Saving water will not save the Golden State

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Editorial

When 16th century Spanish explorers discovered what is now California, they were so awestricken by the beauty of the land that they thought it was the island of the mythical Amazon Queen Califia, after whom they named the province. While California certainly has an abundance of beauty, it lacks an abundance of water and is currently in the worst drought in recorded history. To combat the effects of this drought, the state has mandated cuts in water usage. While the coerced reductions have been mildly effective, cutting down on water usage will be inadequate as a long term solution. California must explore new technologies and implement repairs to its aging infrastructure in order to survive the current drought and face future ones.

Governor Jerry Brown called for the state to save 25 percent of water through conservation. According to the state’s website, Californians have met this goal, saving approximately 31.3 percent of water in the month of July. While the intentions of the Governor’s mandate are good, the results are inadequate.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, California used 38 billion gallons of water per day in 2010 — over 1 trillion for the year. Using this pre-drought number, California is still using 31 billion gallons of water per day, even with the reductions.

And while the state may save water, the citizen does not save money. As water supply and usage decrease, water demand increases, causing water companies to keep prices stagnant to compensate for lost revenue or even increase them to keep up with the basic laws of supply and demand according to the Los Angeles Times.

Given the current condition of the state, drastic measures are necessary.
According to NASA, California needs 1 trillion gallons of water to fully recover from the damaged caused by the drought. This will not be the last drought in California’s history; and therefore, the state must employ other means of planning for, protecting from, and responding to the next one. A study conducted by UC Davis in 2015 shows that California has lost over 6 percent of its Gross Domestic Product in this drought alone.

One way California can fortify itself in preparation for future droughts is by investing in desalination–the process of removing salt from seawater. The city of Santa Barbara reactivated its desalination plant this year, and according to the city’s website, the plant will produce 30 percent of the community’s water when it is fully operational in Sept 2016. While environmentalists may oppose the alleged damage that desalination plants cause to the ocean, the greater environmental damage would be the loss of countless acres of arable farmland as a result of water scarcity.

The second step toward protecting the state from the impact of droughts is an overhaul of its water infrastructure. A substantial portion of California’s pipes are over 80 years old. Nationally, 2.1 trillion gallons of water are lost each year to aged pipes, according to NPR.  The Los Angeles Times reports that since 2006, 13,000 leaks have been reported to the Department of Water and Power, accounting for 8 billion gallons of water lost each year in Los Angeles alone. Furthermore, California has not constructed a new dam or reservoir since 1979. Investment in efficient water gathering and storage systems is imperative to ensure stability of the state’s waters supply, especially if the state hopes to use this year’s forecasted El Niño patterns to the citizen’s benefit.

PHOTO BY AUSTIN NUFABLE

PHOTO BY AUSTIN NUFABLE

For Loyola, water is a vital component of operating the best high school in Southern California. Without an adequate water supply, Loyola could not maintain the distinguishing trees and lawns that accent the beautiful campus. The water fountains, gym showers, and baseball field all rely on water from outside campus to serve their respective functions for the Cub community. Loyola, like the rest of the state,  does not remain untouched by the drought, and should consider investments in runoff collection systems that will help the school save some of the millions of gallons of water that are expected to fall this winter. While the supply would be non-potable, the water could be used to maintain the picturesque campus Loyola has developed over the years.

The possible solutions to the drought come with a price tag. The city of San Diego asserts that the desalination plant currently under construction will cost approximately $1 billion. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power budgets its pipe reconstruction plans at an astonishing $1.3 billion. Since the current drought has cost California $2.7 billion–6 percent of the state’s GDP—clearly, the investment in a desalination plant is worth taking. While an investment by Loyola in sustainable technology would certainly also be expensive, the school could see thousands of dollars of savings over the next decades should water prices continue to rise as the resource becomes scarce.

The 11 trillion gallon water deficit can only be remedied by decades of consistent rainfall. While the predicted El Niño may provide temporary relief, California must continue to prepare for the future. Mandatory water restrictions and water conservation are not a permanent solution. If the 16th Century Spanish explorers came upon California today, they would behold dried-up farmland and shrinking lakes, and California would have a different name.

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