How Does California Store Rainwater from Heavy Storms?

How Does California Store Rainwater from Heavy Storms?

The ongoing conversation about drought and water conservation in California has many people looking for answers: how do we better preserve rainwater and other water resources? Recently, California has been inundated with storms, bringing much-needed rainfall.

Even though the state of California has been in a drought, rainfall won’t necessarily solve the problem without a good infrastructure to capture and store the rainwater. The water falls so quickly that it’s difficult to maximize the available water for other uses. Because of these challenges, it’s necessary to be proactive about effective systems that make use of available rainwater because they can offset the effects of the drought.

California Initiatives to Hold onto Rainwater

Underground aquifers must be replenished to refill the water pumped out over the years. The idea is that there is rainwater on the surface, and the question is how to put the water back into the underground storage spaces in these aquifers. In California, the goal is to recharge at least 500,000 acre-feet each year – which is enough water for approximately two families each year.

Many different groundwater recharge projects are either already implemented or have been proposed by communities throughout the state. Examples include:

  • Putting water in percolation basins, then allowing it to settle into the ground
  • Building injection wells to bring the water into the aquifers
  • Constructing new reservoirs by constructing dams in river valleys
  • Using permeable pavement that allows water runoff to pass through and into the ground
  • Urban water collection through rain barrels, rooftop gardens, tree preservation, and cisterns
  • Well construction in highway medians where stormwater can be diverted into aquifers

Overcoming Challenges Associated with These Initiatives

While the benefits of rainwater collection and conservation are undeniable, there are obvious challenges that come up with these projects. The initial costs for these systems can be high, which means the state of California needs to come up with the resources to cover the expenses.

Additionally, there are questions about the efficiency and effectiveness of some of these systems. When so much money is invested into the system, it’s important to ensure the water collection system performs as desired.

Some of these challenges can be overcome through research and practical applications. But other issues are uncontrollable, such as the unreliability of rainfall from one year to the next. As a society, we can build systems, but they aren’t helpful if there isn’t enough rainwater to collect.

Written by Becki Andrus in partnership with Fed Steel piping distributors.