Where’s Our Water? Why Regulations Aren’t Enough to Solve California’s Drought Epidemic

In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown proposed measures to restrict water usage statewide, which passed due to California’s drought status. Last year’s cutback was successful, and as reported in the New York Times, California reduced its water usage by 24 percent compared to 2013 levels. However, despite the success of such stringent measures, the threat of drought still remains. Although these measures were effective as a short-term solution, the threat of drought is a long-term problem, requiring continual conservation campaigns rather than sporadic emergency regulations.

After the state removed its mandated cuts last May, Californians were still doing well to conserve water. However, in November, the Water Resources Board stated that water use increased eight percent compared to the same time last year. Unless these concerns are addressed, the long-term consequences will be dire.

If no improvement is shown and drought conditions continue to persist, officials may reinstate measures to cut water usage. However, it shouldn’t get to that point. Conservation isn’t a one-shot, one-way ticket deal. It requires continual action from communities and the individuals within them to keep up efforts for the long run. If we run the numbers, 97 percent of the Earth’s water is saltwater. Around two percent of the remaining freshwater is contained within ice caps and glaciers. That means one percent of the Earth’s water is available to drink. This should be enough to say water conservation is important.

There needs to be a stronger push to conserve water throughout the state. Conservation shouldn’t be a fad that passes in a few months. There needs to be a year-round campaign to ensure Californians are conserving water. Similar to how campaigns against smoking and texting while driving operate, so must exist an ongoing water conservation campaign. If the trend of increasing water consumption continues, it would be perfectly acceptable to reinstate permanent water conservation measures.

For areas that do succeed in reaching conservation goals, there should be some sort of reward to encourage conserving voluntarily. On the other hand, unsuccessful areas should be regulated more by the state to help them reach conservation goals. Doing so is possible. Some water districts in Southern California — including Irvine and El Segundo, among others — were able to conserve more water than last year. While we must appreciate the citizens in these areas for continuing their water conservation efforts, we must not let our temporary stability lure us into a false sense of comfort. The drought is unrelenting and indifferent. It requires continual action and regulation.

In these areas, as long as progress remains steady, no consequences should be inflicted. In other areas without much improvement, there must be stricter measures until there is a steady trend of reduced water usage or increased water conservation efforts. All in all, regulation efforts imposed by the state can only go so far. The law is only as effective as the people who adhere to it and people should consider water conservation to be one of the “unwritten” laws.

Water conservation may seem like a drastic undertaking, but the difference between a drought and a healthy environment can be as simple as the sum of many small actions. Turn off the tap when you’re brushing your teeth. Turn on the tap only when you need to rinse the soap off your hands. Instead of using a hose to wash down your car, why not go to a car wash that recycles the water? Cut down shower time. Before hopping into the shower for twenty minutes, keep in mind that some shower heads can use up to five gallons a minute. Little actions like this can make a big impact in the long run.

While regulation may certainly provide repercussions for not meeting standards, further progress can’t be made
unless there is a widespread understanding of the gravity of the situation. The people of California must prove that there is no need for such regulations by working to conserve.

Eashan Reddy Kotha is a first-year biological sciences major. He can be reached at ekotha@uci.edu.