Bridges span a dry inlet of Shasta Lake in Lakehead, California. Bridges span a dry inlet of Shasta Lake in Lakehead, California. Bridges span a dry inlet of Shasta Lake in Lakehead, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

5 ideas to help the California drought

Faced with an epic emergency, people are turning to new technologies and common sense.

Warmer temperatures and less rainfall have catapulted California into a drought of historic proportions. As the state enters its fourth year of drought, and with only a year's worth of water in reserves, here are five ideas Californians are trying to help alleviate the state's water woes.


1. Use less water

Enrique Silva, a 'water policeman' with the Water Conversation Response Unit, patrols a neighborhood in Studio City, California.Enrique Silva, a 'water policeman' with the Water Conversation Response Unit, patrols a neighborhood in Studio City, Calif. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

California Gov. Jerry Brown has issued a mandatory 25 percent cut in water use to compel residents and businesses to significantly help in doing their part. This was the first such executive order in California's history. Much of the state's annual water usage goes toward lawn care, and the state aims to replace 50 million acres of ornamental turf with planting that consumes less water. “We have to save water however we can, and we have to pull together,” Brown said.


2. Use ocean water

Israel gets the majority of its water through desalination. Above, a view of the Mediterranean Sea from the Israeli city of Ashkelon.Israel gets the majority of its water through desalination. Above, a view of the Mediterranean Sea from the Israeli city of Ashkelon. (Photo: Saikom/Shutterstock)

Desalination takes water from the ocean, removes the salt, and turns it into drinkable water. The largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere is currently being constructed in San Diego by Israeli-based IDE Technologies, which already helped build plants in China, India and Australia. The California plant hopes to generate 54 million gallons of freshwater everyday once it's operational later this year. The technology has already been used in Israel for decades as the majority of the country's water comes from desalination. Indeed, Israel recently opened the world's most efficient desalination plant.


3. Use efficient toilets

Plumbing technician Todd Snider installs an ultra-low flow toilet at a home in Novato, California.Plumbing technician Todd Snider installs an ultra-low flow toilet at a home in Novato, California. (Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Water-efficient toilets – which use less water than conventional toilets – can be a relatively easy way to save a dramatic amount of water. The Environmental Protection Agency says low-flow toilets can reduce a family's water usage anywhere from  20% to 60%, and a new report calls for "widespread adoption of water-efficient appliances and fixtures in California homes." One industrious San Francisco woman ordered a special unit from Japan that combines a toilet tank and a sink.


4. Use drip irrigation

Homeowner Barbara Hall watches workers as they lay drip irrigation lines before installing a drought-tolerant landscape in the front yard of her Los Angeles home.Homeowner Barbara Hall watches workers as they lay drip irrigation lines before installing a drought-tolerant landscape in the front yard of her Los Angeles home. (Photo: Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)

This method – which allows water to drip slowly onto the roots of the plants – replaces more water-intensive underground irrigation pipes. The above-ground drip system is known in the farming community as surface drip. It leaves behind no drainage water and uses less fertilizer. This technique has also been known to  yield a better crop. Drip irrigation systems in Tanzania are restoring harvests and building resilience to erratic weather.


5. Use old water

Fields of carrots are watered March 29, 2015 in Kern County, California.Fields of carrots are watered in Kern County, Calif. Reused water can be used to help farmers. (Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images)

While people may have a natural aversion to reusing water, the system has been in use for a while. Wastewater can be recycled, purified and then reused for landscaping, industrial water needs and, yes, even drinking. San Diego has a plan in place called Pure Water, with a goal to purify 15 million gallons of water per day by 2023. In the longer term, officials hope the purification facility supplies more than a third of the region’s water by 2035.

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