Drought beginning to change how people think about growth in the Sacramento region
More people are coming. More water probably isn’t.
Sacramento area leaders are planning for hundreds of thousands of new homes in the coming decades, pegging the region’s economic growth to population growth and new housing starts. Those new residents – along with their houses and lawns – could gulp 50 billion additional gallons of water per year by 2035, if population projections hold and if they consume in the same manner as current residents.
At the same time, California and the Sacramento region are gripped by historic drought. Water districts around the region are calling for residents and businesses to cut water use by at least 20 percent. Farmers throughout the Central Valley are fallowing fields and drawing down groundwater stores because the state and federal water systems that distribute surface water in California have none to send. Folsom Lake, one of the region’s primary reservoirs, is so low that some water agencies say they may not have enough water to meet typical demand come summer.
So how can the region add hundreds of thousands of people without adding more water? And does the state’s water crisis factor into the discussions as cities and counties surge forward with new development?
Local officials are charged under state law with determining whether new subdivisions have an adequate and reliable water supply. But those conversations traditionally have taken a relaxed tone in the Sacramento region, which sits at the confluence of two major rivers, the American and the Sacramento.
“In the past, the basic stance of the average developer and average water provider has been, ‘There’s plenty of water out there,’ ” said Mike McKeever, chief executive officer for the Sacramento Area Council of Governments, a regionwide planning agency. “At the moment, that premise seems like it’s almost certainly false.”
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