By Joe Mouawad, general manager of Eastern Municipal Water District, and Jim Peifer, executive director of the Regional Water Authority
Another wet winter seems likely for California, giving us another chance to recharge groundwater aquifers with captured storm runoff. But are we ready? Well, there’s a lot more we could do.
Forecasters say there’s a 95 percent chance El Niño conditions will prevail during the winter to come. In addition, they say the odds are 2-in-3 that this El Niño will be “strong,” which boosts the odds for wet conditions. This means we have a chance at two wet winters in a row, a very rare occurrence in California.
If there’s anything last winter’s very wet conditions showed us, it’s the vast opportunity we have for groundwater recharge. By capturing abundant runoff in wet years, we have potential to make major strides toward rebuilding depleted groundwater.
Note that we say “potential.”
One-third of California’s total domestic water supply comes from groundwater, and about 85 percent of all Californians depend on groundwater for some of their drinking water. California water agencies are doing everything they can to rebuild groundwater supplies. But there is enormous potential to capture more — if we had additional infrastructure and a few small changes in state policy.
Here is the reality of climate change: Only a year ago we were suffering after one of the driest winters ever. Then we were gifted with one of the wettest. Scientists predict these wild swings in weather will become more common, which means smart changes in water management are essential.
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