California’s Future: Water and a Changing Climate

Jan 31, 2021 at 8:00am


California’s water managers have been busy keeping water systems safe and operational during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the fiscal consequences of the economic recession are just beginning to be felt. `

Some California communities—especially those served by small systems lacking resources and economies of scale—did not have safe drinking water before the pandemic, and the recession has made affordability of water and wastewater an urgent crisis. `

California’s climate is warming and becoming more variable. Rising temperatures are making droughts more intense, and dry years are occurring more frequently. At the same time, winter storms are becoming warmer— with less snow and more rain—leading to larger floods. `

Freshwater ecosystem health has been declining for decades—a trend made worse by long-term drought and rising air and water temperatures. The pandemic and resulting downturn have made this even harder to manage. `

Headwater forests are a critical part of the state’s natural infrastructure, but tree die-offs and rising wildfire intensity—fueled by a warming climate—have heightened the need to better manage these forests. `

Agriculture has faced many challenges from the pandemic—particularly regarding worker safety and market disruptions. But its grand challenge is to manage groundwater sustainably for the benefit of the economy, local communities, and the environment—a task made harder by the changing climate.

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