Even after last month’s record-breaking storm, scientists are skeptical California will be lifted out of its drought any time soon. Lake Oroville, for example, is still 16% below its historic average, and the state’s long-term forecast still features drier-than-usual conditions.
With 45% of the state still in exceptional drought, the solution to California’s water crisis may lie in emerging technology that could help to better reuse and conserve water.
Here are six of the most promising new water conservation technologies for residents and agriculture.
California farmland uses three to four times more water than its residents. Much of this water comes from aquifers, and before 2014 farmers could take as much water as they wanted from these natural underground basins. Over time this free-for-all approach caused the underground water table to sink, and led to depleted aquifers. The state imposed restrictions, but found it difficult to enforce usage.
Recently, a team of researchers at California Polytechnic University realized regulators could use images from NASA satellites to estimate the amount of water being used on crops, and use that information to figure out if farmers were exceeding the allowed amount. The Sacramento-based remote sensing company Land IQ refined the technique by combining satellite imagery with stations on the ground to collect data and monitor usage.
2. Strips Drip
The IoT (internet of things)—physical objects equipped with sensors or software that connect and exchange data over the internet—has bestowed digital intelligence onto ordinary devices like lightbulbs and thermostats. Now IoT technology is playing an important role in water conservation. In addition to connecting systems in the water supply chain, IoT technology can also help consumers save water. Swedish company Sensative’s Strips Drip product, for example, addresses the problem of broken and leaky pipes that can go undetected for days. When placed in hard-to-reach places, like under a sink or a washing machine, the strip can alert the user of leaks, freezing pipes, or extreme temperatures.
3. Cloud-seeding drones
Cloud seeding, the practice of adding chemicals like silver iodide to clouds to induce rain or snow, has been around for decades. Eight states in the western U.S. are currently using cloud seeding, but the approach comes with drawbacks, namely that the chemicals added to the clouds fall on people, crops, and drinking water. In response, the United Arab Emirates—a country that also struggles with punishing heat and little rainfall—is trying a new technology: They’re using drones to zap clouds with electrical charges. This causes smaller water droplets to …….