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OPINION: Expanding Local Water Supplies with Stormwater

Submitted by Richard Atwater, executive director of the Southern California Water Committee, which bills itself as a nonprofit, nonpartisan partnership spanning L.A., Orange, San Diego, San Bernardino, Riverside, Ventura, Kern and Imperial counties.

Here in Southern California, we need to continue to explore all options when it comes to our water supply. Across the Southland, steps have been taken to increase one important local supply option - stormwater.

We at Southern California Water Committee recognize the importance and potential of stormwater as a supplemental water supply source to what we currently import. That is why we just launched “Pump Up The Volume”, a stormwater education and outreach program aimed at highlighting the need for investment in this local source of water.

Water resource managers, conservation groups, local governments and leading engineers throughout parched Southern California know how to make the most of what we’ve got. During the past twenty years, Southern California’s water use has remained essentially the same, despite adding approximately three million people to its population. Part of this achievement has included the important progress made investing in stormwater, but there is much more that can be done.

While we work to better secure our imported water supplies from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and the Colorado River, concurrent attention also needs to be paid to local water supply options that hold great potential—like stormwater. Billions of gallons of stormwater flow to the ocean because we don’t have enough stormwater capture projects in place to recharge our underground aquifers.

It’s a basic idea: When it rains, we need to be able to capture that water, store it and then use it later. This captured stormwater gives public water agencies access to additional, local water supplies that will help meet the demands of a growing population and provide emergency local supplies to help offset future droughts or disruptions of our imported supplies.

Although we still need to make our imported supplies more reliable, expanding efforts to increase stormwater capture will play an essential role in the future of Southern California’s water supply. We need to continue to explore and develop diversified local options to help fulfill our regional water needs.

Stormwater capture has long been a priority for our organization, flood control districts and groundwater management agencies. This new outreach program that we have launched will be instrumental in educating and raising awareness about what more can be done to capture stormwater. Using stormwater to increase local water supplies will take foresight, collaboration and commitment from our local, regional and statewide leaders. In conjunction with SCWC’s Stormwater Task Force, the “Pump Up The Volume” program is working with our partners to identify stormwater management projects and potential funding opportunities. We encourage you to learn more and become part of the solution. You can find out more on our website and download the informational brochure here

The Southern California Water Committee recently launched Pump Up the Volume, a regional education and outreach program designed to highlight the need to invest in stormwater capture as a supplemental local water supply. The education and outreach program, which includes a series of informational materials, webpage, social media components and targeted outreach to regional policy makers and opinion leaders, was developed in partnership with the California Water Foundation. More information and a digital download of the program brochure are available on the website: http://socalwater.org/pump-up-the-volume.

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