What’s Current? Issue #3 – Rainwater Harvesting, Desalination, Beavers Restore Watersheds

Welcome to Issue #3 of our newsletter with articles about solutions to California’s energy and water challenges, along with a few must-read reports on projects and policies that are not going to solve anything — despite their hype and ongoing political support. As always, in the articles we select and in the summaries you’ll read here, we try to focus on the numbers that matter. We hope this emphasis puts other important facts into a more useful perspective.

Harvesting Southern California Rain Can Reinvigorate its Cities

Total annual water use in Los Angeles County is about 1.4 million acre feet per year, down from 2.0 MAF/year at its peak 20 years ago. The amount of water imported into LA County is down to 800,000 acre feet per year. Over the next 20 years, through runoff harvesting and wastewater recycling, the county believes they can reduce imports to under 100,000 acre feet per year, making the county almost completely self-sufficient.

California Outlines Expedited Permitting for Seawater Desalination

California has 14 seawater and 23 brackish water desalination plants. Most of them are small and many are inactive. Two-thirds of all desalination in the state comes from the only large-scale plant we’ve got, Carlsbad in San Diego, producing 55,000 acre feet per year. These latest guidelines streamline permitting for smaller plants, but it’s big ones that could make the difference between, for example, LA County continuing to import water and ration its use, and achieving total self-sufficiency without more rationing.

Power Supply Stable Despite Southern California Heat

Despite enduring a blistering heatwave in July, California’s power grid held up remarkably well. Reasons for the solid performance include expanded in-state generating capacity from natural gas and renewable sources, increased battery storage capacity, and reliable hydroelectric power thanks to the wet winter. So far, so good. But for California to electrify its transportation and residential sectors, generating capacity will have to at least triple.

California ISO – Today’s Outlook

Here’s a source to bookmark and return to often. From the Independent System Operator managing California’s grid, you can view, hour by hour, how much electricity Californians use and how it is generated. The trend for July 2023 shows peak demand of 40 gigawatts at 6 p.m., dropping to 25 gigawatts at 4 a.m. Supply data indicates battery discharge capacity has risen to over 2 gigawatts output from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. every evening. If you want to know how we’re doing, this data is indispensable.

California Aims to Tap Beavers to Help with Water Issues

And now for something completely different. Want to daylight and rewild streams, recharge aquifers, create habitat for salmon smolts, and thin forests that decades of fire suppression have turned into tinderboxes? Then bring back beavers. Once 200 million strong in North America, their population is estimated today at around 10 million, with hardly any left in California. But that is changing. Once considered pests, beavers can help Californians achieve water abundance and healthier forests.