Covering canals with solar panels could save California billions of gallons of water, says new study

The Governor Edmund G. Brown California Aqueduct is a system of canals, tunnels, and pipelines that transports water collected from the Sierra Nevada Mountains and valleys of Northern and Central California to Southern California. The Department of Water Resources (DWR) operates and maintains the California Aqueduct. Photo by Ken Lund (CC BY-SA 2.0).

It appears that California is heading into another drought. Agriculture drinks up a lot of the water. In the Central Valley, there are miles and miles of green where brown used to be, as the California Aqueduct waters all that land. 

Here’s a novel idea to address the drought and global warming: What if you put solar panels on top of the aqueduct and nearby canals, shading the water and thereby preventing evaporation? As an added bonus, people could possibly use the energy the panels create. The idea comes from scientists at UC Santa Cruz and UC Merced, who just published a study in the journal “Nature Sustainability.”



  • Brandi McKuin - postdoctoral researcher at University of California, Santa Cruz