The demand for water outside of California, along with environmental needs, are reducing Southern California's imported water supplies, according to a report in the institute's Southern California Environmental Report Card for 2002. Water reclamation, or the reuse of highly treated wastewaters, potentially can provide new supplies equal to approximately 50 percent of Southern California's water consumption.
"There is a lesson to be learned from the recent energy crisis," researchers Michael Stenstrom and Richard Berk wrote. "We did not construct the needed electricity-generating infrastructure or implement the necessary conservation to provide for the future. The same thing is occurring with water supply. Water-reclamation plants take just as long to construct as electricity-generating plants, and water is much less transportable than electricity."
Researchers also warned that California's drought could be more severe and longer than those in the past, and that "the problem it creates could make our electricity shortage seem trivial by comparison."
Each year, the Institute of the Environment's Report Card examines and grades the region on its progress on a range of major environmental issues. The Report Card is distributed to elected officials, environmental activists and other leaders to help guide environmental policy in Southern California.
In addition to water reclamation, this year's Report Card covers how well cities have disposed of their garbage, the protection of Southern California's biodiversity and sustainable building.
Institute researchers Stenstrom and Berk examined public attitudes toward water reclamation.