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California Water Shortages and Long-Term Solutions Proposal


It is widely acknowledged by the human community that water is life and without it, survival on Earth would be impossible. This precious resource is needed for a diverse range of uses, including human consumption, agriculture, and industry. Water distribution varies depending on the particular geographical location. Most regions have a limited supply of water and the available reservoirs are often unable to meet the increasing demand.

California is one state that has been experiencing water supply issues in recent years. Research indicates that the water problems facing California will continue to persist if no action is taken. The supply of water to the reservoirs is dependent on the rainfall in the state. Drought leads to a critical shortage in rainfall supply. In addition to this, the growing population of the state creates an increase in the demand for the available water reserves. It is crucial for California to take action to ensure its future water security. Therefore, the state of California should propose a long-term strategy to solve future water shortages.

Problem statement

California has been experiencing severe water shortages for the past four years and the authorities have been unable to come up with long-term solutions to this problem. The state of California is one of the most populous in the US with 38 million people residing in it. This population represents a marked increase from the 17 million inhabitants in 1960. The phenomenal population increase has created a higher demand for water while the supply has not increased. Severe droughts experienced in the past four years have led to a shortage in the water reserves available for the state. The government has been forced to take action to deal with the water crisis.

Currently, the strategy adopted by the Californian Authorities is to reduce consumption by residents. The state authorities have adopted the policy of imposing water restrictions as a solution to the water problem. This strategy has been in play starting from last year. Smith reports that in April 2015, the Governor of California imposed a mandatory reduction in water use for the entire state (15). This was in reaction to a severe drought that had led to a drastic reduction in the amount of water received by California. This is the second year in a row that state authorities are imposing water restrictions without plans for long-term solutions.

Under the mandatory reduction policy, consumers are expected to reduce their water consumption by 25%. To achieve this significant reduction, residents are required to irrigate their yards for only two days each week. Lack of compliance leads to fines by the authorities. This strategy only provides a short-term solution to the water shortage issue and it does not solve future water problems. This approach does not increase the water supply available to the state. An increase in water supply will be necessary to satisfy the future demands placed on the state’s water resources as the population increases. The best solution should be a long-term plan that considers the future realities of the state. Such a solution will seek to not only increase the efficiency with which current water reserves are used, but also increase the number of freshwater supplies.


Importance of saving water

Water is a scarce resource with freshwater supplies being less than 1% of all the water on Earth. This makes liquid freshwater a finite and limited natural resource on Earth. The demand for water is quickly outstripping the supply and countries are starting to struggle to find the water they need. Boccaletti, Grobbel, and Stuchtey document that at the current rate of economic and population growth, the present water supplies in 2030 will only manage to satisfy 60% of global demand (68). In this stark future, governments will only manage the Fig. 1 Drought levels in states all over the USA (Tinker) demand by raising the price of water or capping the amount that users can draw. California is facing a growing gap in the amount of water it can supply reliably and the amount needed by its citizens. The situation is made worse by the severe drought that California is facing. The state is facing the most extreme drought levels in the entire country.

Efforts to save water will play a role in enabling California to have enough water to meet its future demands.
(Fig 1). Efforts to save water will play a role in enabling California to have enough water to meet its future demands.

Saving water will reduce the probability of wars over water resources emerging in the future. Water is essential for human survival and its scarcity can result in tensions as populations compete for it. Rousseau declares that tensions over water are bound to increase as shortages become more common (par. 1). These tensions might lead to the deterioration of friendly relations among communities. Adopting water-saving measures will abate the water scarcity. This will ensure that no tensions will arise over water in the future, therefore, guaranteeing future peace.

Efforts to save water will translate into saving lives. As water resources become scarce, access to safe drinking water becomes a problem for many people. Maza reveals that in the developed world, minorities and low-income households have difficulty accessing clean water when water scarcity occurs and water distribution is dictated by economics (par.5). This situation can be avoided through water-saving strategies, which will ensure that there is adequate clean water for the entire population.

Environmental impact

The environment will benefit from the long-term strategies adopted to deal with the future water shortage in California. Pollution is one of the major issues facing the limited freshwater reserves available to humans. The current water use patterns do not give due consideration to the environment. Wastewater discharges are often released into rivers, therefore reducing the quality of water flowing. A report by Anderson indicates that in most areas in the world, detrimental practices such as returning of untreated wastewaters to streams continue to occur (1). Water degradation reduces the quantity of fresh water available for use by humans. Adopting long-term strategies such as recycling and reuse will ensure that pollution is kept at bay. Recycling involves treating the wastewater discharged by factories or urban settlements. This treatment ensures that no polluted water is released back into the environment, as would be the case if the wastewater were discharged into rivers.

The long-term strategies will also protect the environment from the adverse effects of stormwater pollution. When the rain pours, surface runoff occurs and this has turned into a major source of pollution as huge quantities of polluted water flow into stormwater drains. This water, which contains contaminants such as petroleum, pesticides, and fertilizers often flows into rivers or other water bodies that are sources of drinking water. When polluted stormwater is discharged into the waterways, it pollutes the environment with toxic substances and chemicals. Recycling efforts ensure that the stormwater is not allowed to enter the waterways in its polluted form. Instead, this water is collected, treated, and recycled before being released back into the environment or used for tasks such as irrigation (Anderson 3). The state of California will, therefore, benefit the environment by adopting long-term strategies to tackle water issues.

In addition to this, the strategies will prevent the devastating impacts of drilling for water. To make up for increased demand for water and reduced supply, Californians have engaged in rampant drilling for groundwater. Knudson notes that the state has been drilling deeper as water levels drop because of unchecked groundwater pumping (par. 1). By tapping into these deep-water reserves, California is using water that cannot be readily replaced. Knudson declares that the rampant drilling in California could spell future disaster (par.3). In addition to this, drilling leads to ecological damage as land sinks due to the extraction of water. The use of long-term solutions such as desalination will reduce the need to drill for water. These will ensure that the deep aquifers are not exhausted thus preventing adverse results.

Economic impact

The state of California and its citizens will reap economic benefits by adopting long-term water conservation strategies. The long-term strategies will not only manage the demand for water but also result in an increase in supply. The available water supplies have an impact on their cost. The currently dwindling water supplies in California are likely to result in an increase in the cost of water. This would have an adverse effect on the economy of the state. Businesses that require large quantities of water to operate incur higher operating costs or in extreme cases, they are forced to close down. According to Boccaletti, Grobbel, and Stuchtey, water scarcity leads to rising prices, which increases the operating costs for companies (67).

This deters economic growth as the productivity of companies decreases. In cases where no solutions are found for water shortages, the businesses are forced to shut down, which has a negative impact on the economic growth of the state. For example, water issues resulted in the closedown of Pepsi and Coca-Cola bottling plants in India. This led to the loss of hundreds of jobs for the local residents. In addition to this, the local authorities lost an important revenue stream as the companies used to pay taxes. If long-term strategies are adopted by California, the state will not face severe water scarcity in the future. Economic prosperity will, therefore, be assured, as companies will continue to operate in the state uninhibited.

Another economic benefit will be in the delay in the need for the state to add capacity in order to satisfy water demands. If demand for water is allowed to increase without any plan to conserve the available reserves, the state will have to expand supply-side infrastructure. Statewide conservation programs can reduce demand, therefore, making it unnecessary to add capacity. One study indicated that New York City residents saved billions of dollars when the city adopted water conservation programs (Woltemade and Fuellhart 118). The water conservation programs not only reduce the need to expand water infrastructure to cope with demand, but they also led to an improvement in the quality of water released into the environment.

The state could also benefit from additional revenue by selling its surplus water resources. At present, California is the state experiencing the most severe water shortage in the West Coast. However, other states in the West are also experiencing an extreme drought that has contributed to a reduction in water supplies (Tinker). Implementation of the long-term solutions would cause California to have a surplus supply of water. Wolfowitz confirms that using strategies such as desalinization and drip irrigation, the state of Israel was able to move from having a water crisis to possessing a water surplus (31). The same can happen in California and the government can generate income from selling the excess water to the neighboring states.

Health issues related to inappropriate water management

The long-term strategies that do not only concentrate on water conservation will have a positive impact on human health in California. The current approach taken by the Californian authorities is having adverse health impacts. A report by UCLA reveals that the current water conservation choices have led to an increase in heat levels, which has put people at risk of suffering from heat strokes due to a lack of green spaces (Sokolow 1). Long-term strategies will not depend primarily on the imposition of water restrictions in the state. Instead, they will propose ways to increase water efficiency and increase supply. The health issues caused by the present conservation choices will therefore not arise.

The low supply of water has contributed to the rise in respiratory diseases as it has necessitated pumping efforts that have contributed to air pollution. Diesel fueled water pumps are in high use in California, as water has to be extracted from underground. Diesel is a fossil fuel that produces toxic gases when it combusts. The increased use of pumps has therefore led to air pollution. The deterioration in air quality has contributed to respiratory diseases (Sokolow 1). The implementation of various long-term strategies will decrease the need to use water pumps. Air pollution will decrease, leading to a decline in the respiratory diseases currently afflicting people in California.

The current approach does not address the issue of surface water pollution. Polluted stormwater is allowed to join the waterways and contaminate drinking water. The UCLA reveals that human consumption of this water has contributed to gastrointestinal illnesses, which are caused by the ingestion of contaminants present in the water (Sokolow 1). The short-term solutions used by California are therefore detrimental to human health and only long-term solutions can offset things. The long-term solutions will address stormwater issues. Anderson documents that the strategies will ensure that surface runoff is treated before being allowed to join the waterways (3).

Lowering the usage will save money

Households will enjoy savings in water costs when efficient water utilization habits are adopted. As a limited natural resource, water costs money, and consumers have to pay to access it. At present, water is an affordable commodity and most consumers do not have trouble affording it. However, the prices can be expected to increase as water scarcity increases. High water consumption will, therefore, be an expensive habit for consumers in the near future. WaterSense declares that efficient utilization of water saves homeowners money as their water bills are reduced (1).

Households and farmers will enjoy reduced energy costs when California’s water issues are solved. Water requires huge amounts of energy to reach the taps in people’s houses. Water Conservation Tips state that about 20 of electricity and over 30% of natural gas is used in the delivery of clean water from the source to homes or industries (par. 2). This energy is used for tasks such as water treatment, transportation, and eventual use. When water is saved, the energy used for these efforts decreases dramatically.

The government is offering financial incentives for water conservation in California. The EPA reports that in the East Bay District, authorities are offering rebates for efforts by households and commercial installations that engage in measures to save water (2). Small families can receive up to $2,500 while large families have the potential to receive up to $20,000 in rebates if they engage in aggressive conservation efforts.


Rationing water use in Agriculture

The authorities in California should restrict water usage in the agricultural sector. Agriculture currently uses almost four times more water than other urban users (Wolfowitz 31). Restricting water use in the industry will have a huge impact on water management. The water uses practices currently applied by farmers in California are wasteful. For example, the flood watering system is still used in California and this inefficient method leads to significant wastage of water. The authorities should restrict water use by farmers and therefore force the sector to make use of efficient methods such as drip irrigation. This strategy was used in Israel with great success. Drip irrigation was introduced to address the water scarcity in the region. Wolfowitz documents that this approach led to a dramatic reduction in agricultural water use (33). Adopting the same in California will lead to an increase in the water available for other uses.

California Department of Food and Agriculture should provide some sort of financial incentives for farmers who would like to grow less water demanding crops. This will encourage more farmers to cultivate crops that do not deplete water resources.

As it currently stands, agriculture uses almost four times more water than urban users (Wolfowitz 31). This high usage by the agricultural industry has been caused by the increase in the cultivation of water-hungry crops. For example, California farmers grow almonds, which are very thirsty crops. Philpott reveals that the production of a single almond requires a gallon of water while a grape only requires a third of that amount and a strawberry about half as much (30).

Wastewater recycling

The government should invest in more recycling facilities to increase the volume of recycled water. Wastewater facilities should implement solutions for energy efficiency. Water recycling facilities are capable of converting wastewater into water that can be put into good use (Haddaway 10). California has a large recycling facility in El Segundo. This facility is able to provide 62 million gallons of recycled water from wastewater. Investing in a number of similar facilities will increase the output of water that California has. Anderson indicates that recycled water can be used for irrigation (2).

This will save a huge volume of groundwater that is currently utilized by the agricultural sector. While California does have some big recycling plants in operation, it can still benefit from additional facilities. The use of recycled water for irrigation will also have the advantage of increasing crop yield in the farmlands. Anderson documents that in Mexico City, the use of wastewater for irrigation has greatly increased crop yield (2). In addition to this, the use of recycled water will result in the creation of new aquifers that will increase the base flow of local streams leading to an increase in the water resources available for the state.

Millbrae, CA is an example of a facility that is energy efficient. It uses grease from wastewater to produce fuel that powers the facility (Environmental Benefits).

Desalinization Facilities

While California has scarce freshwater supplies, the state has access to an abundance of saline water. The state has an expansive coastline that stretches for up to 840 miles. This extended coast provides the state with access to seawater that can be processed to turn it into freshwater. Through desalination efforts, salts and minerals can be removed from the ocean water, making it usable for activities such as irrigation and human consumption. In the past, desalination has been unfeasible due to the high energy costs associated with the process. However, modern advances have made it possible to produce fresh water in an energy-efficient manner. Wolfowitz reports that Israel has made advances that reduce the cost of desalinated water through economies of scale (32). California can benefit from these advances and produce huge quantities of water, which will be added to the state’s water supply. Accessibility to the ocean will ensure that the desalination facilities in California have a steady supply of seawater to process.

Consumer Conservation

Households in the state can contribute to water conservation by decreasing their water usage through the adoption of efficient water use strategies. Most people are not conscious of their water usage and this leads to a lot of wastage. Individuals can take steps to ensure that they utilize the water in their houses efficiently. WaterSense suggests engaging in some easy efficiency measures to reduce water usage (1). These measures include taking showers instead of baths in a tub, not letting the water run while brushing teeth or shaving, and washing fruits in basins. In addition to this, households can decrease water consumption by using water-efficient washing machines and replacing old model showerheads and toilet water tanks with high-efficiency toilets and showerheads. Residents of the state can also get technicians to inspect their houses for any water leaks. Leaky toilets and faucets should be repaired to avoid water wastage. Smith documents that in California, over 50% of overall residential water use is for outdoor tasks, mostly watering lawns (16)


Environmentalists may oppose some major water projects that affect the ecosystem. However, the ecosystem is already being degraded with the current water usage habits in California. The release of wastewater into the waterways is introducing contaminants into the ecosystem. The overuse of the available water reserves is destroying ecosystems such as swamps and marshes. Action is needed to reverse or mitigate the damage to the environment. Major water projects such as recycling will ensure that wastewater is not released into the environment. The projects also increase the water available therefore ensuring that natural habitats are not deprived of water. The California Department of Fish and Wildlife is in approval of various projects making sure to prevent and minimize damage to the environment (A Summary of the CEQA)

Some would oppose the consumer economy because they claim their water usage is already low. Yet there are numerous instances of water wastage or overuse in many households. Most people continue to engage in activities that wastewater such as washing their cars with hoses from their taps and bathing in tubs. Old toilets that require a lot of water to flush are also present in many households. These realities demonstrate that there is great potential to decrease water usage in households. Adopting efficient water use measures would not prevent people from carrying out tasks that require water. It would just prevent unnecessary wastages that are occurring. As it currently stands, there are numerous instances of water wastage or overuse in many households. Households can observe up to a 35% reduction in water use by using water-saving features (Eartheasy).


Authorities in the state of California have acknowledged that they are having a water crisis and they have taken steps to cope with the issue. However, the strategy adopted relies heavily on limiting water usage by the consumers. This paper has shown that this is only a short-term strategy and it will not solve the water shortages in the state will face in the future. The state must implement plans that will guarantee the water security of California in future years. Ways to increase the available water reserves and improve current consumption must be adopted. The solutions proposed in this paper are feasible and if implemented, they will solve the water shortage problems currently facing California for the long-term. The solutions will also have a positive impact on the environment, which is experiencing deterioration due to current water usage. The authorities should, therefore, begin working on these proposals in order to tackle the water issues currently facing California and ensure future water security for the state.

Works Cited

California Environmental Quality Act. Web.

Anderson, John. “The environmental benefits of water recycling and reuse.” Water Science and Technology: Water Supply 3.4 (2003): 1–10. Print.

Boccaletti, Giulio, Merie Grobbel and Martin Stuchtey. “The business opportunity in water conservation.” McKinsey Quarterly 12.1 (2010): 67-75.

Eartheasy. 25 ways to conserve water in the home and yard. 2016. Web.

EPA. Saving Water in California. 2015. Web.

Haddaway, Art. “The Recycling Revolution.” Waterworld 31.11 (2015): 10. Web.

Knudson, Tom. . 2015. Web.

Maza, Cristina. World Water Day: Why Access to Clean Water is a Crucial Social Justice Issue. 22 March 2013. Web. 15 April 2016.

Philpott, Tom. “California Goes Nuts.” Mother Jones 39.6 (2014): 28. Web.

Rousseau, Richard. . 2015. Web.

Smith, Patricia. “Paradise Parched.” Junior Scholastic 118.1 (2015): 14-17. Web.

Sokolow, Sharona. “Health and Water Conservation Policy: How Can California’s Water Community Consider Human Health While Protecting against California’s Drought?” UCLA. 2014. Web.

Tinker, Richard. U.S. Drought Monitor. 2016. Web.

“WaterSense | US EPA.” Environmental Protection Agency. Web.

Wolfowitz, Paul. “‘Water Engineers Will Be Its Heroes’.” Commentary 141.1 (2016): 30-35. Web.

Woltemade, Christopher and Kurt Fuellhart. “Economic Efficiency of Residential Water Conservation Programs in a Pennsylvania Public Water Utility.” Professional Geographer 65.1 (2013): 116-129. Print.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'California Water Shortages and Long-Term Solutions'. 29 September.

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