new water resources are becoming more important than ever. Clever ideas and the development and application of new technologies to improve our water supplies are critical. I also feel that the massive commercial and residential development that is going on in Silicon Valley and other highly-populated areas of California is rapidly increasing demand at the same time that supplies are falling. Water may become the new currency, especially when you include the voracious water appetite in the agriculture industry!!
Clever ways to apply technology to make a real impact on water saved through conservation should all be addressed immediately. Conservation measures are the easiest to implement quickly. However, most are at the household level and require participation by many to have an impact.
Large-scale sources of new water supplies also most be pursued aggressively. Desalination plants offer a great opportunity to develop new supplies near the Pacific Coast. Cost and energy requirements are major issues that must be addressed to make desalination more feasible. I believe that the cost factor can be improved by standardized designs that are applied to the development of a large number of plants.
The energy required for desalination can be reduced and at least “green” energy sources can be substituted for traditional power sources.
Transporting of water supplies from geographic areas with huge supplies far in excess of their demand to areas where water supplies are limited also need to be explored. What are the most efficient options? What are the sizes required for either pipeline or canal transportation of large quantities of water? Canals and pipelines are already used in California for water transportation, but the sources are also in California and are also affected by the drought (the reduced Sierra snowpack, etc.).
An excellent article by Michael Goldman gives great detail and context on the current historic drought. The article has the provocative title of: The California Drought — “Whiskey’s fer drinkin’ – Water’s fer fightin'” and is posted here :
A high-percentage of the total water used in California goes to agriculture. Drip-irrigation can dramatically reduce the water used and is appropriate for many types of crops. Incentives to promote the rapid conversion to drip-irrigation for agriculture should be put in place immediately.
For the remaining part of the water that goes toward commercial and residential use, a large fraction is used for landscaping. Grey-water and other sources of reclaimed water can certainly be used for landscape applications.