Southern California's Water Conservation and Storage Efforts Paying Off

The region has poured over a billion dollars into storage infrastructure and demand management policies in anticipation of worsening drought conditions.

May 7, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

California Aqueduct

Omar Bárcena / Flickr

Despite Governor Newsom's recent warning that California is, once again, facing drought conditions, reports Laura Bliss for Bloomberg Green + CityLab, "highly urbanized Southern California has a record 3.2 million acre-feet of water in reserve, enough to quench the population’s needs this year and into the next." This reserve is "thanks in large part to tremendous gains in storage infrastructure and steady declines in water use — driven by mandates, messaging, and incentive programs — belied by the region’s storied reputation for thirst."

Over the last two decades, Southern California "has invested more than $1 billion in new storage infrastructure, including a nearly trillion-liter reservoir at Diamond Valley Lake and the Inland Feeder Pipeline, a 44-mile network of tunnels and pipes that more than doubled capacity for deliveries from the State Water Project, California’s massive system for water storage and delivery that serves many its cities."

Additionally, "the last drought triggered changes in how Californians consume their precious resource. At the press conference last week, Newsom praised the 16% reduction in water use the state has made since 2013." Today, Los Angeles "uses less water now than it did in the 1970s, despite adding 1 million residents," and "[s]ince 2009, nearly 52 million square feet of lawn have been replaced through rebates and outreach programs boosting drought-tolerant succulents, flowers and chaparrals."

Historically, Los Angeles has drawn much of its water from outside the region, but with California's water supplies set to dwindle due to climate change and intensified drought, "L.A. hopes to wean itself off of imports and expand its capacity for self-sustenance. Mayor Eric Garcetti has pledged to source 70% of the city’s water locally by 2035, while L.A.’s latest urban water management plan calls to reduce per capita water use to 100 gpcd [gallons per capita per day] by 2035."

"There is no supply in California that is not vulnerable," says Newsha Ajami, director of urban water policy at Stanford University's Water in the West program, citing the importance of demand management as "the best and cheapest way we can approach water security."

Wednesday, April 28, 2021 in Bloomberg Green+CityLab

Indian Trail, North Carolina

Four ‘Low-Hanging Fruit’ Zoning Reforms

An excerpt from the latest book on zoning argues for four approaches to reform that can immediately improve land use regulation in the United States.

June 26, 2022 - M. Nolan Gray

View south along Interstate 45 (North Freeway) from the ramp between westbound Interstate 10 and southbound Interstate 45 in Houston, Harris County, Texas

Houston Apartments To Be Demolished for Freeway Widening

Despite a federal hold on the controversial freeway widening project, the Texas Department of Transportation is pushing ahead with the demolition of an apartment complex in downtown Houston.

7 hours ago - Houston Chronicle

Car Traffic

San Francisco Just Ended Single-Family Zoning

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted to Tuesday to eliminate single-family zoning, but pro-development advocates say additional changes are needed to unleash a wave of construction.

June 29, 2022 - San Francisco Chronicle

Bakersfield and Fresno Sign

California Budget Includes $4.2 Billion for High-Speed Rail

The recently approved state budget directs $4.2 billion in bond funding to the Bakersfield-to-Merced leg of California’s long-awaited high-speed rail project.

2 hours ago - Sfist

Joe Biden exits a limousine, surrounded by security and staffers, on the way to the Marine One helicopter on a pad near the water in New York City.

Biden’s Environmental Legacy (So Far)

President Biden campaigned on promises to restore many of the environmental regulations rolled back by the previous administration, while promising new efforts to tackle environmental injustice and climate change.

3 hours ago - The Washington Post

Police officer with POLICE on the back of their vest with police car in the background

Help! Not Police! Crisis Responses That Avert Police Calls

Cities, court systems, citizen groups, and affordable housing operators are crafting ways of responding to emergencies that reduce the risk of negative police interactions.

4 hours ago - Shelterforce Magazine

New Updates on The Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

International Real Estate Strategies and Deal Negotiation

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Affordable Housing: Principles for Changing Domestic and Global Markets

Harvard Graduate School of Design Executive Education

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.