Elans learn causes of California drought

By Stephanie Garibay

A meeting designed to teach students water conservation by the California Department of Water Resources drew nearly 100 students on campus, Wednesday morning.

Jeff Winchester from the California Department of Water resources, Southern Field Division shared his insight on problems caused by the drought, and offered alternate plans the department can implement to ease the water crisis.

Winchesters concluded during his time at the Vista Del Lago Center, that the number one problem that California and its southern inhabitants have to take into account is the population growth.

California’s population has increased from 6.4 million in the ‘60s, when current reservoirs and water projects were first implemented, to more than 38 million today.

Since population growth has not stopped, the water being funneled to Southern California, which was built for a smaller population, has dramatically changed the way Californians need to start using water.

“We actually did cut back the25 percent usage the governor   wanted,” Winchester said.

Although this is a good start, according to Winchester, it is still not enough.

“In order for you to understand the State Water Project, you need to know that we are snow dependent,” Winchester said.

Winchester explained that not enough rain falls along the Sacramento line, which is why we are snow dependent.

In order for the rain to be useful, it must fall in the right places or  in water sheds.

If not enough rain falls with the upcoming El Niño, snow will save the water supply.

“We need two good El Niño years, with cold temperatures in order to get the reservoirs starting  back up,” said Winchester.

There are currently four main water projects in California, three of them specifically with the purpose of transporting water to southern California, since 80 percent of rainfall comes from north of Sacramento.

The fourth is the Central Valley Project which started in the 1930s and its primary goal was flood control.

The California Water Project proposed seawater desalination  as a water management strategie.

The desalination process itself is complicated and uses a technique called reverse osmosis that  pushes seawater through filters to remove salt and other particles. The    leftover, extra-salty seawater is pumped back into the ocean.

The project took five years to build, but took 15 years to complete due to permiting process

Due to lack of funds, the technology necessary to utilize ocean water for farming and civilian sectors has not been pushed forward in California.

“It could take years to be approved. Anything that was started today is still a plan. We are talking decades for it to build.  In fact, this is not a plan that will help immediately save the severe drought,” said Winchester.

Winchester has dedicated the past eight years to working with the state Department of Water and Resources.




Rhandi Fang, Rudy Ojeda, Matthew Saracho and Patricia Medina contributed to this story.

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