Dan Walters

By Dan Walters
dwalters@sacbee.com
Published: Saturday, Aug. 23, 2014 – 12:00 am

On average, rain and snow storms drop about 200 million acre-feet of water on California each year – 65 trillion gallons of the life-giving liquid.

Nearly two-thirds of it either evaporates, sinks into the ground or is absorbed by trees and other plants while the remainder, 70-plus million acre-feet, finds its way into rivers flowing either to the Pacific Ocean or several inland “sinks.”

Californians divert more than half of that runoff to drink, irrigate farms, water lawns, brush teeth, remove bodily dirt and myriad other uses. Agriculture accounts for about three-quarters of the human diversions.

When you include millions of acre-feet of water pumped from underground aquifers each year, you have California’s water supply, and were we able to count on that 65 trillion gallons of precipitation each year, we wouldn’t have a water problem.

However, we can’t, and as we deal with the third year of severe drought and consider the potential effects of climate change, we are beginning to rethink how we manage water in terms of both supply and reliability.

The water bond that Gov. Jerry Brown and the Legislature placed on the Nov. 4 ballot recognizes – belatedly – the need for managerial changes to become more efficient in water use, especially in agriculture, to upgrade water quality and to place more water in storage during wet years to offset volatility of precipitation.

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