Storm drains become a SoCal key to a new water supply.

New York Times Staffer Adam Nagourney discusses the impact that storm water retention could have on California, which suffered a serious drought over the past year. Residents had to cut water usage by 25%. But now, the winter rains have finally hit California, bringing billions of gallons of storm water to the state, that if captured, could be saved and used in the event of a future dry season.

Pondering the lost opportunity, officials are seeking a way to capture the storm water run off that used to flood Los Angeles for years before the drought:

“Something that was once viewed as a nuisance is now seen as a necessity,” said Eric M. Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles. “We haven’t done enough.” The renewed focus on storm water that began five years ago appears to have intensified in recent months. Efforts seem to be hastened by the drought, the promise of El Niño and the widening view — promoted by people like Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat — that because of climate change, California is entering into hotter and drier times that will tax an already overburdened water system.

“The view has changed from seeing storm water as a problem to seeing storm water as an opportunity,” said Richard G. Luthy, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford University. “By capturing storm water, we can take advantage of a local water source to augment our urban water supply. This would mean we would become less dependent on imported water. It means we would have greater resilience against droughts.”

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