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California's Water and Electricity Crisis

COVID has dominated the news for the past year and a half, taking a brief hiatus during the presidential elections, but with the progress that the state has made in controlling the pandemic, there is another crisis that Californians need to take immediate action on: the severe drought and its impact on the state's electrical grid.

California has had two consecutive dry winters and the state's reservoirs are showing the effects of the lack of rain/snowfall. The state tracks reservoir levels and the latest data on 6/24/21 shows most reservoirs are well below historical averages (let's not compare to the designed capacities, it's not even close).

The drought will impact the state's agriculture industry, as it has in the past, but this year the drought will start impacting a broader population in the form of reduced electricity output from hydroelectric plants. For the first time since it started operating in 1967, the Edward Hyatt Power Plant in Lake Oroville is at risk of shutting down. The water level may be too low to continue operating the power plant as soon as August (in 2 months' time). 800,000 households could be impacted if the power plant shuts down.

The summer's high temperatures, often reaching triple digits in the hottest parts of the state, will stress the electrical grid as people rely on air condition to remain cool. The state has already announced several Flex Alerts for a heat wave on 6/17-18, and will continue to advise residents to conserve electricity as summer progresses.

What Can We Do?

Every action we take, no matter how small, can go a long way to reducing the impact of the drought and relieving the stress on the electrical grid.

Here are some water-saving tips:

  • Find and fix any water leaks. Check faucets, toilets, sprinklers, etc. Check if your local utilities lets you track water use online.

  • Limit showers to 5 minutes or less.

  • Turn water off when brushing teeth and shaving.

  • Run washing machines and dishwashers only when full.

  • Sweep the driveway/patio, do not spray it down with water.

  • Install water-saving toilets and/or aerators.

  • Replace lawn with native drought-tolerant plants.

  • Install drip irrigation.

Here are some energy saving tips:

  • Set your thermostat to 78 degrees or higher, if health permits.

  • Close window coverings to keep your home cool.

  • Turn off any unnecessary lights, appliances, etc.

  • Set computers and monitors to go into standby mode when they're not in use.

  • Replace your air filter for improved air flow and efficiency.

  • Before 5pm or after 10pm:

  • Charge electronic devices and/or electric vehicles.

  • Run major appliances like washing machines and dryers.

  • During a Flex Alert (usually 5pm-10pm):

  • Run fans instead of air conditioning, if health permits

  • Unplug unused items

  • Do not charge electronic devices or electric cars

  • Do not run major appliances

Consult your local utilities for more tips on how to conserve water and electricity or if they offer any programs to help with installing energy saving devices.


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