Our Local Water

Southern California has seasonal cycles—long dry summers follow wet winters—and yearly cycles—dry years alternate with wet years.

Rain washes trash and chemicals downstream from our roads to rivers and wetlands. When we keep our city clean, we help our wild neighbors—the plants and animals at the wildland-urban interface and all the way to the ocean.

Southern California’s shrublands—coastal sagescrub and chaparral—and the animals that live there have adapted well to cycles of drought, sporadic rainfall, and wildfire. CA Wildfire smoke from above However, climate change seems to be lengthening the drought cycles, undermining the shrublands’ health and recovery from wildfire.

With prolonged drought, our region’s pine forests suffer water stress and bark beetle infestations. Trees die and burn easily, fueling intense wildfires like those in 2003 and 2007. With widespread loss of habitat, common species have become rare. Learn more about our Museum’s post-fire studies.

In Water: A California Story, learn about effects of a changing climate on our region’s water supply and wildlife and explore how to help maintain sufficient water for people and nature.

Where does our water come from and where does it go?

LA Aqueduct Cascades A warming, drying climate threatens to reduce our water supply. Demands from a growing, thirsty population continue to increase, while local water resources stay the same.

Water: A California Story looks at our local and imported water supply, explores present and future challenges, and asks the question: how will we respond?

How do we use water?

Charts on water use

Californians can make a big difference by not wasting water at home. On average, southern Californians use 180 gallons per person per day. In addition, more than 25% of water used in San Diego County goes to landscaping. Most homeowners apply twice the water that their plants actually need.