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Sacramento Delta
There are numerous technologies in development or in place which could be applied to help better manage California's water systems, such as using airborne interferometric radar to help monitor the integrity of the levees in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

CCST Delivers Roadmap to a Sustainable Water Future for California

April 9, 2014

A report from the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) released today envisions a path toward a sustainable water future for California achieved through a system management approach utilizing innovations in science, technology and management.

Such an approach would rely on currently available and new science and technology, yielding greater efficiencies and opening new sources of supply for managing California water through future multi-year cycles of drought and flooding. This would complement California's already significant investment in large-scale engineering solutions to meet water needs through dams, canals and pipelines.

The CCST's intent with the report - titled "California Water - Achieving a Sustainable California Water Future through Innovations in Science and Technology" - is to point out technologies that can be introduced or more widely applied within the next five to ten years. For example, widespread use of soil-moisture-monitoring devices could help better manage irrigation in real time. The report also identifies increasing wastewater cleanup and recycling technologies to provide more water for appropriate uses. These are just two innovations among many outlined in the report, which drew from a wide spectrum of public and private-sector water experts throughout the state.

The full report can be downloaded here, where visitors can also opt to download the executive summary only.

In making specific recommendations, the report outlines near-term actions, which include:

  • Developing and implementing a comprehensive integrated statewide water information system, allowing a near real-time view of the status of the hydrologic cycle, elements, supplies and uses;
  • Encouraging the metering of all water usage, for agriculture, urban and industrial use;
  • Expanding use of high-efficiency plumbing, appliances, low-water use landscapes, and self-repairing materials for distribution systems;
  • Identifying high-impact actions to restore and protect watersheds functions;
  • Increasing storm water capture and groundwater recharge; and
  • Increasing nitrate reduction technologies for drinking water and desalination technologies for brackish water and groundwater cleanup.

"Overall, our message is that many of the needed solutions already exist or are in late stage development because of California's legacy of success in leveraging technological innovation," said Jude Laspa, a CCST council member who led development of the report. "Now, the challenge is coordinating the statewide application of these many advances associated with every stage in the water-use cycle."

The report also acknowledges barriers to implementation, driven largely by the heavily fragmented nature of current water resource management in California and the lack of agreement on an overall strategic plan for the management of water in the state. Another barrier is insufficient funding, which is likely to cast a long shadow despite the state's recent emergence from years of deficits. Arcane water-rights laws further complicate implementation, as well as lack of public understanding and support for many recommendations. However, the report represents a roadmap that offers private- and public-sector leaders specific areas on which to collaborate.

"It's not intended as a panacea, but as an independent look at where science and technology can give policy makers and decisions makers ideas for sustainable statewide water use within the context of system-thinking strategies," said CCST Executive Director Susan Hackwood.

Water was singled out in CCST's 2011 Innovate to Innovation report, or i2i, a report done at the request of a bipartisan group of legislators, as one of the key drivers for California's future economic development. It recommended leveraging public-private partnerships by enlisting California's science and technology community in finding solutions for our state water challenges. This study is designed to complement the Governor's California Water Action Plan and the 2013 Update of the California Water Plan by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR).

The California Council on Science and Technology is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit corporation established in 1988 by a unanimous vote of the California Legislature. Bringing together world-class expertise from academia, the national labs, companies and a broad array of Senior Fellows who are distinguished scientists and technical experts, CCST offers expert advice to the Governor, the Executive Branch and the Legislature on science and technology-related policy issues. In recent years, CCST has produced a series of reports on water, energy, and STEM and digitally enabled education as well as on California and innovation.

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CONTACT: Will Holbert
(916) 446-9900

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