Highway signs throughout California plead, “Serious drought. Help save water,” as city councils pass restrictions on outdoor watering and other extraneous water usage in hopes of fighting the severest drought in state history. The tens of millions of dollars in federal aid that President Barack Obama recently pledged drought relief programs will hopefully whet the nation’s interest in water conservation and serve as a wake-up call about the worsening climate change situation.
California is the source of half the nation’s fruits and vegetables, so the effects of the drought will soon be apparent on dinner tables across America. This alarming graphic from the Huffington Post hints at which items are likely to jump in price first. Apparently, it takes 880 gallons of water to produce one gallon of milk, 1,799 gallons to produce a pound of beef, and 449 gallons to produce a pound of rice. We’re approaching a slippery slope.
I live in Sacramento, the nation’s “farm-to-fork” capital, and I can see the land literally shriveling around me. It’s devastating. And brown.
Aside from the obvious problem of greenery dying from thirst, the drought is also taking a toll on much of California’s wildlife. In Santa Cruz creeks, depleted stream flow is causing sand buildup that prevents endangered coho salmon from reaching the ocean or swimming upstream to spawn. In the Sacramento Valley, waterfowl that normally live in the rice fields have been searching for a new home. The fields, usually ankle deep with water, went dry last month.
So whether you’re worried about food, or wildlife, or are just saddened by the change in scenery, you might want to think about taking action. The federal money will help, but the real progress has to start with us.
Eartheasy has a fantastic list of 25 ways to save water in the home. Here are a few of my tried and true favorites:
1. Avoid running water. Wash vegetables in a pan of cold water instead of running them under the faucet. Soak dishes in a soapy washtub and rinse off briefly before moving to the dry rack. And for shaving, just fill your bathroom sink with warm water and dip the razor in. It might seem strange at first, but it works just as well and saves a ton of water.
2. Keep a water bottle in the fridge. Running the sink until the water gets cold enough to drink is wasteful and easily avoided with a little bit of forethought.
3. Take shorter showers. This is so easy. Hop in, wash, hop out. Save your powerhouse ballads and deep philosophical thought for when you are getting dressed. The Earth will thank you for it.
Sammy Caiola is a freelance blogger and reporter who was recently unleashed from the Medill School of Journalism in Chicago. When not writing about the environment, health and wellness, arts, education, LGBT issues, and more, she enjoys hiking and playing the ukulele.