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Project Purpose and Process

The State has experienced many periods of drought, but water years 2012-2015 were the driest four consecutive years in more than 100 years of recorded hydrological history. Hardest hit were communities in California’s Central Valley – in particular, the area known as South San Joaquin Valley comprised of Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, and Tulare counties.

Project Purpose

Despite a very wet 2017, water year 2018 is once again dry. The drought emergency order remains today in Tulare County, and water deliveries continue to some communities while State, County, and local agencies continue to collaborate on solutions.

Given the continuing drought emergency, this project focused on identifying technology solutions that can achieve near-term drought resilience for Tulare County and the surrounding region. The focus of this project’s search was for technologies that can substantially reduce water use through a combination of conservation, efficiency, reuse, and development of “new” water supplies.

Unfortunately, there presently is no viable and cost-effective technology that can produce sufficient quantities of affordable water “on demand” for communities that have no water at all. For such communities, emergency water deliveries need to continue while State agencies and local governments expedite construction of new water infrastructure to connect as many residents as possible to municipal water supplies.

Several factors converged, causing severe drought impacts to the southern region
of California’s Central Valley:

  • green_number1@2x

    Extended periods of low precipitation that significantly reduced surface water supplies, causing over-reliance on groundwater supplies.

  • green_number2@2x

    Decades of accumulated salts, nitrates, and other groundwater contaminants that made some valuable groundwater supplies unsuitable for human consumption.

  • green_number3@2x

    Rapidly falling groundwater levels that caused thousands of wells to fail, leaving some communities that are wholly dependent on groundwater without enough water for the most basic human needs.

Project Process

Extensive outreach and engagement with stakeholders throughout Tulare County produced
valuable insights about the region’s drought challenges and potential solutions:

  • capital@2x

    County and local government officials described their communities’ challenges, the actions they and the State implemented to reduce risks to public health and safety, and plans to protect their residents from future drought risks.

  • cow_lrg@2x

    Potential technology adopters: agricultural producers, dairies, food processors, professional and technical service providers, and industry associations identified candidate drought resilient solutions and recommended strategies for mitigating technology adoption risks.

  • faucet@2x

    Water and wastewater agencies provided information about their current and future planned resources and systems.

  • hands@2x

    Technology solutions providers shared information about existing and emerging technologies that could be fast-tracked for near-term, cost-effective water supply benefits.

Conclusion

There is no lack of technically viable solutions, nor are technology developers and potential technology adopters unaware of each other – the primary barriers are technology adoption costs and risks. All had recommendations about the types of assistance the State could provide to help them increase drought resilience.