Kudos to Jim Wunderman, President and CEO of the Bay Area Council, for his excellent op-ed in the East Bay Times this week, “Conserve Water Now to Prepare for Drought.” As the “Voice of Bay Area Business,” representing the largest employers in the region, the Council is a central player in state water policy and joins the CA Building Industry Association and others in supporting Governor Brown’s call to make conservation a California way of life.
The last few years of drought conditions in California, followed by this winter’s water deluge, has exemplified what climate science has long predicted: California is headed towards an even more uncertain and extreme water future. But we’ve also learned that Californians are responsive and resourceful.
In 2015, when the governor’s executive order mandated 25% reductions in urban water usage across the state, municipalities and individuals rose to the challenge to reduce their water footprint — the vast majority were successful in achieving the Governor’s target in most cases with limited economic impacts.
Moving forward, the state has put together a framework to prepare for these extremes and become water resilient by more deliberately embedding efficiency into water management today. As Wunderman so accurately points out, the best time to prepare for an eventuality, is before it occurs. Just as we wouldn’t wait to create a building code on earthquake retrofitting until after the next big earthquake hits, we can’t wait to implement permanent water saving actions until the next drought arrives.
Several key points in Wunderman’s analysis of the state’s framework deserve special attention:
- Conservation & efficiency are at the foundation of the state’s plan because they must become California’s new normal. These are the quickest and most affordable ways to expand California’s water portfolio, while saving consumers money and protecting the environment.
- Local water agencies will remain in control of their communities’ water future and conservation measures. They can target the most effective and economical strategies for achieving their individual water usage targets while meeting local water needs.
- Resources and support are available at the state-level to assist local agencies in achieving the water saving objectives outlined in the plan.
Californians are primed to lead the nation in innovative, sustainable water management and it’s fantastic to see the business community getting behind this critical effort.
Cynthia Koehler is the Executive Director and Co-Founder of WaterNow Alliance. She is also a member of the Governor Brown’s Urban Advisory Group.