UN World Water Day: A Call to Action in California’s Drought
“…people go to the river and turn it into dry land. The water says: ‘I don’t care. I am water. You can use me all you wish. I am always the same. I can’t be used up…You can’t hurt me.’
-Kate Luckie, Indian Lands
Winnemem Wintu Tribe
Established in 1993 by the United Nations, World Water Day is held every year on March 22nd to bring attention to our freshwater water resources, while encouraging dialogue and policy change on a broad range of water conservation issues. Each year, Water Day emphasizes a different aspect of water usage and conservation; this year, the focus is water’s interrelation with energy production and consumption. However, in California, this Water Day will hold a different significance in the face of the current drought.
On campus, Cal Dining will celebrate this Water Day by piloting a new initiative in the Dining Commons called “Thoughtful Thursdays.” Cal Dining will provide informational signage on different food topics and controversies, in the hope of educating students on different aspects of food politics from animal rights issues to sustainable agriculture to health. Thursday March 20th will start off this new event by focusing on how students can participate in water conservation by choosing to eat vegetarian for the night.
On January 17, 2014, after 2013 was declared the driest year in state history, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency, calling for all residents to participate in a voluntary reduction in water usage by 20 percent.
Brown’s declaration also called for: additional seasonal firefighters, updates on city drought plans, reduction in nonessential landscaping for public buildings and highways, voluntary water sales and transfers between districts, as well as increased spending on water supply and conservation projects.
With a seemingly infinite supply of water in our homes at the turn of a faucet, it can be very hard to grasp the affects of this drought on our day-to-day life. Unfortunately, as the drought persists the affects will become more and more tangible, especially as the prices of produce and meat rise in the supermarket and at farmer’s markets across California.
Cattle ranchers and dairy farmers, the hardest hit in the business, are considering reducing their herds because of reduced grazing land. Many have already begun to send their cows to slaughter months earlier than in previous years, as a result of the rising costs of corn and oat crops used for feed.
This spring, nearly 500,000 acres of land, the size of Los Angeles and San Diego combined, will likely lay fallow due to insufficient rainfall and water stores in the Central Valley.
For California, the nation’s top agricultural producer, leader in wine and dairy production, and producer of 80% of the world’s almonds, this drought could cause a revenue loss of $5 billion over the next couple years.
Whether natural variability or climate change is the culprit of this drought, its severity is likely a consequence of years of misuse and overuse of our water and land resources, caused by dam and levee technologies that aid in our idea of water as an infinite resource.
According to the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), the average Californian uses about 196 gallons of water per day; so, a 20 percent decrease in water usage comes to about 38 gallons per day. A decrease in consumption of 38 gallons of water can be as easy as washing only full loads of laundry, turning off the water when brushing your teeth, taking five minute or less showers and reducing meat consumption.
Happy Water Day!
Visit National Geographic to see how much water your diet consumes: http://environment.nationalgeographic.com/environment/freshwater/embedded-water/