With an average annual rainfall of 15 inches or less, water and its connected resource, energy, are the region’s proverbial canaries in the coal mine. Vast areas of impervious cover draining to the ocean, imported water supplementing surface and groundwater potable resources, and massive irrigation combine to heighten Southern California’s vulnerabilities to climate change.

The region has begun to notice.

At the large scale of the integrated system, the Inland Empire Utilities Agency in Chino, recycles blackwater as potable water, desalinates water, and infiltrates rain water on their site as a demonstration. To show the energy water nexus, they also use the solid wastes in an anaerobic digestion energy recovery system to run their plant. Other plants are also emphasizing recycling.

Locally specific and systems-linked performance standards, such as, for example, reduced potable water use for irrigation via greywater reuse are becoming more common. Water pricing promotes conservation. Landscape and infrastructure strategies merge in some communities to promote rainwater infiltration. Alternative architectural strategies such as green roofs reduce both water and energy use.

The Conservancy has begun to partner with local agencies and non-profits to advance conservation of stormwater through infiltration, storage and reuse technologies. Strategies span the policy, planning and design spectra. One current academic focus is evaluation of best management practices adapt to in-place impervious cover. The Conservancy is also beginning to develop teaching and research programs toward more broadly sustainable land use planning and design with water conservation as foundation of infrastructure design and planning.