One of the foundational rules at our house is “outside play every day.” The past few months in Southern California have been a blast for my two little ones, as they enjoy nothing more than getting their rain gear on and stomping around in some big puddles. While Dad has also been having a great time, my civil engineering mind has been thinking about the bigger picture while getting all muddy with the kiddos:


As someone trained professionally in the field of stormwater design, I found myself reflecting on how unprepared California’s infrastructure is for extreme and unpredictable weather. As we have seen already this winter, these types of storms increase the danger faced by communities from floods and mudslides. Adapting to such higher intensity, shorter duration storm events will require a shift in how we envision and how we design our stormwater management systems. 

A key piece of the adaptation strategy will be green infrastructure implemented on the local scale, which will allow communities to begin to adjust our built environments to better mimic the natural environment. Investments in green infrastructure are critical to helping capture stormwater runoff and mitigate the impacts of flooding on our communities. 

Water Storage and Supply

The storms California experienced this winter demonstrate how quickly above ground reservoirs fill up during high intensity storm events. The difference in water levels comparing November to January for Lake Oroville, one of California’s largest reservoirs, is incredible and illustrates the weather impact.

Higher intensity, shorter duration storm events will require expanded storage projects, both for above ground storage facilities as well as groundwater recharge infrastructure. While the rain has been good news for reviving above ground reservoirs, groundwater recharge still has a long way to go, and this source of supply is much more difficult to replenish. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Paul Gosselin, deputy director of sustainable groundwater management for the California Department of Water Resources, said, “Even if we have a substantial wet year, it’ll take many years for basins to fully recover, if at all.” 

Additionally, the state’s water conveyance infrastructure desperately needs modernization. Expanded and upgraded infrastructure will help transport stormwater to storage facilities as well as ensure that treated water flows reliably and safely to the taps in our homes. 

Looking to the Future

Solving California’s interconnected challenges facing our stormwater, water storage and water supply is critical. NBS has a powerful mission to be the experts in our field to help communities flourish with innovative and practical financial, consulting, and administrative advice and support: Recent examples of this include developing fees for stormwater management, assessment districts for infrastructure, and appropriate recycled water rates. The next time you are splashing around in some puddles, and you start pondering how to address these topics in your local community, feel free to reach out to us. We’d love to talk and partner with you.