Parched California: The Golden State’s Severe Drought

President Obama visited Fresno back in February to talk to farmers struggling to make ends meet during this past winter, which was one of the driest on record in California. With countless frightening statistics being released daily, it’s hard not to be scared about the forthcoming consequences of this inevitable so-called “super-drought.” We’re talking brown lawns for years, a few showers per person per week, and swimming becoming a sport of the past.

The Lexington Reservoir, seen here during the summer of 2008, is well below capacity for this time of year. Image by Simon Davison.

In response to the prolonged drought conditions, Governor Jerry Brown recently signed a $687 million drought relief package which also includes $21 million for workers unemployed due to the drought and $25.3 million for food support. Now while many areas of the state have received anywhere between 4 to 11 inches of rain over the past few months, especially during heavier storms which occurred in March, meteorologists like Carol Smith say that these totals are simply not enough to make up for the lack of rain during December and January. In the final week of January, snow pack levels in the Sierras were a mere 12% of what they were normally for that time of year. With snow melt as our primary source for water during the summer months, these frighteningly low levels do not bode well for California’s long-term water supply.

However, there are a few small water-saving techniques that can make some big impacts on your water consumption. For example, while waiting for the shower to get warm, place a bucket in the shower and use that to water your plants. And if you’re a Bellarmine parent with younger children, you can create a little competition between who can take the fastest showers while still shampooing and conditioning. Notice something? I clearly specified showering, and not bathing. While the average household bath holds between 40 to 45 gallons, a five-minute shower will consume a mere 20 gallons. And if you are thinking long term for this drought, there are many beautiful plants that can be found in nature that use little to no water at all! With rocks alongside them as decoration, these plants can make great gardens. Just take a look at any Arizona neighborhood!  By pulling our own weight in water saving, we can definitely make an impact and pull ourselves up and out of this drought.


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