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Addressing drought as a collective problem

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KARISSA HO | STAFF

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APRIL 01, 2022

Living with drought is becoming a way of life in all of California, Berkeley included. 

While promising early winter storms drenched the Bay Area late last year, the reality is that we need rain all winter long. We have had the driest combined January and February in this state’s history, and our current snowpack is just 39% of what we expect to see in an average year — snow which is a significant contributor to our state’s annual water supply.

In Berkeley specifically, we have had just five rainy days with more than one-tenth of an inch of precipitation since Jan. 1 — totaling 1.37 inches, or roughly 11% of average for this time of year. The Pardee Reservoir that supplies drinking water for UC Berkeley students through the East Bay Municipal Utility District, or EBMUD, remains less than 70% full as we approach the summer months.

As we enter our third consecutive dry year with multi-year droughts becoming more extreme from the impacts of climate change, the consequences of doing nothing — and the importance of us all doing something — grow increasingly urgent.

Though it’s easy to think of drought as someone else’s problem, every drop counts. It is on all of us to do our part to conserve this finite resource. In Berkeley, we are lucky to have thousands of student advocates living in our community who are uniquely capable of reducing water waste to make a difference for all.

We can all lead the way with water conservation by taking daily actions that reduce waste and helping educate friends, family and neighbors of the risks we face if we don’t conserve.

Simple actions like taking shorter showers, turning off the water while brushing our teeth and using reusable water bottles add up when enough of us change our habits. In fact, if everyone in the East Bay shortened their shower by one minute, collectively we could save two million gallons of water each day.  For our resident college students, being mindful of water use in the dorms, at home and in self-care will help our region ease drought now and set ourselves up for a more sustainable future.

Due to climate change and weather extremes, we know all too well that California is only getting hotter and drier. This phenomenon, more commonly referred to as “weather whiplash,” means that our state is experiencing wet spells followed by extremely dry conditions coupled with heat waves. All of these extremes contribute to the premature melting of our snowpack, which remains a deeply important resource for California’s water supply throughout the year. 

During fall of last year, Governor Newsom declared that all 58 California counties — including Alameda — are under a drought emergency following 2021’s record-setting summer of heatwaves and the state’s second driest water year on record. Since 2000, more than half of California’s water years have been dry or drought-recorded years.

By combining forces between our student community members and those of us who call Berkeley and the East Bay home, we can take responsibility and make an impact. Together, the daunting task of overcoming extreme, regular droughts becomes more attainable. So, whether you consciously choose to carry that reusable water bottle back and forth to class or take shorter showers, every contribution matters.

The EBMUD is asking all customers — including students — to be smart about consuming water. Save Our Water, the central hub for California water conservation, along with the East Bay Municipal Utility District serve as great resources for water-saving information. As individuals and as a community, we have the power to answer the call to action and implement lifestyle changes that will help conserve water and reduce the impact of drought. Students and residents across our region must recognize that now is the time to come together to take those small yet impactful actions to use less water in our daily lives.

As drought continues to be an issue that impacts all of us who call the East Bay home, let’s continue the conservation conversation. Encourage friends and family to do the same by sharing your actions with your campus community and beyond.

Let’s join forces to do our part and help make California’s water future more sustainable.

Riya Master is a student at UC Berkeley and serves as the external affairs Vice President for the ASUC. Alice Towey is the manager of water conservation at the East Bay Municipal Utility District. Contact the opinion desk at [email protected] or follow us on Twitter
LAST UPDATED

APRIL 01, 2022


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