LONDON — In a rare move, the California Department of Water Resources says it has depleted its water storage capacity by nearly two-thirds.
The department says it plans to begin water recycling from existing storage tanks to make up for the loss of water.
The agency said in a news release Tuesday that it is using water recycling to recycle water from the Sierra Nevada Aquifer in Sonoma County, a reservoir owned by the state, to replace some of the more than 1.3 million acre-feet of water stored in existing tanks.
The move is intended to replace more than half the storage tanks in the state and has been criticized by some critics who fear it could worsen drought conditions in the region.
The water recycling initiative has come under fire from some California conservationists, who say it’s not a long-term solution to the drought.
“I think it’s an irresponsible and dangerous move to use water that’s already there, and then just throw it away,” said Tom Nolte, an environmental and community affairs attorney in Los Angeles.
Nolte says the water recycled will be used to replace storage tanks that will eventually be removed from the aquifer.
The process could take years, and is not yet clear how much water would be recycled.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said in November that the California drought has become a “severe food and water security crisis” and that water is not being “conserved efficiently.”
The department said the storage tank program, which began last year, will add an estimated 300 million acre feet of water to the state’s aquifer, which is more than enough to feed 1.4 million people for more than a decade.