Donald Trump is mostly right! California does not have a water problem.

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Donald Trump has declared ” California does not have a drought.”

The average rainfall in Los Angeles, CA is 14″, plenty to meet demand.  But when rainfall falls to 4″ a year for four years and you haven’t saved water, you are in a drought and you expect Northern California to supply water to the South.  That’s exactly where CA is today.  So what can CA do? Read on!

Water Water Everywhere, but NOT in California? – Yes It is!:


Peter Geick, President of the Pacific Institute, was quoted in the November 17, 2015 edition of the LA Times, “Every year, hundreds of billions of gallons of storm water wash into Santa Monica Bay, Long Beach Harbor and the San Francisco Bay.”  Let’s explore why.

Los Angeles, California has built the infrastructure to channel storm water into the Pacific

The Los Angeles River channels storm water into the Pacific (see ,map below).

Courtesy: Wikipedia

The source of the Los Angeles river is where the Arroyo Callbasas and Ball Creek come together (see below).  The channels have been constructed to channel storm water through the Los Angeles Basin into the Pacific.  The depth and width of these channels show their capability to quickly move huge volumes of water.

Courtesy: Wikipedia

The Los Angeles River enters the Pacifc in Long Beach.

Source: Wikipedia

Ballona Creek is a nine mile long flood protection waterway to drain the Los Angeles Basin.  When the sun is shining on a typical Los Angeles day, it’s a great place to exercise on your bike by the side of a slow moving stream.

Licensed from Citizen of The Planet through Alamy

But when it rains, the whole picture changes (see below).  Storm sewers become raging torrents of water,

Licensed from Citizen of The Planet through Alamy

and feed Ballona Creek.

Licensed from Citizen of The Planet through Alamy

When it does rain in Los Angeles the infrastructure has been built to channel large volumes of water into the Pacific.  But there are municipalities that are investing in an infrastructure solution to capture the water so that it can be used during those times when the average annual rainfall is 4′.

California Is Sitting On The Solution To Its Drought Problem

Terry Tamminen, CoExist, Fast Company, May 1, 2015, wrote

“About a decade ago, the blue-collar community of Sun Valley in Los Angeles County was faced with flooding that impacted homes and businesses during winter rains. The county had planned a $47 million storm sewer system to drain the floodwaters from streets and dump it in the Pacific Ocean via the Los Angeles River (itself now a mostly concrete flood management canal). Instead, clever community planners decided to invest those funds in underground cisterns that would capture the water for later use.

A dilapidated city park was remodeled with cisterns under the park, as were medians along broad boulevards that were themselves underwater during heavy rains. The result was a system, using ancient Roman technology, that captures 8,000 acre feet of water each year. That’s about twice what the entire city consumes, solving the flooding problem and creating a source of fresh water for thousands of residents. The investment also gave the city a new park with ball fields and picnic grounds and higher adjacent property values (see below).


But could something this simple be the solution for a thirsty state that is getting hotter, growing faster, and producing more food crops than ever before?

According to the National Weather Service, the average annual rainfall in Los Angeles for the past 100 years is about 14 inches, more than enough to serve the needs of the region and then some. From 2003 to 2012 CA had wet years of nearly 38 inches of rain and dry ones of less than 4 inches, but the average was still just under 14 inches, meaning there is no drought in the most populous region of the state.

So what’s the problem? For the past 150 years, the goal was to address the same challenge that Sun Valley faced: not a lack of water, but too much water during the brief, intense rainy season. So Southern California built storm sewers and concreted the rivers to efficiently carry all that fresh water into the ocean.

The answer to the drought, therefore, is to stop wasting this valuable resource. It does not have to look like this.


CA_Drought_150620If CA captured and used the water that already falls in CA, CA could turn off the tap from the north and leave that water for farmers. Just as we discovered in CA that sunlight falling on every rooftop can be harnessed to generate energy, right at the place it is used, we can capture the water that falls on those same landscapes for use where it’s needed. In fact, the Los Angeles non-profit TreePeople has been demonstrating for years that every type of building or land use can do what Sun Valley has done, or what solar panels do for energy generation—decentralize.”

How much water do we use?

Take a look at this American Water Works Association graphic:

Water_Usage_in_the_US_150621How can the Value Innovation Process help address the CA challenge?

Who is the Most Important Customer?

Is it the Local Government?  County, City or Town?  The water utility?  The homeowner?  Or is it the Community?

The issue is not mitigating floods at all costs. It’s capturing flood water and capturing normal rainfall, effective/efficient use, and re-use/recycle of water by every home and every business.

Local Goverment must play a role in designing and installing water storage systems.  But homeowners can play a significant role too.

The Homeowner Water Usage Value Curve:


Generated using Slalom(R) _ Slalom is a registered trademark of Value Innovations, Inc.

The Value Curve shows “What” homeowners can do to help!

How can a homeowner capture normal rainfall?:

Suzy Morris, who lives in New Zealand shared some photos of a harvesting system the family installed behind their garage.  They purchased 7 blue barrels and assembled them (see below):

Rainwater_Harvesting_System_3_150621The barrels were painted white to keep the water cooler and installed them behind the garage:

Rainwater_Harvesting_Systems_2_150621Rainwater_Harvesting_System_1_150621Want to learn more, go to the Provident Living website

Are Communities coming together?

Yes. Here’s an example from the San Fernando valley:



Will Riviera Country Club (in Pacific Palisades, CA) continue to look like this?


If State, local government, communities and individual homeowners come together and agree on a plan to move forward:

  • Raise the funds to capture flood water and build the required infrastructure
  • Pass the legislation that allows homeowners and businesses to capture and use the run-off from rain fall
  • Every house and business invest in the systems they need to effectively use, re-use and recycle water,

Riviera CC will continue to be a gorgeous golf course and Trump may buy it after he steps down being President of the US.

If you want to read more of Terry Tamminen’s article, go to:

Want to up your innovation game? Want to up your organization’s innovation game? Attending one of our Mastering Value Innovation Workshops is a great place to start. In 2016 we are going to change our approach. We will work with you to develop your own custom workshop that addresses your problems and you define the length and location. More information can be found in the Workshop Brochure.