California is currently enduring one of the worst droughts on record. Why then, has water consumption in many areas increased?
Accountability for the drought has been fairly evenly distributed between residential and commercial consumers. For the first time, the state of California has voted to fine water-wasters up to $500, but with conflicting legislation (see this couple who were charged for not watering their lawn), and supposedly, only one cop on water-waste patrol, many question the effectiveness of the new policy. California’s vast agricultural economy is being hit hard as well; farmers are cutting back, losing crops or paying a premium to maintain sufficient irrigation. An article in the LA Times this weekend dampened spirits further by citing experts who say that this drought may eventually get better, but first its going to get a lot worse.
This isn’t a problem without solutions, but there is much work to be done before California can become a sustainable, glittering oasis once again. The Pacific Institute has put together an infographic outlining an effective, yet ambitious steps that can be taken to save California’s fresh water supply.
With so much information readily available, and the effects of the drought being broadcast daily, it is still confounding that consumption has managed to a actually increase in the last few months. While many of us may be informed and simply know better, this problem can’t be solved simply with information and a small shift in behaviors. A large part of the problem is an attachment to our right to fresh, clean, drinkable water- and as much of it as we want.
Most Americans have been born into households already equipped with indoor plumbing. All we’ve ever had to do was to turn on the faucet, and out came a steady from of clean, clear liquid. After oxygen, water is the most important component of human survival, and this fact may even lead most of us to feel that water is a human right. Let’s say for arguments sake that water is, without question, a basic human right to which we are all equally entitled to, as much as we are entitled to oxygen. Then the question become not whether or not we should have access to it, but to how much.
Much of the discussion in California is comparatively superfluous when put in context with the global impact. Stories from California that pop up on a google search of the drought include the couple who was fined for having a shabby, brown lane, another on the rising price of produce and more on how people have been grumbling about having to close up their swimming pools or stop washing their cars.
According to data360.org, there are countries in the world where the struggle is real; in Mozambique, for instance, people survive on an average of less than 10 liters per day (no much left after cooking and drinking). In United States, the average person will consume- either inadvertently (through purchases and wasted or directly- over 600 liters of water PER DAY.
There is a monumental difference between how much water a human needs to sustain life, and how much they need to sustain a certain lifestyle. While humans are all entitled to water, there are many who may be abusing the privilege for luxury or sport, and who may not be considering the consequences. More data can be found at the WHO’s website as well as the CIA fact book, and here are some more staggering facts from water info.org:
Amount of water it would take, per day, to support 4.7 billion people at the UN daily minimum: 2.5 billion gallons
Amount of water used, per day, to irrigate the world’s golf courses: 2.5 billion gallons
Amount of water used by 60,000 villagers in Thailand, on average, per day: 6,500 cubic meters
Amount of water used by one golf course in Thailand, on average, per day: 6,500 cubic meters
This article isn’t mean to discourage fun and games, it is only meant to inspire conscious action that might allow privileged individuals to enjoy sport, and not at the expense of other peoples’ lives and wellbeing. Go ahead and golf, but maybe think about taking your game to Hawaii (Mount Waialeale sees an average of more than 450 inches of rainfall every year!).