CA is in a drought: we can’t ignore it

STATE AFFAIRS: The state is facing an extreme drought, and yet people don’t seem to be talking about what we can and must do to support our communities.

Illustration about saving water
Aishwarya Jayadeep/Senior Staff

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It may not make a sensational headline or viral tweet, but its devastating effects are just as widespread — California is facing a historic drought. Much of the Berkeley community grew up learning to turn off the tap when brushing its teeth, but given the number of out-of-state and international students that reside in the city, we must all work together to educate and reeducate ourselves about what we can do to conserve water.

A drought emergency proclamation was issued in October for all of California’s 58 counties, and California Gov. Gavin Newsom asked Californians to reduce water consumption by 15%. So far, we are failing. Urban California residents only conserved water by an average of 3.9%, which is even lower than the scant 5% saved in August.

While the rest of the state is in extreme drought, according to the national drought map, most of Alameda County is part of the nearly one-third of California that is in exceptional drought. In these regions, fish rescue and relocation have begun; forests and wildlife are dying; and fire season is ablaze. In order to serve Alameda and Contra Costa counties, the East Bay Municipal Utility District, or EBMUD, has started tapping into water from the Sacramento River.

All of this is costly. EBMUD alone has spent about $15 million of its budgeted operations costs on providing this year’s supplemental water. Conserving water not only saves individuals money, but it also helps prevent the state and community from spending millions of dollars.

Agricultural practices must be examined and modified to be more efficient, as agriculture accounts for about 80% of water used in California. In the meantime, as state residents, we must do what we can to ensure we don’t contribute to the problem.

The little things add up, and information on ways to help is readily available. Thousands of gallons of water can be saved with easy and informed choices: repair dripping faucets, wash labware without continuous water flow, run dishwashers only when they are full, take shorter showers and turn off the water in between brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving. If you haven’t already, ask your landlord to stop watering the lawn and to check to make sure your building is leak-free.

While there is no financial incentive for students living in communal residences such as fraternities and co-ops to reduce water consumption, it must be made a norm by those in leadership positions.

None of this is convenient or exciting, but if we make simple changes to our daily routines now, collectively we could save our communities money and ensure California is still a pleasant place to live in for years to come.

California is in a drought, and we need to talk about it. Bring it up during roommate and sorority chapter meetings. Add California’s weekly drought update to the news you scroll through in the morning. It’s easy to forget that California, despite its picturesque green lawns and sprawling agricultural fields, is a desert. However, if we’ve learned anything from climate change, it’s that life as we know it will not continue if we don’t take responsibility and reduce its effects.

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the editorial board as written by the fall 2021 opinion editor, Emily Hom.