Shorter Showers Won’t Get Us Out of the California Drought

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As of July, 50 out of California’s 58 counties were in a drought state of emergency. In August, U.S. officials announced that the Colorado River, an important water reservoir for Californians, is experiencing its first ever water shortage. The next day, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California (MWD), one of the largest water distributors in the country supplying water to 19 million people, also issued a supply alert on this vital resource.

It’s clear that California is already experiencing the effects of climate change, and we can only expect the water crisis in this state to get worse. Temperatures are getter hotter, and fires are more frequent and devastating. Lakes and rivers, necessary reservoirs that supply Californians with water, are drying up due to this increased temperature. As of late August 2021, 100% of California is in “moderate” drought, 88.4% is in “extreme” drought, and 47.4% is in the highest classification – “exceptional” drought. That’s nearly half the state!

And how is California Governor Newsom addressing the drought? By asking everyday Californians to voluntarily reduce their personal water consumption by 15% – by installing energy-efficient showerheads, taking shorter showers, and fixing water leaks.

While we don’t advocate wasting water in your homes, California residents are not the problem! 80% of the state’s water goes into agriculture, an over $50 billion industry that has been shown to be incredibly wasteful of this resource. Plus a majority of this water is used just to produce meat and dairy, due to the water intensive feed required to raise these animals. But dairy is California’s top agricultural commodity, so of course Newsom does not mention changes to agricultural practices as a way to conserve water.

Or what about banning fracking – which uses up to 16 million gallons of water per well? Compare this to the average of 85 gallons daily per person used in homes – it would take someone more than 500 years to consume the same amount of water as one well! Newsom’s response to this has been to institute a ban on all new fracking permits, though not until 2024. 

This tremendous squandering of the water supply is a global problem – California is just one blatant example from the United States. Life as we know it will not continue to exist if we simply stand by and let vital decisions be made for us by politicians and the destructive corporations they protect. Ensuring we have water for generations to come is going to require more than taking shorter showers – it’s going to take a complete overhaul of the system that’s led us into these droughts in the first place.