It’s finally raining! I no longer have to listen to my grandfather, an almond grower, complain about “city slickers” stealing the Central Valley’s water. I no longer have to sit through announcements at CVHS chastising almond farmers for irresponsible irrigation. The Bay Area and 40 percent of California are officially drought-free. This is a shocking and welcome fact, since a year ago 95 percent of the state was in drought. However, we should not let go of water conservation.
Gov. Jerry Brown issued an executive order in 2015, requiring that California reduce its urban water use by 25 percent. In 2016, after some El Niño rains, Brown lifted some of the restrictions. Now that we seem to be heading towards a drought-free California, the governor is considering lifting the restrictions entirely. Even if Brown does, we should continue to conserve water.
Like most California Generation-z teens, I have almost always known a California plagued by drought. Growing up, I witnessed an ongoing cultural change and increased awareness of the importance of conservation, and an increased effort to use less water.
I moved to Castro Valley with my family when I was around six years old. Because most of my life has been spent in the Bay Area, most of the cultural changes I witnessed have been related to urban or suburban living. The progressions in sustainability I have observed mostly have to do with improving water efficiency in the household. It became socially acceptable to “only flush on two.” It has become common sense to water the yard at night, and we learned that if you are not going to drink the last of your water, there is always a plant that could use it.
Before the Bay Area, my family and I lived in Modesto, close to my mother’s farming family. Because I still have lots of family in the Central Valley, I have also witnessed changes in agricultural sustainability because of the drought. Even my grandfather, who is not particularly enthusiastic about conservation, changed from flood irrigation to a more sustainable sprinkler system at the start of the drought.
To drop our newly acquired habits because of one abnormally wet winter seems illogical. We should be continuing our progression toward sustainability.
But you might ask, if we have enough water, why do we need to keep conserving it?
Well, we do not have enough water yet. While most of northern California is now out of the drought, over half the state still is in at least moderate drought. However, even if all of California was completely drought-free, we still need to think about the future.
Californians need to know that our state is naturally dry, and could become even more arid by global warming in the future. There will be another drought. Californians need to continue the conservation habits we have formed. According to Jay Lund, from the University of California, Davis, “California must reconcile itself to being a dry place.”
Besides keeping existing cultural changes, we should continue to progress further.
According to Save Our Water, a statewide conservation program, the average Californian uses about 196 gallons of water per day. According to the Department of Water Resources, annually, “California agriculture irrigates 9.6 million acres using roughly 34 million acre-feet of water.” That is a lot of water. Apparently it is not cities or agriculture that is taking all the water, but both.
Only through the combined effort of all Californians can we make water conservation what it should be: a part of living in California, not a part of living in drought.