California governor announces aggressive plan to boost water supply

·3 min read

California Gov. Gavin Newsom this week announced an aggressive new plan to tackle the state's water shortage. The $8 billion strategy, detailed in a 16-page document, aims to reinforce California's dwindling water supply.

As the burdens of global warming and historic drought conditions show no sign of slowing down, Newsom is looking to expand the state's water supply.

"The science and the data leads us to now understand that we will lose 10% of our water supply by 2040," Newson said Thursday during a visit to a desalination plant. "As a consequence of that deeper understanding, we have a renewed sense of urgency to address this issue head on."

Dead quaking Aspen trees stand near a shoreline expanded by the very low water level at Grant Lake, California. / Credit: David McNew / Getty Images
Dead quaking Aspen trees stand near a shoreline expanded by the very low water level at Grant Lake, California. / Credit: David McNew / Getty Images

The new plan, titled "California's Water Supply Strategy, Adapting to a Hotter, Drier Future," highlights methods to boost water levels and make up for water loss caused by climate change. The four main goals outlined are to create storage for four million acre-feet of storm water, recycle and reuse 800,000 acre-feet of wastewater per year by 2030, employ more efficient water conservation techniques to free up 500,000 acre-feet of water, and desalinate more sea water.

"What we are focusing on is creating more supply," Newsom said. "What we're focused on is creating more water. How can we take existing resources and be more resourceful in terms of advancing policies, and direct our energies to create more water, to capture more water?"

In his news conference, Newsom also emphasized his frustration with the bureaucratic process, which often slows down the implementation of climate plans like this one.

"The time to get these damn projects is ridiculous, it's absurd, it's reasonably comedic," Newsom said.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters about new water plan to adapt to hotter, drier conditions caused by climate change. Aug. 11, 2022.  / Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images
California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to reporters about new water plan to adapt to hotter, drier conditions caused by climate change. Aug. 11, 2022. / Credit: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

While the plan outline gives people a basic understanding of the methods the state would employ to increase water supply, critics like the nonprofit environmental advocacy group Food & Water Watch said the plan never discusses how the state's biggest water usage offenders could cut down.

"The plan makes no mention of curbing the most intensive water users of the state – Big Ag and Big Oil," the Food & Water Watch wrote in a statement.

Research by the organization alleges that California "could save as much as 82 million cubic meters of water every year by switching from fossil fuels to renewables like solar and wind power."

The group added that Newsom's plan relies heavily on controversial projects like desalination – a process Food & Water Watch argues utilizes fossil fuels, puts marine life in danger and creates toxic brine that is difficult to dispose of.

"Frontline communities can't afford desalination and neither can the environment," Food & Water Watch California Organizing Manager Tomás Rebecchi said in a statement. "And time after time Californians have fought against these boondoggle projects and won. It's time Newsom treated water like a human right, not a commodity to be traded for corporate profit."

Newsom Thursday said that he will work aggressively, "not waiting for the voters," to get this plan implemented.

"I'm enthusiastic about this plan," the governor said. "I'm enthusiastic about the innovation that we are advancing in this plan, but more importantly, the deeper sense of urgency, a mindset of intentionality, a focus on real goals and real deliverables, with timeframes and resources attached to those timeframes."

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