By Joyce Deuley
The LA Times reported last week that California has only enough water in its reserves to last another year, potentially three if California begins rationing and reducing the amount of water Californians use each day. Wired’s follow up article on it equated the state’s struggle to that of Australia, wherein residents reduced their daily water usage from the mid hundreds down to 30 gallons a day. But, the drought’s impact goes beyond state lines since urban areas are only responsible for around 20 % of the state’s water consumption, agriculture takes the rest at 80%. The US relies heavily on California’s bountiful fruit and vegetable farms, meaning a loss in millions of dollars for the agricultural industry as fields are forced to fallow (loss due to fallowing totaled more than $20 million in 2013), as well as hungry Americans caught up in the drought’s ripple effect.
Beyond reinforced restrictions and conservation efforts, discussions surrounding ocean desalination technologies, rainwater capture solutions, and waste water treatments are being tossed about, but each of these could take years to properly develop and, perhaps, several more to fully implement. This does not bode well for the Golden State: in a few years it could be facing the even dire realization that it is too late.
Despite these challenges and tenuous looks ahead, there is still hope. By implementing M2M solutions state wide, California could recognize areas of waste, daily water consumption across the state, and identify “hot” areas that are already in need or soon to be so, and more. By placing water sensors in cities and farms, Californians would be able to better manage their water supply for years to come.
Some helpful technologies include soil and water sensors and precision agriculture solutions, along with smart water meters. For example, Capstone Metering, a progressive metering service in Texas, recently launched its IntelliH2O pilot program that implemented smart meters across the city of Lewisville, TX. During the pilot, they discovered that by utilizing smart meters, the city of Lewisville could conserve more than 6 billion gallons of water over the next ten years in system-wide leaks and or inaccuracies in meter reading, plus more than 4 billion gallons from unmonitored customer leaks. But, beyond the water consumption, by implementing these meters, Lewisville would be able to save more than $800,000 in operating and maintenance costs. This is massive for a town with less than a million residents, but can you imagine the impact this could have across all of California? It is beyond staggering.
California’s current drought is not unique. For years, the Midwest and Southwest regions of the United States have faced similar challenges: record breaking lows within reservoirs, needing emergency water trucked into drought-stricken cities, and troubles with controlling drought-associated fires. Because of this, many states are looking for ways to improve conservation and usage practices. While the future of California’s water supply remains unclear, what is apparent is that without these types of technologies and measures, the future is bleak.