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JOANNA CLARK, San Juan Capistrano

We need to ask the question everyone is afraid to ask: “Is California running out of water?”  The answer is, unfortunately, yes. The U.S. Drought Monitor reports that we are experiencing a “mega drought,” ranging from severe to exceptional, exacerbated by human-driven climate change, likely to continue indefinitely.

It was suggested that we cover our aqueducts with solar panels to reduce water loss due to evaporation in 2009. The idea fell on deaf ears here, but India listened.

India found the idea a clever solution to their own problems, and local governments began installing solar panels over their canals in 2014. The solar panels provided much-needed electricity while simultaneously preventing the evaporation of valuable water. The idea initially started in the southern state of Gujarat, where nearly 12,000 miles of uncovered canals existed. The program was so successful that states all over India began similar projects. Eight additional states created solar arrays on their canals ranging from a 3-megawatt (MW) system in Kerala to a 20 MW system in northern Punjab.

Thirteen years since the idea was first suggested here, California is about to launch our own aqueduct experiment. If scaled up, it will have the potential to save billions of gallons of water lost annually to evaporation while powering millions of homes. The trial installation is being built by the Turlock Irrigation District. It will launch in mid-October during the worst drought in 1,200 years, a drought exacerbated by human-influenced climate change.

We don’t need trial installations in Hickman or Ceres, however. India did the trial for us eight years ago, and it was successful. It is time for us to launch our own full-scale program covering virtually every inch of our aqueduct system with solar panels, throughout California. I urge everyone reading this to write your elected representatives in Sacramento and tell them to cover the aqueducts with solar panels.

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comments (4)

  • Covering our aqueducts with solar panels to reduce water loss due to evaporation makes so much sense. As does the fact that the solar cover could provide the local communities it passes through with much needed alternative energy. Imagine small towns along the route able to build business and hospitality opportunities by installing solar-cover fed charging stations so more electric car motorists could stop, shop and stay with the security of being able to charge up.

  • With dams on the Colorado River very probably not able to generate electricity as soon as 2025, especially Hoover Dam, because the water level is very likely going to be a “dead pool,” communities all across California are going to need a way to make up the lost generational capacity of the dams. Further, with the water level at dead pool, Hoover Dam will no longer be able to supply water to Southern California.

    The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation says:

    ““The worsening drought crisis impacting the Colorado River Basin is driven by the effects of climate change, including extreme heat and low precipitation. In turn, severe drought conditions exacerbate wildfire risk and ecosystems disruption, increasing the stress on communities and our landscapes,” said Deputy Secretary Tommy Beaudreau. “The Biden-Harris administration is taking an all-of-government approach to mitigating the drought, and the Interior Department is committed to using every resource available to conserve water and ensure that irrigators, Tribes and adjoining communities receive adequate assistance and support to build resilient communities and protect our water supplies.” (U.S. Bureau of Reclamation website – http://www.usbr.gov/newsroom/news-release/4294).

  • As this article indicates:

    “The research suggests that covering all of California’s canals – spanning roughly 4,000 miles – with solar panels could save up to 63 billion gallons of water and generate 13 gigawatts of renewable power annually. One gigawatt is equal to the energy consumption of 100 million LEDs, or as others put it, enough to power 750,000 homes.”

    Compare: The fact that there are 14.21 million homes in CA. Source: 2020 US Census Bureau. But I suppose that doesn’t include business usage.

    Jeff

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