As drought drives prices higher, millions of Californians struggle to pay for water
California’s water supply is under pressure to keep up with a demand that is almost twice the amount that is anticipated to be available annually. But many Californians aren’t making it to the pumps.
The state Department of Fish and Game reports that nearly 10 percent of the state’s households fall behind in terms of water use. Households often use less, since they spend money on home water filtration systems, water-saving appliances, landscaping products and more.
The state agency also notes that most Californians aren’t paying the full amount for their water.
In many cases, water is simply being cut in to lower the costs of doing business as agencies and private water providers face a crisis of funding amid a historic and accelerating drought that has left millions of Californians without adequate water to live and work.
A shortage of $12.6 billion — the annual cost to the state, by some accounts — is putting an enormous strain on water agencies.
A shortage of $12.6 billion — the annual cost to the state by some accounts — is putting an enormous strain on water agencies. It is already costing the state at least $5 billion a year more than previously thought to deliver water to California.
State agencies have faced sharp cutbacks at a time when their budgets, due to rising costs, are shrinking and public employee pay is taking a downward leap.
“Every resource is being under-utilized at great expense to the environment and to the taxpayers,” said Steven Schier, a water consultant with DWP International, a trade group that represents water providers based in 26 states, including California.
The state’s water crisis is a national problem that has gotten worse in recent years as drought has turned the state into parched land. State officials say that a combination of factors, including population growth and increased use of water and energy, is driving up demand for water in an already dry region.
The state is facing another challenge from a shortage of money.
State officials estimate that there is a shortage of $12.6 billion in taxpayer dollars to get the water supply flowing in drought-ravaged regions, according to a letter to lawmakers last week, which highlighted a backlog in the state’s Water Fund — a