A contribution by Chanil N. De Silva; Director of Policy at Nouveau Inc.

California has been suffering one of the worst droughts on record, reaching its 4th year in 2015. The severity of the situation led Gov. Brown of California to declare a drought state of emergency in January and instruct officials to take all necessary steps to secure the remaining water supply.

Although at the outset, these events have been attributed to naturally occurring climatic conditions, a closer analysis of the situation reveals that perhaps consequences of the drought would not have been this severe if California had heeded prior warnings and made improving its water infrastructure a priority.

As far back as June 2013, the EPA ranked California No. 1 in water infrastructure needs. It was estimated that the state needed at least $44.5Bn to fix its ailing water infrastructure in order to keep up with its population growth. California’s current water infrastructure is almost 60 years old and yet is responsible for fulfilling water needs of 35 Million Americans and 3 million acres of farmland annually. Attention should be paid to the fact the when the system was built, California’s population was only 1.5 Million (approx).



Figure I
(The Delta Plan)
As illustrated in Figure I, of the 200 MAF of precipitation received in California only 60 – 65 MPF can is utilized for urban and agricultural use. That means almost 68% of water is underutilized. Furthermore, as seen on the map, Northern California receives most precipitation while Southern California has drastically a lower natural water supply. Given the size of the State of California, a strong network of pipelines and reservoirs is necessary to make sure water is adequately strode and distributed as needed. The current drought has only been made worse by the State’s inability to properly store and distribute water. This is due to the lack of upgraded infrastructure that could greatly enhance the efficient capture and delivery of water throughout the State.

Faced by the crisis, the Governor signed legislation in March 2015 that allocates $1Bn to spend on updating California’s water infrastructure. The spending covers everything from water delivery and flood protection to boosting regional water supply, and is the largest water infrastructure investment in years. The move, though commendable, might be too little too late.

California’s water woes once again highlight the invaluable role infrastructure plays in meeting a country’s needs. Infrastructure is the foundation upon which a vibrant economy builds itself. Due to neglect, this generation has seen American infrastructure crumble before its eyes. California is 1 State among 50 and it took a life-threatening drought for authorities to finally make a move.

While California is only one example, our nation is riddled with infrastructure in desperate need of care. Surprisingly, against this backdrop, according to a recent analysis of 2016 Presidential Candidates only few have actually discussed domestic infrastructure needs and how they might be addressed.

Can the United States economy grow with a nation-wide infrastructure crisis? Will our leaders step up and address these deficiencies before it is too late?? A rain dance doesn’t cut it; Prevention is always better than cure!