by Nancy Hernandez
Hair dripping down my back, I slyly looked around for my parents, thinking I had avoided yet another scolding. No such luck. “Are you a mermaid, or what?” my mom called out from afar, slightly irritated.
When I was younger, my sisters and I would spend insane amounts of time in the shower, prompting my parents’ badgering to limit our unnecessarily large usage of water. My naïve mentality would simply laugh and shrug it off, taking my sweet time while letting the water continue to flow. I did not understand the big deal behind showering for long periods of time, besides a mild chiding by my parents, and of course, prune-like fingers.
Flash forward to 2014. California is in the midst of a severe, widespread drought. Already two years of limited rain have passed, and if current dry conditions continue, this year is well on its way to being recorded as driest in state history.
The state’s reservoirs are running dangerously low but even more alarmingly, the Sierra Nevada snowpack- the source of nearly 1/3 of California’s water supply is merely 12% of its average water content for this period of year.
Run by the California Department of Water Resources, the State Water Project (SWP) allocates melted snow runoff in Northern California to roughly 25 million California residents and 750,000 acres of farmland.
Mark Cowin, director of the Department of Water Resources, has announced that the nearly 30 districts that purchase water from the SWP can expect to get very little, if any, water if current conditions persist, and water going to agriculture may be cut up to 50%.
“Simply put, there’s not enough water in the system right now for customers to expect any water this season from the project,” Cowin said.
Cowin further indicated that 17 communities are in danger of completely running out of water within the next two to four months, with more communities having a possibility to be later added to the list.
Governor Brown has declared a drought emergency in California and called on all Californians to reduce their water usage by 20%.
“We are in an unprecedented, very serious situation,” Brown said.
Rather than just reducing our water usage, it is time we rethink the way we use water. Practical tips on how to conserve water, such, as watering lawns at night, are useful, but ultimately superficial, not scratching beyond the surface of the problem.
Can we start rethinking the way we use our water? I’d argue that a lot of our water usage is unnecessary. Why do we feel the need to maintain a green lawn? Can we switch to drought-resistant, native plants of California that require little-to-no water? Can we start making changes in the way we think and use our water?
Water is the foundation of life. It’s ironic that humans go searching for water on distant planets, when nearly a billion people on the planet we live on don’t have access to clean drinking water.
I am no longer a naïve child and have grown to understand the need for conservation and the scarcity of fresh water. I visited a developing country this past summer, and it was awakening to see how worried a lot of people in the country were about their water supply and usage. Taking more than a five-minute shower wasn’t just a luxury, it was considered selfish, wasteful, and ignorant.
At the risk of sounding repetitive, I ask that everybody consider their water usage, and make a small change in their routines. You can start with the practical route, taking shorter showers or switching to a low-usage toilet, but ultimately, we all need to rethink our relationship with water. Long gone are the days of taking water for granted and having prune-like fingers.