Despite California’s long drought, trillions of gallons of rainwater wastefully flowing into sea

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LOS ANGELES — California’s rainy season could be the wettest in 40 years, but experts say the state is missing a major opportunity by failing to collect the trillions of gallons of storm runoff that currently flows wastefully into the ocean.

“We will never capture it all, but we need to do a better job of capturing what we can,” said Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute.

In February alone, an estimated 18 trillion gallons of water fell on the state. In urban areas and coastal cities, 80 percent ends up diverted into the ocean, as Los Angeles and other cities built long concrete channels for flood control. The Los Angeles River, for example, is a 51-mile-long canal as wide as a football field. Almost none of the water seeps into the underground aquifer.

“The challenge is: How do we capture more of that water to use it so we can use it during dry parts of the year? And cities in California have not historically done a good job of capturing what we call stormwater,” said Gleick, who helped author a study showing how San Francisco and Los Angeles could harness nearly as much water as they consume.

In the past, the state relied on a vast network of nearly 50 dams and reservoirs to capture and bank snowpack from the Sierra Mountains. Snow that melted in the spring and summer was pumped south into the Central Valley for growing and to serve thirsty cities till the rainy season begins in December.

For years, the system worked seamlessly, providing for economic growth and agricultural expansion. However, the population has surged in recent decades. – READ MORE

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