Water Crisis in California

Water is a crucial natural resource with a myriad of biological, chemical and physical uses. According to Ballard and Hively (2017, p.96), the current water coverage is 71% of the earth's total surface with the percentage rapidly increasing due to unpredictable climatic changes caused by the greenhouse effect. California is the chosen city for this report due to its ever-growing population and the demand for pure water that humans can consume. The state is located in the U.S.’s south-west and has an estimated population of 39.77 million individuals. The rationale for choosing California is its ever-increasing population that has increased the water demand to 7550 gallons per day by 2012 and its highly established water networks (National Research Council 2012, p.14). This report evaluates the current water situation in California, possible solutions, and provides some recommendations to the situation.

Assessment of Current Situation

California is a state bordering the Pacific Ocean with a semi-arid climate. Lundquist et al. (2015, p.1779) argue that the south and eastern regions of California receive not more than 100mm of rainfall annually. The low precipitation can be attributed to the shadows that the Sierra Nevada mountains cast on these regions. Rainfall in this region falls on the coastal region whose width is less than 250 kilometres. Figueroa and Knott (2010, p.35) contend that the main rivers in the state of California such as the Kaweah River derive their water the melted snow of Sierra Nevada Mountains. Increased deforestation activities within the neighbouring regions and industrialisation are the primary causes for the long drought durations witnessed in the region with the storage and underground water storage levels substantially reducing.

According to Lundquist et al. (2015, p.1779), most regions in the semi-arid California receive rainfall between November and March. However, evapotranspiration results in the more than 65% of the precipitation (Rao and Allen 2010, p.1035). The temperature in this region can rise to more than 30 degrees with most water being drawn from the neighbouring Pacific Ocean. However, some individuals harvest water from the 200-500mm of precipitation received annually. Population stress is another challenge in California. World Population Review (2018) reports that the state had 2 million individuals by 1900. However, the population grew to 33.99 million in 200 and currently stands at 39.77 million (World Population Review, 2018). The increased population results in the rise in the demand for water for both commercial and domestic use. As such the Californian state government together with the national or federal government have developed projects and agencies that ensure that supply of water to farms, residences, and factories.

The key water distributors in the semi-arid region include the Colorado river systems, central valley and state water projects and the Los Angeles, Mokelumne, and Hetch Hetchy Aqueducts (Bridgeman 2004, p.150). Water for both commercial and domestic uses are mainly drawn from river basins, and recycling plants. However, water management in the state is relatively poor resulting in frequent shortages (Lund 2015, p.5906). The high dependence on water bodies also frustrates the efforts by the various water distribution agencies to ensure that a large percentage of persons within the state receive adequate water throughout the year.  

Possible Solutions

California has immense water shortages. The high temperatures experienced throughout the year facilitates evapotranspiration leading to the loss of more than half of the region’s precipitation every year. Additionally, the 200-500 mm of precipitation is not sufficient to sustain the needs of the occupants of this region and the numerous industries and farmlands. Therefore, there exists a need for the development of strategies that would help in facilitating the provision of adequate water to the region.

The first solution would be to establish a desalination agency that would be responsible for the purification of saline water from the Pacific Ocean making it suitable for domestic consumption. According to Dolnicar and Schäfer (2009, p.888), desalination is a technique that has saved water resources in many countries. The scholars argue that desalination of non-potable sources is generally inexpensive. According to Owens (2001, p.877), desalination involves the removal of harmful minerals from the water derived from non-potable sources and purification of the water to eliminate microbes. This solution is viable due to the presence of a 250 km oceanic strip that can provide water for the entire region.

The second solution would be the establishment of state corporations that would recycle water that has already been used. Woltersdorf et al. (2018, p.382) contend that recycling is a key solution to water shortages experienced in most drylands since it involves water purification and reuse. The second solution is also viable since California has many urban centres that are connected to decentralised sewer and waste centres that can be used as water recycling points. State corporations have a potential of reducing water costs since their charges would be less than the many private entities that have dominated the market.

Conclusions and Recommendation

In summary, while the population of most urban areas increases, water becomes a necessity. Therefore, most towns have different agencies responsible for the distribution or provision of water to homes. This report finds recycling and desalination as the key water provision types with a potential for solving the water challenges in California. The key recommendations would be the establishment of a desalination plant that would cater deal with the removal of minerals from the saline water of the Pacific and the development of state water recycling corporations to enhance water recycling services.


Ballard, R.D. and Hively, W., 2017. The Eternal Darkness: A Personal History ff Deep-Sea Exploration. Princeton University Press.

Bridgeman, J., 2004. Public perception towards water recycling in California. Water and Environment Journal, 18(3), pp.150-154.

Dolnicar, S. and Schäfer, A.I., 2009. Desalinated versus recycled water: public perceptions and profiles of the accepters. Journal of Environmental Management, 90(2), pp.888-900.

Figueroa, A.M. and Knott, J.R., 2010. Tectonic geomorphology of the southern Sierra Nevada Mountains (California): Evidence for uplift and basin formation. Geomorphology, 123(1-2), pp.34-45.

Lund, J.R., 2015. Integrating social and physical sciences in water management. Water Resources Research, 51(8), pp.5905-5918.

Lundquist, J.D., Hughes, M., Henn, B., Gutmann, E.D., Livneh, B., Dozier, J. and Neiman, P., 2015. High-elevation precipitation patterns: Using snow measurements to assess daily gridded datasets across the Sierra Nevada, California. Journal of Hydrometeorology, 16(4), pp.1773-1792.

National Research Council, 2012. Water reuse: potential for expanding the nation's water supply through reuse of municipal wastewater. National Academies Press.

Owens, S., 2001. Salt of the Earth: Genetic engineering may help to reclaim agricultural land lost due to salinisation. EMBO reports, 2(10), pp.877-879.

Rao, L.E. and Allen, E.B., 2010. Combined effects of precipitation and nitrogen deposition on native and invasive winter annual production in California deserts. Oecologia, 162(4), pp.1035-1046.

Woltersdorf, L., Zimmermann, M., Deffner, J., Gerlach, M. and Liehr, S., 2018. Benefits of an integrated water and nutrient reuse system for urban areas in semi-arid developing countries. Resources, Conservation and Recycling, 128, pp.382-393.

World Population Review (2018). California Population 2018. [online] Worldpopulationreview.com. Available at: http://worldpopulationreview.com/states/california-population/ [Accessed 27 Mar. 2018].

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