We’re in the Middle of a Drought, Fiona!

It’s official. We Californians are in a drought. This morning, Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency because well, simply put, it’s been a dry, dry year. In 2013, California had its driest year in recorded history. Something to celebrate? I should say not. The last time things looked this bleak was in 1977.

Remember A Cinderella Story? Hilary Duff played a character named Sam (hey now!), busy living in California with her wicked stepmother and cruel (and rather dumb) stepsisters, and they too, were in the middle of a drought. But then we were left to wonder, is Jennifer Lopez’s lawn really brown? Probably not, so why should ours be, too?

After all, people who use extra water have extra class.

After all, people who use extra water have extra class.

But on a more serious note, we do have cause for concern. As of this morning, a wildfire was burning near Glendora in Los Angeles County, and with only 30% containment for 1,700 acres worth of land, we could really use some rain. That and less idiotic people who decide to create illegal campfires. Not only that, but the Santa Ana winds are rearing their ugly heads, leading to a red flag warning as these winds have the potential to exacerbate the fire. The primary cause of this drought is a high-pressure zone four miles high and over 2,000 miles long just off of the West Coast that is stopping Pacific storms (and has been for over a year now), and there’s no government program and no amount of defense spending that can force the rain to come.

The important thing to keep in mind here is how much we truly do depend on rain and on Mother Nature to get her act together. But maybe she’s waiting for us to get it together, too. Let’s break down some numbers: on average, Americans use about 180 gallons per person per day (this number is both home use as well as our share in commercial and industrial areas). And to top it off, this 180 gallons does not include the water we use for agriculture or the water we use to keep our power plants cool or even the water we direct to mining, livestock, and aquaculture. Seriously? The term consumers doesn’t even begin to describe us.

In California, San Francisco County uses 108.4 gallons per capita per day, Los Angeles uses 185 gallons per capita per day, and our state’s capital Sacramento is busy using 260.9 gallons per capita per day. Slow your roll there.

Because we are in a drought, it is time for us Californians to take charge. No, we are not in control of the weather (which just goes to show how miniscule we are in comparison to the elements of nature), but we are in control of our actions. Just as Peter Parker was told, with great power comes great responsibility (side note: everyone constantly attributes this quote to Stan Lee, the writer of Spider Man, but Voltaire aka François-Marie Arouet was actually the person who coined this statement. Just think of this as your “something new” you learned today). And our time of responsibility is here. Get ready to ration the heck out of our water. So maybe we don’t need to use 12 gallons of water in our shower, or 180 (yes, you read that right) gallons to water our lawns (take note, Fiona), and everyone please be sure to fix your leaky toilets and sinks (which can attribute to over 60 gallons of water and 2,700 gallons of water per year, respectively).

Many officials and authorities are stating that enough of California’s counties and major cities are equipped to handle this drought, and could go another year without having to enforce a major ration. But I say, why wait? It’s basically saying we are okay with just waiting to be screwed over by Mother Nature because all weather reports indicate that we are in for our third dry year in a row.

So yes, if we don’t decide to cut back, if we don’t decide to conserve, no authority figure will be banging on our doors to reprimand us. This isn’t 1984, for Christ sake. However, most of us forget that water is not an endless resource. Our reservoir levels are dipping, our bodies of water such as Lake Tahoe and Lake Shasta are only 36% full, and even the run off we get from mountains are 84% below the average. That being said, we as Americans tend be short-minded. Whether it’s in business or in life, we tend to measure success and activities by quarters, by spans of a few short months – but you know why other areas of the world such as Japan are so much more successful than us? Because they have a long-term mindset. If we are not mindful of our water consumption now, then believe me, there will be long-term deficits we will have to suffer through.

My other worry is that Californians – and Americans in general – tend to be fairly individualistic. And I am being lenient in using the term “fairly”. What I mean by that is we usually make our individual selves the first priority and because of this selfishness, we are bound to fall prey to the tragedy of the commons. The tragedy of the commons is an economics theory (this whole MBA thing must be coming in handy) formulated by Garrett Hardin, which states that a depletion of a shared resource (in this case, water) by individuals acting based on each one’s self-interest (heads up, Californians) will act contrary to the long-term best interest of the group, and instead, will continue to deplete the common resource. In more layman’s terms, essentially each of us does not feel enough of a vested interest to actually conserve any water or change our daily habits and instead, we will rely on others in our “group” do change their behavior (but because each of them are relying on us to change, no change ever happens, and our resources become unsustainable). But for our sake, I’m hoping we can prove Hardin’s theory wrong. I can only do so many rain dances, and I can only hope to a certain extent that Californians heed the multiple warnings that have been doled out. Although my rational side doubts many of us will ever change. Because waiting for you is like waiting for rain, useless and disappointing.   



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