A few years ago I attended a California State Assembly hearing titled, “The Future of Stormwater: Capture, Store and Supply”, which was given by the Select Committee on Regional Approaches to Addressing the State’s Water Crisis. In addition to providing much of the groundwork for the passing of Proposition 1 (Water Quality, Supply, and Infrastructure Improvement Act of 2014), the hearing focused upon opportunities for stormwater to become a significant part of the Southern California water supply.
In the past decades policies and practices have changed to help capture and store stormwater, such as the AHBE Landscape Architecture projects described in Jennifer Salazar’s, “Under Construction.” Collectively, these efforts help to clean our rivers and oceans, while also capturing and storing stormwater. While these types of projects contribute to recharging of the underground aquifer, according to Council for Watershed Health’s Water Augmentation Study, increased stormwater capture could add an additional 384,000 acre feet of water to aquifers annually.
Improved watershed storage capacity is critical. If this turns out to be a wet El Niño cycle, we will be sending billions of gallons of water to our oceans, which will prevent flooding, but will not help recharge our state’s essential aquifers. Groundwater aquifers in the Southern California have the storage capacity, over 2 million additional acre-feet. And as Yiran observed in “10 Things You Should Know About El Niño,” California’s largest surface water reservoirs are located in Northern California.
Over the last decade, the issue of stormwater has transformed from a water quality problem to a water supply opportunity. And Proposition 1, with its $7.12 billion for state water supply infrastructure projects, will provide funding for more types of projects to “capture, store and supply”, if not in time for this El Niño cycle, then the next. More supply infrastructure projects will help California adapt to increasing the amount of water that can be stored during wet years for the dry years that will continue to challenge California.