Environment — 30 June 2013

By Ed Coghlan

California Governor Jerry Brown calls water one of the four chronic issues that face California. As a reminder, he is calling July “Water Smart Month” in the Golden State.

The searing heat that has enveloped California in the past week has put an additional strain on the state’s fragile water supply.  On top of that, January and February were among the driest in California history, and California avoids droughts only when it has  wet winters.

Drinking_waterAs you might guess, the Governor is promoting conservation . While most of the water used in California is for agriculture, Brown aimed his rhetoric at urban users, or more specifically at their lawns and gardens.  Landscape irrigation is the number one use of water in urban environments. The state has a website it’s promoting to give people tips about how to use less water.

Saving water is a big issue in California, where the supply of water has dominated state policy practically since California was admitted to the Union in 1848. When water experts think about California’s water issue, they think in terms of supply, storage and conservation.  Expect to hear more about that as a water bond expected to be around $10 billion is prepared for the 2014 ballot.

While supply, storage and conservation are big issues, there’s also concern about the quality of water in some parts of California.

Dozens of cities in the San Joaquin Valley have water that is tainted. The Environmental Protection Agency has been watching California’s efforts to clean up some of the tainted water that many residents in poor rural areas of the Golden State have to drink.  What has raised the ire of the Feds is that California has over $400 million in federal funds earmarked for water quality improvement that is sitting unused. Former AP Reporter Susan Sword recently outlined the issue in a special report to the Sacramento Bee.

The Los Angeles Times also reported on the unused money. The Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund primarily is used to pay for treatment systems and other facilities to improve drinking-water quality in small rural communities that have contaminated wells or other problems. State water officials have assured the EPA in the past month that they are taking action.

In case you are wondering about water quality, the EPA publishes a list of water quality reports from agencies around the country.

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About Author

Ed Coghlan

Ed is a former television news director at KCOP in Los Angeles and the Montana Television Network. He writes on health, economic and public affairs issues.

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