It’s a dark and stormy day…..
It’s a dark and stormy day here in San Diego. TV news crews are running footage of waves breaking around the OB pier (caused by unusually high tides), traffic will undoubtedly be snarled and a cold rain is falling everywhere. It’s hard to believe in the middle of all this wetness that the region is facing water rationing in the very near future.
California’s reservoirs are at their lowest levels in 14 years. Two years of drought combined with restrictions on supply from the state water project may bring mandatory rationing in the early months of 2009.
Presently, virtually all the rain falling in the region will end up in the Pacific Ocean. In other arid and semi-arid regions of the world, water collection and recycling is simply part of the community’s infra-structure. Houses funnel their water into cisterns, simple treatment plants recycle “grey water” for use in landscaping at resorts and water conservation is a way of life.
San Diego’s dependence on water from Northern California and the Colorado River is short sighted. It’s time to understand that water conservation should be a way of life, not merely a bottomless commodity. In many parts of the planet people are forced walk many miles each day just to obtain drinkable water. 1.4 billion people around the world do not have regular access to sufficient quantities of potable water. A baby born in a “developed” nation will consume, on average, more than fifty times the water of a baby born in a developing country.
Our industrialized food supply uses up water at an astonishing rate. The typical North American high calorie/ high protein diet requires 1300 gallons of water per person per day to produce the calories we consume. A kilo (2.2 pounds) of beef requires more than 42,000 liters of water to produce; rice, corn and other crops require less than 5% of amount to produce a likewise amount.
Non agricultural industries are also large scale users of water. A single steel automobile requires 105,000 gallons of water to produce. Industrial consumption accounts for nearly half the water used in our domestic economy. Pollution (from both industrial and household users) puts an additional strain on the water supply.
Indeed, some studies have suggested that water may become the new oil as a source of conflict in the coming decades. Two thirds of the world’s population will live in countries suffering from water stress by the year 2025.
So, as you look out the window at the rain today, please consider what lies ahead of us. Taking action on water issues means much more than being upset about the more than half-million swimming pools in California or how much water is used up on the greens of local golf courses. It’s as big an issue (and not unrelated to) as global warming, the future of out consumerist economy and world peace.