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ENVIRONMENT REPORT - April 25, 2003: California's Water Problems - 2003-04-24

This is the VOA Special English Environment Report.

United Nations officials have declared two-thousand-three the International Year of Fresh Water. Everywhere, water use is increasing. Today, we look at how one area is dealing with the problem.

The southwestern United States faces a water problem. Human development and years of less than average rainfall are to blame. Years ago, the city of Los Angeles, California got its water from the Los Angeles River. Today, the river is dry for much of the year. The water that once flowed there now comes from ground wells. They provide fifteen percent of the city’s water. Half of the city’s water comes from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The rest comes from the Colorado River, east of Los Angeles.

Part of that supply was reduced at the end of December. The problem started when California began using more than its share of water from the Colorado River. Other western states became concerned and informed the federal government. The government ordered California to agree on a plan to reduce the amount of Colorado River water it uses. There was no agreement, so some of the water supplies were cut.

However, Los Angeles officials say their city has enough additional supplies and the reduction is not a threat. Local officials have urged people to use less water so future needs are met. The water company offers free toilets designed to use less water. The water company’s pricing system also is meant to reduce waste. When the use of water increases, so does the price.

Los Angeles officials also are exploring other ideas. The cost of removing salt from seawater has dropped fifty percent in the past ten years. However, this desalinated seawater still costs three times as much as other water supplies. The officials believe that desalinated seawater will be more competitive as the price of other water supplies increases. The city plans to build a new desalination center by the year two-thousand-ten.

Much of central and southern California is desert. The state’s rich farming areas depend on water from irrigation systems to keep their soil productive. Agriculture is a thirty-thousand-million dollar industry in the state. Agriculture also uses more than eighty percent of California’s clean water supplies.

This VOA Special English Environment Report was written by George Grow.