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It’s Raining Now, but How Can California Boost Its Water Supply Later?

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Water rushes out of Northern California's Oroville spillway on Feb. 17, 2023. (DWR)
Water rushes out of Northern California's Oroville spillway on Feb. 17, 2023. (DWR)
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Over and over again, drought launches California into a familiar scramble to provide enough water.

Rachel Becker

CalMatters

Cities and towns call for conservation and brace for shortages. Growers fallow fields and ranchers sell cows. And thousands of people discover that they can’t squeeze another drop from their wells.

So where can California get enough water to survive the latest dry stretch — and the next one, and the next?

Can it pump more water from the salty Pacific Ocean? Treat waste flushed down toilets and washed down drains? Capture runoff that flows off streets into storm drains? Tow Antarctic icebergs to Los Angeles?

The Newsom administration unveiled a roadmap for bolstering the state water supply. But the plan — which has few details, distant deadlines and scant plans for agriculture — has been met with criticism.

Every time another drought rolls around, an array of suggestions rise to the surface. We take a look at the strategies that could work — along with the more outlandish ones — and the obstacles they face.

 

About the Author

Rachel Becker is a reporter with a background in scientific research. After studying the links between the brain and the immune system, Rachel left the lab bench with her master’s degree to become a journalist via the MIT Graduate Program in Science Writing. For nearly three years, Rachel was a staff science reporter at The Verge, where she wrote stories and hosted videos covering a range of beats including climate change, nicotine, and nuclear technology. Rachel now covers California’s complex water challenges and water policy issues for CalMatters. In 2021 she won first place for Outstanding Beat Reporting from the Society of Environmental Journalists.

About CalMatters

CalMatters is a nonprofit, nonpartisan newsroom committed to explaining California policy and politics.