Act now, every day to mitigate drought’s consequences

STATE ISSUES: We need to change our mindset and habits to conserve water

In weathering the ramifications of four years of drought, whole portions of Strawberry Creek may soon disappear. According to Tim Pine, who oversees the campus’ surface water quality program, the creek’s level is dropping and its flow dwindling, exposing rocks that would, in any other year, be under water at this point.

Strawberry Creek faces its own challenges, and the drought is, according to Pine, just one “stressor” on the creek and the aquatic species that inhabit it. But we can look to it as part of a local watershed that is enduring possibly the worst drought on record. The seemingly small actions we should take every day to responsibly conserve water can do wonders for the local water system and the greater region that provides us with so many essential resources.

Save rain dances, there’s not much we can do immediately to bring water to the state. But when it comes to conserving water, there is plenty we can do every day. We need to constantly remind ourselves of the drought’s severity. Even if the drought is not at the forefront of our minds, we can change our habits and culture in such a way that our conservation efforts become second nature.

It’s easy for members of the public, including students, to consider the drought only in the abstract sense. When hot water continues to run through our showers and we are easily able to refill our water bottles on campus, it’s difficult to imagine the magnitude of the drought’s impact. About a month ago, Berkeley residents got a taste of these effects when the East Bay Municipal Utility District, in an effort to conserve cold water for the season’s salmon, began withdrawing warmer water to send into the city. This water had relatively large quantities of algae in it, which, though harmless, gave the water a metallic flavor. The response to this inconvenient but harmless switch was so great that EBMUD soon went back to sending Berkeley cold water — potentially to the detriment of the fish — while it looked for alternative solutions.

Such incidents hint at the fact that Berkeleyans and students are neither informed nor prepared for the tangible consequences of the drought. Removing the taste would have just required chilling the water or running it through a water filter, but too many people couldn’t be bothered.

It’s easy to forget that the water that comes out of our faucets is also the water that runs through our streams and lakes. We need to shift our mentality to become more cognizant of the fact that the water we use — and sometimes waste — is indispensable not only to us, but to every living species in our surrounding environment.

Students and city residents should begin by keeping track of the amount of water they use on a daily and monthly basis. Monitoring one’s water bill is also a handy way to track water use.

Just one kilogram of beef requires more than 15,000 liters of water to produce. If everyone refused meat one day each week, we would make a major stride in water conservation efforts.
The above suggestions are just two on a laundry list of actions the campus, state government and environmental organizations have outlined. With huge swathes of the state built in literal deserts and with global warming smothering us, there is no turning back to the days when water was more abundant. When it comes to counteracting the drought, the actions of every person make a difference.

Editorials represent the collective opinion of the Senior Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

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