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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.