California is no stranger to the devastating impacts of drought, including water shortages, wildfires, economic losses, and wildlife habitat destruction. Residents are increasingly familiar with water restrictions and reduction requests, while policymakers and government agencies have focused heavily on tactics such as recycling and conservation.
However, recent heavy storms —an issue on the opposite end of the spectrum – serve as a tough reminder that California must do more to develop sustainable water management systems that improve water security while reducing the impact of storms on local communities. According to the National Weather Service, almost the entire state has received rainfall totals 400% to 600% above average over the past weeks. Many residents received flash flood warnings and warnings of heavy, unseasonable rains, which later resulted in several feet of water breaching homes and businesses alike. Others, such as residents in Montecito, were ordered to evacuate while power outages, rain, hail, and severe wind swept across the state.
While the storm highlighted the lack of protective measures that insulate cities and communities from the impacts of intense weather, it further underscores the losses we experience resulting from aging stormwater capture systems: the majority of rain flowed back out to sea.
California’s current system of stormwater capture infrastructure was built over a century ago with a primary focus on reducing flooding. Since then, the downside of systems built to divert, rather than store, water has become clear. By making investments in systems that capture and store stormwater while protecting communities from flooding, California will have a sounder and more expansive approach to drought mitigation.
The bottom line? We must take steps to balance our dual mission of flood protection and supporting local water supply to bring California out of drought. Learn more about the drought and proposed solutions on the Rebuild SoCal Zone Podcast, where we launched a mini-series focused on California’s Water Crisis. Click here to listen to our conversation with the California Department of Water Resources Director, Karla Nemeth, about the ongoing megadrought in the state. Click here to listen to our discussion with Deven Upadhyay from MWD, where we discussed solutions to the water crisis, such as recycled water and conservation efforts.
Rebuild SoCal Partnership provides information about other construction projects affecting Southern California communities. Keep up-to-date on essential infrastructure issues by signing up for the Rebuild SoCal Partnership newsletter. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and listen to The Rebuild SoCal Zone podcast.