Lawmakers recently heard testimony about the needs of California’s water grid at a recent House Subcommittee meeting on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife. Several experts presented information about the current conditions of western water infrastructure and what will be required going forward.
“One of the first priorities is to really think about groundwater as a more active part of this grid; manage it more intensively and actively. The second piece is fix what’s broken and expand capacity where it’s needed,” Director of the Water Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), Ellen Hanak told the committee. “It might be surface reservoir capacity, it might be conveyance…but also infrastructure that you need to operate the groundwater storage in a more active way as well.”
Hanak also provided ways in which the federal government could help California achieve the goals for a more modern water grid. “One is be a really active partner with the state and with locals on assessing what investments are needed and how to manage it better…the second is data…things like measuring evapotranspiration using remote sensing is really key, stream gauges are key. These are all federal roles,” Hanak noted. “The third is, bring groundwater more into the family of what the federal government cares about and there are a lot of different ways that the federal government can help on that.”
In her prepared remarks, Hanak pointed out information from the PPIC’s 2018 report Managing Drought in a Changing Climate which cites specific climate pressures as causing significant challenges for water management in the future. When asked about the role of warmer temperatures in the need for better water storage in lieu of relying on storage via the snowpack, Hanak expressed the need for a diversified approach to storage. “What we’re highlighting is the importance of thinking about the combination of the surface reservoirs and the groundwater basins because in California there’s a tremendous untapped potential to store more water there as well.”