Recently a friend asked me why some areas are out of water and some are not. The answer is twofold: location and politics. This is why Santa Clarita is on three-day-a-week watering for homeowners and greater Los Angeles is on one day a week. This is why some communities have to truck in water during dry years and why some areas don’t.
Location matters in the water world and will matter even more in the future. If your area has good groundwater supply, like Santa Clarita, that makes a big difference. Santa Clarita’s groundwater pumping is sustainable, and we don’t hesitate to install water treatment when needed. Some areas have ignored groundwater pollution as “too hard to address.” Much of the Central Valley has depleted groundwater. Coastal areas have pumped so much groundwater that seawater has moved inland into their water table, ruining it.
How communities deal with the challenges of their location is driven by politics. When the State Water Project, which supplies Santa Clarita, was built, communities could buy into that supply or not. Some chose not to. Their representatives may have thought it was too expensive, or they may have thought having more water would result in changes that they didn’t want in their town. Politics also affects other large projects like reservoirs, desalination plants, water treatment and recycled water.
Some areas are suffering right now and are sending “water cops” out to fine people if they water more than one day a week. Some areas, like Santa Clarita, can weather multiple years of droughts and are happy to instead help their customers be more efficient with rebates and water audits rather than water cops.
How will we handle climate change? We can, if the political will is there. It is generally accepted that we will still have the same amount of H20, but it may fall as rain, not snow. It will likely be more extreme… floods and droughts. Is the willpower there to begin adapting? Some communities will thrive. Others, sadly, may fail due to a combination of location and politics.
We must stop the delay and diversion tactics on this issue. Like any utility project, water projects take decades to plan, permit, and build… if they even build at all. Though solutions exist, scant progress has been made. Not due to science, but due to politics. Every excuse in the book is rolled out: recession, cost, global warming, rain, lack of rain, water waste, North vs. South, and more. Major water supply and flood protection in California, the most populous state in the country, is based on an aging system of earthen levees given a dismal letter grade of “D” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.
If you have noticed that Santa Clarita handles drought differently than some areas, you are correct. We have planned ahead. We have invested in a broad range of water supplies. We store excess water in wet years so we have it in dry years. We look for and eliminate leaks. We protect our groundwater and successfully sue polluters who contaminate it. We help customers be efficient with their water use. We are increasing the use of recycled water even though environmental regulations make it very hard to take water from our sewage treatment plants out of the river.
Climate change will affect us all. Some are politically bent on running us all out of water. Some will ensure their community thrives going forward. What future do you want for the Santa Clarita Valley?
The choice is yours, every time you vote.
President, SCV Groundwater
Board Member, SCV Water