Mudslides, hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes — the list of natural disasters that have taken place in the United States over the last few years is truly exhaustive. Widespread and unpredictable changes in weather patterns are becoming a staple on news and weather channels. With these disastrous events becoming more frequent, there is almost no escaping the discussion of climate change in the media.
Droughts are a prevalent issue in parts of the country where aquifers are strained and, sometimes, forcibly barren. In California, water shortage is not a recent concern but rather one that has been intensifying over the past three or four years. It is also plaguing the residents year round, with this winter bringing the lowest snowpack records since 1974 in certain regions.
As stated by a Stanford environmental researcher, “Low precipitation isn’t enough to cause a drought. The key difference is temperature.” The ongoing events in California are not simply demonstrating a significant decrease in rain or snow — the dwindling resource is one piece of the climate change puzzle. Time and time again, reports have unveiled the 10 hottest years on record occurring since 1998, or cited the winter of 2014 as the warmest in California history. Each individual, concurrent point leads back to the larger pattern taking place here: Scientifically proven increases in climate trendlines are bringing about serious endangerments in many aspects of life.
The droughts continue to create headlines as they jeopardize the well-being of the people of California by obstructing their access to public necessities. The impacts are not only felt in the kitchen faucets of more than two million people who struggle to obtain water. Water is used in every aspect of our livelihoods and is essential to most industries. Massive amounts are needed to keep power plants functional. Wastefully high volumes are used in the process of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). Water tables must be high enough to support boats in rivers, to keep up with transportation demands. And most importantly, agriculture ceases when there is insufficient water to irrigate crops.
Most recently, in the context of this topic, mandatory water consumption regulations that apply to residents all throughout the state were enacted on April 1. In order to strengthen efforts in the realm of conservation, California Gov. Jerry Brown has moved to mandate 25 percent reductions in 90 percent of cities and towns in the state of California. This has increased from the suggested 20 percent of the previous year, reflecting a spike in urgency. Following suit, programs for efficient appliance upgrades and resilient landscaping are rolling out to reinforce these goals.
It may seem like these events are out of the hands of those of us in New Jersey, nearly 3,000 miles away from our Californian counterparts, but that is not the case. Upon hearing stories and concerns, it is imperative to keep in mind that natural resources do not recognize state borders. The issues in California are only one aspect of environment and sustainability issues worldwide, and our individual consumption habits impact people everywhere.
If you’re feeling helpless in the face of droughts featured on the news, make strides with simple steps like taking a shorter shower, cutting back use of disposable water bottles and finding other ways to be more sustainable in your daily life. Over the course of a few short years, depletion of reserves has become increasingly apparent in California. It is time to recognize that our interconnectedness requires more efficient maintenance of resources for future generations so that steps can be taken towards making preventative change.
Printed in the 04/08/15 issue.