Thought Leadership

California drought: how water is wasted in huge volumes

By Colin Walls

When I first visited California, in March 1986, I was looking forward to the sunshine. I was there for 4 weeks and, for the first 7 days, that was what I got. For the remainder on my time, it either rained or drizzled. As a Brit, I am somewhat obsessed with weather, which I partially explained here some time ago.

Visiting California again last week, the talk was all about the recent drought …

In the UK, we have just had the wettest winter on record. There has been lots of flooding and the slightest shower now makes everything soggy, as the water has nowhere to go. So, California promised to be a contrast. I had read reports that the drought has lasted around 2 years so far and matters are becoming quite serious across the whole state. I have seen many news reports which include pictures of reservoirs that are way below their normal levels.

When we landed in San Jose about 10 days ago, it was pouring with rain. Our taxi driver cheerfully told us that it had been doing this for some days and the forecast was for more of the same. He was very pleased because he was sure that this would top up their supplies and they could get back to normal. I decided not to bother explaining that they needed a bit more than a couple of heavy showers to address the problem. As it turned out, the forecast was slightly out, as we mostly had OK weather.

I am constantly amazed that water is wasted in such huge volumes. Some example:

  • Our hotel room had a very good shower. The temperature was easy to control, but the volume was not. It was either on [loads of water – wasteful] or off.
  • All the grass in downtown San Jose is green and lush as a result of regular sprinkler use.
  • I saw some guys who were busy jet-washing several hundred yards of sidewalk. Why?

But all was not lost – I discovered that a local restaurant is doing its best to help:


However, once you have a glass of water, it is constantly refilled from an bottomless pitcher …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at