Extreme Drought in California

California is experiencing an exceptional drought:

  • A recent paper confirms that drought conditions in California in 2014 were the most severe in 1200 years, due to a combination of very low rainfall and rising temperatures (Griffin and Anchukaitis, Geophysical Research Letters, 2014).

  • A recent NASA analysis estimates that, since 2011, the Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have decreased in volume by four trillion gallons annually - more than California’s residents use each year for domestic and municipal purposes.

  • The state reports that snow pack as of April 2015 is at only 5 percent of average.

With this grim water outlook, Governor Brown has ordered a statewide 25% reduction in urban water use (see the 4/1/2015 executive order, and more information from the state here).

Additional information about the drought is available as cumulative northern Sierra precipitation levels from the Department of Water Resources and water supply updates from our water supplier, East Bay Municipal Utility District. You can also compare the Sierra precipitation levels to similar data collected at a weather station here at the Lab for this year and historical years, thanks to Pat Thorson.

Water Use at the Lab

We reduced our water use by 15% or more over each of the last two fiscal years. Last fiscal year, the Lab used about 57 million gallons of water. Please keep up the good work!

Water chart.jpg

About 63% of the use is on the main site. Our biggest use of water is in cooling towers and bathrooms (FY2013 data).

What is Berkeley Lab doing?

Berkeley Lab is implementing a Berkeley Lab Water Action Plan developed in March 2014. Progress to date:

  • Established this water conservation website (March 2014)
  • Discontinued any automated ongoing landscape irrigation watering (March 2014)
  • Ran TABL articles about water conservation and reporting leaks (March 2014)
  • Conducted bathroom fixture inventory with volunteers to inform fixture retrofit efforts (April 2014)
  • Placed "leak reporting" stickers in all main-site bathrooms (April 2014)
  • Met with UC Berkeley to establish process to better manage site-wide metering data (May 2014)
  • Completed faucet aerator retrofits on the main site (June 2014)
  • Deployed equipment to monitor 12 MG of water use at four sets of cooling towers (September 2014 - March 2015). We are currently analyzing the data to inform cooling tower water management practices. We are also expanding the water monitoring network.
  • Conducted a pilot with Facilities to determine acceptable urinal flushometer retrofits for different types of urinals. Facilities is currently retrofitting urinal flushometers.

What can you do?

You can help! Please:

  • Report any leaks that you see at the Berkeley Lab main site by calling x6274.
  • Try to minimize water use in your everyday activities here at the Lab.
  • Share any ideas you have to reduce water use at the Lab by contacting Sustainable Berkeley Lab at sbl@lbl.gov .

There are also many steps you can take to conserve water at home. Information about water saving opportunities and rebate programs is available from the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency.


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