Changing how we use water to save water.
Three years now into the worst drought California has experienced in decades and it seems as though we are still stuck in a waiting game. Scan any local or state news report on the current water crisis and you will find that there really is no quick fix solution here. Without a long term commitment from all sectors there is no doubt that this crisis will continue to be detrimental to California’s vitality. Although current overall conditions may seem overwhelming, perhaps this time of crisis should be taken as an opportunity to explore innovations for how we consume water, rather than urging people to simply conserve it. In fact, despite efforts made to promote water conservation across the state, water consumption actually increased over the past year in California. This issue is clearly larger than just spreading the word on cutting back on personal water consumption, but rather adapting how we consume and utilize water in order to get the most out of what we take while not excessively consuming at the same time.
For instance, if the agricultural industry uses drip irrigation systems instead of irrigating by flooding their fields, their water consumption would decrease by 22%. Although some farmland has developed and is making progress with operating more efficiently, there should be no reason for flooding to even be an option when irrigating farmland. Water efficient techniques don’t stop here for agriculture. Other water saving strategies that farmers can incorporate that will cut costs for them, and save the state considerable amounts of water, include water moisture probes and more efficient water pumps. These strategies do not require drastic changes, but instead prove that reinventing the wheel does not have to be all that radical in order to see real results. Situations like these are ideal opportunities for developing positive changes now while exploring other changes that will take more time and persistence.
The discussion of long term solutions of course involves money. Individual water districts across the state have started to more closely regulate use, and State legislation has already allotted nearly $700 million to be put towards emergency drought relief. However, the rate at which our government moves and operates is less than ideal for the current crisis we face. Santa Cruz has addressed the issue by water “budgeting”. Residential consumers state how many people are in their household to determine how much water is allotted to each home. By consuming more than the allotted amount of water, households then must pay more. Although this is an effective method for deterring unnecessary consumption, it does not guarantee long term conservation and fines cannot give back the water that has been lost. In fact, it was found back in 2009, that this method was only briefly effective and after being fined, consumers eventually went back to wasting water yet again. This goes to show this problem and the solution have to be dealt with on a larger scale.
Our efforts then should concentrate towards expanding our water infrastructure to achieve long-term supply and avoid havoc. California’s water infrastructure could be extended through a number of options that are currently being explored such as rainwater storage, desalination, and recycling waste water. Although these options each have their critics, we are reaching a climax with this water crisis and any viable option is worth being seriously considered. These larger scale efforts allow us to invest in water security for the future and when implemented alongside more efficient water strategies for everyday usage, there may be promise in dealing with our dilemma.
In any case, the fact of the issue is that real change will only be seen with time. However, it takes a fair amount of time for our government to show any kind progress and time is what we are up against when dealing with water supply. This problem does not depend on the efforts or reform of a single group, but rather it will only be effectively addressed when collective efforts are being made across the state. We have come to a crossroads with this issue that affects the entire state and without working with one another to efficiently adapt how we consume water in every aspect of our lives, we face catastrophe.