California has seen one of its wettest seasons this winter – Los Angeles experienced more than 8 inches of rain last month, more than twice as normal, according to the National Weather Service.
But last week, the State Water Resources Control Board voted to extend emergency drought regulations until May, which call for water agencies to cut back on water usage and report usage on a monthly basis. Mark Gold, board member of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California and UCLA associate vice chancellor for environment and sustainability, said he thinks the city and state should pursue water management policies that plan for future droughts.
The Daily Bruin’s Roberto Luna Jr. sat down with Gold to discuss the recent rainfall and how the state, Los Angeles and UCLA should move forward.
Daily Bruin: This winter in California has been relatively wet compared to past winters. Where does that leave California in terms of the drought?
Mark Gold: The reason why we can’t say the drought is over is because the extent of the drought we’re coming out of was so enormous – the driest five-year period in human recorded history. During this drought, we also pumped our groundwater supplies at an extraordinary level because of the lack of surface water.
DB: What do you think about the State Water Resources Control Board’s recent decision to keep emergency drought regulations until May?
MG: The emergency regulations ask water agencies to report their water use on a month-to-month basis, which should be required all the time, and to not water street medians and waste water, which should also be required all the time. The reality is the state is already developing policies on water management that take into account the long-term view, which is what California needs.
DB: In one of your op-eds in the Los Angeles Times, you argued voluntary conservation policies, which the state has put forward, are not as effective as strict mandates that call for cutbacks in water usage. How do you think the state can improve in terms of water management policy?
MG: I think this was more of an issue when people weren’t conserving less. … The state control board is trying to change our relationship with water so we can understand that we can thrive with less and that it’s not a sacrifice to conserve, but rather a way of life. If the drought taught us anything, it’s that we use too much water and that we can be much more thoughtful in our conversation.
DB: You’ve also argued Los Angeles should build more stormwater capture facilities and recycle more water. How do you think Los Angeles is doing in terms of water conservation?
MG: Investments don’t happen as often in Los Angeles because they’re expensive. … We should be looking at recycling and how to use (old water) as a water supply. Orange County has taken the lead in water recycling and soon we’ll see more in Los Angeles, and soon we’ll be able to rely more on local water supply. Having stormwater go into our underwater basins can help us fight the times when we have to worry about having a drought.
DB: What are some things the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is pursuing to manage water more efficiently in the long run?
MG: The investment in local water supply will be a lot more significant. One project, which still needs to be voted on by our board, is converting the Joint Water Pollution Control Plant in Carson, California, to a water recycling plant and provide up to 150,000 acres per feet of water per year, which is enough for over a million people per year.
DB: What are some ways UCLA is helping the city and state conserve water?
MG: University of California President Janet Napolitano has been bold about conservation and (the UC system) is supposed to have a 36 percent reduction in water use by 2025. The only way we’re going to get there is with a combination of conservation elements, like we did with artificial turf in the Intramural Field, and planting climate-appropriate instead of water-intensive landscaping and installing low-flow toilets and urinals.
We’re working to have water metering at every building (on campus) so we can do a much better job at water conservation. We’ve been working with the city of Los Angeles on the potential of building a new water recycling facility within the region.