El Niño, Drought Declarations & Water Innovation

The drought, El Niño and water infrastructure issues were trending themes in the 2015 Fix California Challenge. These issues continue to confound California residents and policymakers as 2016 rolls on.

Polifact does a great job of breaking down the current water issues facing California. Key takeaways include:

  • Winter “el niño” storms did not fix everything, the state would need to get an additional 80 inches of rain in the northern Sierra before October -- on top of the nearly 33 inches that have fallen since last fall to close the gap and maintain an average year.

  • Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency in January 2014 due to the drought’s impact on California’s farms and its tinder dry forests. His proclamation allowed drought relief funds to flow, and gave the state power to restrict water use (which it did for residential usage to 25%).

  • Full reservoirs won’t mean that the drought is technically over.

It is wise for government officials and the public to think of the current boom and bust cycle of weather and rain as the new normal and search for innovative policy and technology solutions to live by.


Cross sector collaboration efforts like the “Drought Not Drab” campaign are meant to inspire and highlight a permanent change to the way Californians view outdoor water use. The Blue Business Council is a network of companies, including Patagonia, Paul Mitchell and Sierra Nevada Brewing Co, working to protect the state’s most vital and threatened natural capital—the coast, ocean, bays, rivers, and streams that power our economy.

Many ideas were submitted to the Fix California Challenge addressing water infrastructure and innovation. One suggestion from a Fix California Challenge IdeaHack was a portal showing Californian’s water usage providing transparency and accountability for usage. These innovative approaches should continue to be explored as California, and the world, enters a new era of “climate normal”.

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  • Naturale Desalinatione
    commented 2016-03-23 10:32:00 -0700
    Our water shortages is political with lack of innovative solutions. 1) Control Salinity into Delta to at 6-46 Million Acre Feet of fresh water by adding a shipping lock to protect the 3 bridges, leave a section always open and add horizontal louvers between the remaining sections between the bridge supports. This will also restore the Delta to more of a fresh water Delta like it used to be. 2) add a pipeline from the end of Folsom South Canal down the 100 foot elevation the 38 miles along the railroad to the CVP and SWP pumps to add 1-2.5 Million Acre Feet of overflow water to the pumps or to help the flows into the Delta from the south. 3) Toilet to Farm – Connect the waste treatment plants in the central and Bay area to output water via pipelines to the CVP for the farmers. (starting to be done, Great; but more work is available.) 4) explore Natural Desalination that can produce endless amounts of water without harming ocean life and uses only the ocean or nature to power it.