This article was posted on Meeting of the Minds on October 7, 2019.
California’s drought-prone climate, diverse and decentralized landscape of urban water suppliers, and complex water system make it something of a laboratory for testing ways to manage water scarcity. The state’s urban water suppliers have become particularly adept at managing drought, and this sector has become a leader in water use efficiency, recycling, supply diversification, and integrated management.
But the 2012–16 drought revealed that California’s urban areas must continue innovating to ensure water systems are resilient to climate change. Unusually severe, this drought included the driest four-year stretch in 120 years of record keeping. Record-high temperatures and record-low precipitation reduced water stored in mountain snowpack and intensified drought conditions in other ways—making it more like droughts of the future that are expected to result from a changing climate. The lessons learned from this research have relevance for other urban areas facing drought.