Dec 16, 2015

Incoming El Niño Does Not Signal End of California Drought, Expert Says

Manufacturer offers tips to address the incoming El Niño rains and La Niña dry period

El Nino California drought waterless

Meteorologists are predicting that California and parts of the western U.S. are in for a very strong El Niño over the next six months. It could be the most powerful El Niño since 1997 and 1998, which brought rain to California and other western states virtually every day for five months.

According to the National Ocean Service, the term El Niño refers to a warming of sea surface temperatures. This causes warmer-than-average temperatures over western and central Canada and over the western and northern U.S., bringing with it wetter-than-average conditions.

The 1997 and 1998 El Niño was the warmest and wettest season ever experienced in California. Some areas of the state that normally receive only several inches of rain the entire year, received 20 in. or more in one month.

"But the heavy rainfall from El Niño does not mean drought conditions are over," said Klaus Reichardt, CEO and founder of Waterless Co. Inc. "La Niña is typically right behind. That's a cooling period [that] causes rainfall to be reduced dramatically, and can last longer than an El Niño." Three of the past five major El Niño periods have all been followed by very dry La Niña periods.

Because of this, Reichardt suggests that building owners, managers and facility service providers must "not put down their guard. Water concerns, droughts and shortages are now a part of life in many parts of North America."

To address this situation, Reichardt suggests the following:

  • Move facility actions from water conservation to water efficiency. Water conservation is short-term water reduction; water efficiency is a long-term reduction in water consumption.
  • Make wise water choices. Whenever making a restroom, kitchen, or mechanical product selection, consider the amount of water the product uses first.
  • Increase recycling. We save about 3.5 gal of water just by recycling a pound of paper—the equivalent of a typical daily newspaper.
  • Reconsider beef consumption. Pound for pound, beef has a much higher water footprint than vegetables, grains or beans. Producing a single pound of beef requires, on average, 1,800 gal of water.

"And just start becoming more water conscious," Reichardt said. "We have all become energy and fuel conscious and it has paid off. Now we must do the same with water."