“It’s not the lack of resources that cause failure, it’s the lack of resourcefulness that causes failure.”
— Tony Robbins
Did you know that the California Coastal Commission, of which Santa Barbara City Councilmember Meaghan Harmon is a member, rejected a water desal permit application for a plant in Orange County, like the one now operational in Carlsbad?
This Orange County project planned for the last 20 years, was designed to supply water to 16% of a population of 3.1 million people. That equals 50 million gallons of drinking water per day. But not now. Is it only in California that it takes 20 years to apply for a permit only to have it rejected?
The desalination plant now operating in Carlsbad took 14 years from initial planning to becoming operational. With this track record, a decision to build a new desalination plant in California, taken today, would not be operational until 2036, if the permit was granted. We would be well into the climate change danger zone of 1.5 degrees Celsius above the worldwide target. Based on current experience and outlook for all-natural water supplies in California, might 2036 be too little, too late?
Last week, Gov. Gavin Newsom threatened the use of statewide mandatory restrictions on water usage. This last year’s period of drought is said to be the worst in almost 100 years. But even this fact did not stir our supine governor into declaring a statewide, decentralized, five-year investment strategy or plans to use new infrastructure and technology to significantly increase water recycling, water capture and storage, and water creation.
The writing has been on the wall for years. More frequent droughts are lasting longer. Authorities warn constantly that climate changes will only exacerbate them. The current sources of water cannot indefinitely sustain a population of 40 million, nor the massive farming operations in California.
Gov. Newsom has the power to use a substantial portion of the current state budget surplus to initiate his version of a “Warp Speed” statewide effort to ensure an adequate, long-term, water supply for the people of California. After all, they are his constituents.
Instead, he is calling for the construction of 3.5 million new homes in California, adding another 7 million to 8 million in the population, which would be an 18-20% increase in population at a time when water supplies are becoming unsustainable for the 39.5 million already here. Does he have the power to seize our desalination plant by declaring a state of emergency, when we experience an extreme drought situation and water rationing?
California is in the middle of protracted droughts that have become worse with time and will become even more dangerous. Our major reservoirs are at historic lows in water levels. Our ancient water aquifers are being depleted of their stores of water at an increasing rate, as more and deeper wells are used to extract water that cannot be replenished because of inadequate rain and snowmelt.
Surface water supplies from rivers and lakes are being restricted for the same reasons. The mighty Colorado River can no longer supply the water needs of the seven Western states and Northern Mexico that have been drawing water supplies from it for many decades. Now, restrictions on taking water from it are in place.
Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States, 112 miles long, and with a depth capacity of 532 feet at its deepest point, is now so low in the water that bodies dumped in the lake decades ago are becoming visible on the bottom. The second-largest reservoir, Lake Powell is also severely low in water level.
Did You Know? has mentioned this issue numerous times, but we cannot allow this looming danger to pass, without again emphasizing the urgent need for statewide action. Drinkable water, above all else, is the most precious, and the only resource necessary, to sustain every form of life. Its value is incalculable. Its loss is destruction and death.
We looked to find global comparisons for solutions in California, which is a partly desert, coastal state with a population of 39.5 million people and an established pattern of droughts and depletion of water sources, with only 12 desalination plants (including the one in Santa Barbara).
Australia is, in many ways, comparable to California with a partly desert topography and a long coastline. It has a population of 25.75 million and 30 desalination plants, with more planned. Every major city has a desalination plant.
Saudi Arabia is largely desert in topography with a considerable coastline. The population of Saudi Arabia is 35.34 million with 33 desalination plants.
In other parts of the world, water desalination from the oceans is becoming the essential backup supply for drinking water as natural water sources are declining because of the effects of climate change. What do Australia and Saudi Arabia know that the California state government does not? Could desal plants reduce the threat of sea-level- rise?
The current MO is of local municipalities negotiating with statewide bureaucracies for water, which affects the very survival of their constituents. DYK asks why the state of California does not have an integrated, statewide, decentralized, strategy and plans for protecting our population of 40 million from foreseeable deadly droughts and the havoc wrought on our economy?
The strategy should address reduced water usage, especially using potable water for irrigation, increased water recycling, significantly increased water capture and storage from rain and snowmelt runoff and major increases in drinking water creation by desalination of brackish waters, of ocean waters and from air humidity capture.
It is up to all of us to petition the governor for long-term solutions. Restricting water usage has been the only strategy of successive governors for years. This one needs to do his job or resign in favor of a more competent leader.