Every four years, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) conducts a survey to estimate the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF) eligible needs of systems by state. In 2013, the EPA found that when it comes to rebuilding and expanding vital water infrastructure, no state has a greater need than California. The survey revealed a $384-billion wish list of infrastructure projects through 2030. Yet, the last time significant state and federal investments were made in the state’s water storage and delivery system was in the 1960’s, when the state’s population stood at 16 million. While more than 38 million people now live in the Golden State, funds have not increased.
The American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure gives California’s drinking and wastewater systems a grade of “D.”
Thanks to new reservoir construction and aggressive conservation, Southern California will have enough water to last for approximately two years, before having to face the worst impacts of continual drought. Wetter weather, however, also impacts the state’s drinking water. The crisis in Oroville puts a spotlight on the infrastructure issues that persist and must be addressed before the fear about possible disaster turns to a true catastrophic event.