The earthen Hernandez Dam holds back 18,000-acre feet of water in the reservoir. Photo courtesy of SBCWD.
The earthen Hernandez Dam holds back 18,000-acre feet of water in the reservoir. Photo courtesy of SBCWD.

This Column was contributed by Shawn Novack, water conservation program manager with the Water Resources Association San Benito County. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors. BenitoLink invites all community members to share their ideas and opinions. By registering as a BenitoLink user in the top right corner of our home page and agreeing to follow our Terms of Use, you can write counter opinions or share your insights on current issues.

The California Water Plan is the state’s strategic roadmap for managing the state’s precious water resources equitably and sustainably. First developed in 1957, it has been continually updated to tackle the evolving issues and challenges of the day.

The latest update, expected mid-2024, will highlight sustainable water resource management, climate urgency, and the need to ensure that all Californians benefit from water planning and investments. 

Peter Gleick recently wrote an article that civilization has gone through the first and second “Age of Water.’ Mr. Gleick is an American scientist working on issues related to the environment and is co-founder of the Pacific Institute. The Pacific Institute creates and advances solutions to the world’s most pressing water challenges.

Mr. Gleik explains the First Age of Water saw the earliest efforts to manipulate water with dams, aqueducts, and intentional irrigation, the first water laws, institutions, and water conflicts.

During the Second Age of Water, we uncovered the chemical, physical and biological nature of water, improved our ability to understand and control the hydrologic cycle, learned about the causes and cures for water-related diseases and built the agricultural systems that let us feed and support 8 billion people.

But this second age has also led to unintended consequences: the overuse and contamination of rivers, lakes, groundwater, and oceans; worsening inequality of resource use; the destruction of aquatic ecosystems; and climate change, which affects the waters of the planet.

In the Third Age of Water, which we recently entered, we have the technology to produce clean water from contaminated water, purify, and recycle water. Plus, we have new tools that allow us to use water much more efficiently.

The U.S. today uses less water for everything than it did 40 years ago, despite a larger population and economy — a sign we are moving in the right direction.

Farmers are growing more food with sophisticated irrigation systems and processes that use less water. Before World War II, producing a ton of steel required 100 to 200 tons of water. Today, efficient steel plants use less than four tons of water to make a ton of steel. For much of the 20th century, using a cubic meter of water produced about $10 worth of economic benefit; today that same amount of water produces $40 of goods and services. These are vast improvements in water-use productivity.

But there is still a need for improved water management and more efficient ways in which we use water. The changing climate and growing population demand it.

To assist in this effort, The State of California recently initiated a marketing campaign entitled “Water Conservation is a Way of Life.” It will take years to build and construct more water storage facilities to capture and store water during wet years. It will also take time for technology and new processes to be in place in all regions of the state.

Every person can assist with this effort by using water efficiently and to conserve whenever possible. Water is the most important resource on the planet. It quenches our thirst, grows our food, and supplies us with wood to build our homes. Materials like paper, plastic, metal, and fabric all take water – a lot of it.

The Water Resources Association of San Benito County has several programs and services to assist our community in using water efficiently. The first thing to do is to call their office for a free leak check and irrigation assessment. A technician can check to see that no water is going to waste at your home or business. To contact their office call (831) 637-4378 or visit their website at