California Governor Jerry Brown may have declared a drought emergency this spring, but for many in Southern California water conservation is never ending—in great measure the result of the foresight and investments of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California. The Planning Report interviewed Jeff Kightlinger, General Manager of MWD, who specifically details the ongoing preparation and response his regional water agency has championed in the face of the driest calendar year in California’s history. Kightlinger additionally addresses recent adjustments to the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), planning for a water bond for the November ballot, and meeting the goals of California’s AB32.
Southern California has been aware of its vulnerabilities for years. As Kightlinger notes, this time around, "The good news for Southern California is that we do plan for multiple-year droughts, we do store water, we prepare for these events, and we’re not caught unawares. We live in a drought-prone state, so when the water is there, we capture and store it so that we have it available for droughts. As luck would have it, 2010 and 2011 were above-average years, and 2011 was actually a wet year. We did store quite a bit of water in preparation for this drought, so we are handling this situation." Such efforts come at a cost, but they have allowed Southern California to weather the drought relatively calmly compared to the Central Valley and Northern California. Kightlinger explains, "Many in Northern California have a lot of admiration for what we’ve been able to do in Southern California… pushing down demand, despite adding 5 million people over the last 20 years, and actually reducing our overall water use.”
In this way, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California demonstrates that government can do important things to protect citizens from drought or any number of natural disasters. Money is not just something to waste—it can be invested in a sustainable future.