Whoever Brings the Water, Brings the People

California's water system, serving 30M+ people and irrigating vast farmland, is a complex balance between supply, demand, and agriculture.

California has had a great year for rainfall. Water is an element so essential that its management and distribution often become defining factors for communities, industries, and entire regions.

The last time a regional dam was constructed in California was with the completion of the New Melones Reservoir north of Sonora in 1980, 42 years ago. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) manages 21 dams across the state and monitors an additional 1250 dams. The immense surface storage from all the major reservoirs in California sums up to 50 million acre-feet.

Agriculture is a significant consumer of water. 39% of the state's water consumption is used for farming. This immense demand is a testament to California's status as a global agricultural powerhouse, but it also creates pressures and challenges in managing the water supply.

A unique aspect of California's water geography is the distribution of supply and demand. Around 75% of California's water supply originates from the north of Sacramento, while 80% of the water demand occurs in the southern two-thirds of the state. This imbalance necessitates an extensive system of canals, pumps, and pipelines to transport water to where it's needed most.

California's water system is a marvel of engineering and reflects the state's diverse needs and natural endowments. It's a delicate balance, a system that must cater to the thirst of millions of people, the needs of vast agricultural lands, and the ecological requirements of the environment.