How technology could help fight California’s drought


As many know, the California drought has not ceased. It continues to decimate natural environments, hurt farms, and restrict daily life. As a result, the state of California is working to implement a number of low-tech measures that will help with the current lack of precipitation.

One of the most prominent low-tech features being used to reduce excess water use is within the farming community. Some 80% of all water used in California goes towards farming, and drip irrigation is an old solution that’s learning new, low-tech tricks. This technology is one of the most efficient ways to water crops, and farmers are learning more about improving their water use, in order to stretch the resource further.

California has also implemented certain tax incentives to promote the use of low-tech equipment in homes. Tankless water heaters, low-flow toilets, and reduced municipal water pressure are all low-tech methods the government is encouraging for everyday efficiency.

Low-tech options are helping the cause, but aren’t enough to keep the land and people sufficiently watered. Luckily in the face of this crisis, the tech field, which knows the benefits of being perceived as eco-friendly, is helping out.

The oil industry might not be as bad for the environment as many people think. As one of the largest oil producers in the world, Chevron came up with a plan to help fuel water for farmer’s plants by selling barrels of water.

“For every barrel of oil Chevron drills with its oilfield equipment, about 10 barrels of salty wastewater come up with it,” according to an article from Dragon Products. “When properly purified, it can be used to water crops. Chevron is now selling 500,000 barrels of water a day — approximately 21 million gallons — back to the farmers.”

Thanks to their high-tech purification systems, the United States can continue to receive 90% of its food supply from the Sunshine State.

A water reuse system seems to be a beneficial last resort for the drought-stricken state. Thanks to one initiative called “Pure Water,” the city of San Diego is looking to recycle water through a top-of-the-line treatment plant. It will go through membrane filtrations, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet disinfection to ensure the water remains pure.

Ultimately, the Pure Water plant aims to purify 15 million gallons of water per day by 2023. This opens up the possibility of not only reusing sewer and shower water to water plants, but also to make it clean enough to drink!

Farmers need to maximize their water-use efficiency more than anyone else, and sensors and smart meters using big data are making great headway in farms across the state. Companies like Tule, a Bay Area tech startup, are selling data subscriptions to help farmers recognize how much water they’re using and how to distribute the resource evenly.

They’ll first install sensors and smart meters into “water stressed” areas of their land. The sensors will then measure how much water has been used and how much the plants actually need to survive. Technology like this virtually eliminates the risk of overwatering some areas and under watering others, because farmers always know where the water is going.

We’ve barely scratched the surface when it comes to the technology that could help aid droughts. Startups and major tech companies alike are picking up on the boundless capacities of technology in such areas. In this instance, technology is paving a trail for a bright (and less dry) future for California.

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