San Jose Mercury News
Water conservation bills offer map to California water security
By Mike Mielke
While the rains of March and early April were a welcome relief, they will likely do little over the long-term to lift California out of its water crisis. That’s because the state’s single largest source of water storage – the Sierra Snowpack – has been reduced considerably in recent decades and is projected to shrink more in the future, as we enter a “new normal” with hotter and drier years to come due to man-made climate change.
Going forward, we will all have to make more from less. That’s why two bills currently making their way through the California Legislature – Assemblywoman Laura Friedman’s AB 1668 and Sen. Bob Hertzberg’s SB 606 — are so important. Our members see a problem that needs effective solutions. Two bills moving through the state legislature – AB 1668 and SB 606 – offer a roadmap to a reliable, affordable water future for California. These bills will establish efficiency targets for local water agencies that take into account each region’s population, land use, climate, and other factors that impact water needs. This will help drive the adoption of water-smart technologies, from low-flow toilets to faucet aerators and leak detectors that save water, energy and money while increasing our shared water security.
While we cannot make it rain, we must take steps to ensure that we’re making the most of limited water supplies. Luckily, Silicon Valley is up to the test. Many companies here see the water crisis as both a challenge and an opportunity. Our region is home to visionary leaders pioneering powerful and meaningful new tools to improve people’s lives.
Silicon Valley businesses are helping bring California’s water system into the 21st century. They are implementing leading-edge practices and developing advanced technologies that improve water efficiency and give us the data we need to accurately manage our water supply, from satellites that track irrigation needs from space to sensors that can detect leaky pipes in remote and often inaccessible areas.
Even before the drought began, Google, a member of the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, had a 20 percent water reduction target. In light of the drought, they proactively increased their target to 30 percent. Microsoft, another of our member companies, has leveraged their cloud and Internet of Things (IoT) technology to help develop a free, publicly available water risk monetizer tool that helps organizations better understand the true value, risks, and impacts of water scarcity to their operations. Google’s water conservation leadership was recently acknowledged with a Silicon Valley Water Conservation Award.
Since the Silicon Valley Leadership Group co-founded the awards 10 years ago, eight member companies have received an award for their conservation efforts. There’s a good reason why our members are making water conservation a priority: A high-quality supply of water is critical to our way of life. It is essential to supporting our region’s growing population and underpins economic security.
Californians stepped up during the drought to meet emergency drought conservation mandates, but making efficiency a way of life and helping secure our water supply will give the business community the increased confidence it needs to keep investing in our region.
Bay Area businesses are doing their part to get ahead of California’s water crisis. We urge our political leaders in Sacramento to do their part by passing AB 1668 and SB 606.
Mike Mielke is senior vice president of environment and energy at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group.