When I read the New York Times April coverage of our California drought, I thought it posed a fair question: What will life in California be like in the years ahead? But the article implied that it’s Jerry Brown’s mandate that we reduce our water consumption by 25% that’s raising this question, and I can’t agree. The issue isn’t regulation. The issue is learning to live within our means, and how as a culture we believe water to be an endless resource, even though it isn’t. Some people are so insistent that we maintain our “God-given right” to water access that they’ll pursue it at any cost.
NBC News reported recently that the City of Santa Barbara is considering reactivating a desalination plant that only ever operated for three months in 1992. Says our city’s mayor Helene Schneider, “We know it’s a very big decision to take—and yet at the same time we’ve done everything we could with our other water supply options.” The reason this would be such a major decision is that saltwater desalination is an energy-intensive process, raising the costs of the city’s water to about five times as much as it normally pays for reservoir water. What does that mean, we’ve done everything we could? It means we aren’t ready to truly reduce our usage: we’re still out hunting for more water.
This isn’t just a California issue. It’s global. National Geographic reports that “the chances of a 35-year or longer “megadrought” striking the Southwest and central Great Plains by 2100 are above 80 percent if the world stays on its current trajectory of greenhouse gas emissions.” California has always been the state people want to move to, a desirable place where you can live a great life and enjoy the finer things: beautiful natural scenery, great cities, diverse culture, forward thinking. California’s been the great escape from the doldrums. People love to vacation here. Now we’re learning that you can run, but you can’t hide. California may be free in spirit but it’s bound by the same global ecosystem as every other place, and changing weather patterns and increasing demand from a growing population are wreaking havoc on water supply.
The answer is to recognize that water will forever be in short supply, use it highly efficiently and learn to live with very little of it.
Sneak peak into our next blog post…