You know the bad news already: water wars are heating up globally, fresh water sources are being polluted, tons of water are wasted daily, and in various regions of the United States municipalities, industry, and agricultural sectors compete for reduced water resources.

The good news is that we don’t have to find new water sources or build economically and ecologically costly projects to meet our needs.

A new report released by the Pacific Institute called “California’s Next Million Acre-Feet: Saving Water, Energy, and Money” shows that California can save a million acre-feet of water through various conservation and efficiency measures in urban, industrial, and agriculture sectors.

So, you want to save a million acre-feet of water?

First, what’s an acre-foot? It is the amount of water that would cover a full acre at a depth of one foot.  That’s about 325,821 gallons.  So a million times 325,821 gallons is, well, a lot.  It is nearly 12 times the city of San Francisco’s annual water use; 4.5 times the city of San Diego’s annual water use; and 1.6 times the city of Los Angeles’ annual water use.  It equals enough water to satisfy the household needs of 6.7 million new Californians.

So how to achieve it?  For urban settings, the report recommends adopting efficiency upgrades of faucets, toilets, and appliances in homes and businesses and creating water efficient lawns with the use of low-water use plants or well-designed edible landscapes.  In the agricultural sector, the report recommends practices including weather-based irrigation scheduling, regulated deficit irrigation, and switching from gravity or flood irrigation to sprinkler or drip irrigation systems.

All this for an investment of $1.9 billion.  If that sounds like a lot, compare it with the $3.4 billion in capital required for the proposed dam at Temperance Flat.  Or contrast it with a proposed desalination plant in Carlsbad, California that would require hundreds of millions of dollars and provide much less water–it would take 18 such proposed plants to achieve the same goal, according to the report.

That means before undertaking costly (in terms of money and environment) “solutions” like industrial size desalination plants, building more dams and reservoirs, or passing a costly water bond, we can choose the cheaper, easier, and more efficient methods.

And of course, saving on water is also saving on energy because you don’t have to provide the electricity to pump that extra billions of gallons of water down the state.

This is the low-hanging fruit, time to start plucking away.

Here is the report:

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons