Lynne Plambeck | Warming Climate and Our Water

We all know that a warming climate will affect our water supply. Some areas of the country are predicted to see increased flooding from hurricanes and other storms, while climate models show the West, particularly California, will be getting dryer.

This will especially affect the water supply in California and here locally in the SCV, where we have long depended on water from the melting Sierra snowpack to get us through our hot, dry summers. For almost a hundred years we have relied on a water cycle that creates a massive annual snowpack in the mountains, larger than anything any reservoir could store, and then melts slowly over the spring and summer. This water is delivered to Southern California through the State Water Project aqueduct and provides about half the water for the Santa Clarita Valley.

But in 2015, there was no snowpack. Pictures of Water Resources personnel tramping through a brown meadow in the middle of winter were ominous. The recent six-year drought in California was the worst in decades and harder to address because of California’s population growth, and it will not be the last. Climate scientists predict the almost total loss of the Sierra snowpack within 25 years.

For many years SCOPE (Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment) has promoted preservation of floodplains and leaving the Santa Clara River and its tributaries in a natural state so that recharge of our local groundwater would continue to occur. We have also urged the use of permeable pavement and other means of making sure storm water can seep back into the ground to recharge our groundwater basins, in spite of all the new hard surfaces from development.

Addressing climate change issues like these is hard and can seem overwhelming, so I am always impressed with members of the public who take their time to speak up in the hope it will make a difference. This is exactly what happened a few months ago when our local water agency held a two-day strategic planning workshop with key staff and board members to develop goals and policies for the agency’s work plans. Two members of the Citizen’s Climate Lobby took their Friday night to attend the Santa Clarita Valley Water Agency meeting to ask that climate change issues be addressed in the Strategic Plan.

Their attendance made a difference. When the plan was recently released (https://yourscvwater.com/strategic-plan/), climate change and suggestions to address its impacts to our local water supplies were specifically called out in the plan. I am not sure that would have happened without the urging of members of the public on a Friday night.

With the help of conscientious public advocates and in the face of climate change-related water supply reductions, everyone is beginning to understand the serious crisis we are facing. From the passage of Measure W last year, which placed a property tax on impervious surfaces to be used for recharge projects, to water conservation practices in our outdoor landscaping, it is obvious that both the public and our agencies understand the urgency of preparing for change in the face of a warming climate.

Lynne Plambeck is president of Santa Clarita Organization for Planning and the Environment.

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