In a desert like Riverside, it’s hard not to notice that we’re in one of the worst droughts in California history. With the certainty of water restrictions throughout the state, the need to conserve water has become dire. Knowing this, how can anybody afford to turn a blind eye, not only to their own futures, but to their neighbors’ as well?
The LA Times recently reported that the drought has gone largely unnoticed by the more affluent cities and residents of the state, continuing to use water as though the drought does not exist. Californians must realize how privileged we are to live in a state that has a Global Domestic Product that puts some countries to shame, and as such, many of us have the luxury to act as though we are unaffected by our surroundings.
No community lives in an absolute vacuum, and it is time that all of us who live here band together to make sure the state doesn’t become a barren waste.
The first thing that we all need to promote any meaningful change, however, is a change in attitudes concerning the drought itself. Everybody needs to know that the problem is theirs, and nobody can afford to believe that somebody else will take responsibility. Apathy can only lead to a worsening of the current situation, and it falls on all of us to make sure that we and our neighbors understand the seriousness of the drought.
With Governor Brown’s recent announcement that the agricultural industry will be largely unaffected by the water restrictions in the state, many are claiming that the 20 percent of water consumption that is represented by residential consumption will do nothing in the face of the 80 percent used by the agricultural sector. While it may be true that this is a gulf in actual usage, one-fifth is no small portion, and every bit of conservation will help in the long run.
Looking at UCR, it is already possible to see that the school is making an effort to limit water usage, letting some of the lawns return to whatever state they may, while only keeping the trees alive. This will hopefully contribute in no small measure to make the school more amicable to the state’s needs, and will set an example to other UCs as to the ways we can go about limiting water use on campuses.
However, we must continue to ask whether there is anything else that the school can do to curb our water consumption: Questions as to whether all of the lawns on campus need to stay as such, or whether UCR should embrace the desert that it is, using a new aesthetic to encourage greater water conservation. With the right plants in place, a desert aesthetic could easily liven up the campus while saving astronomical amounts of water. One needs to look no further than the Psychology Building to see this in action.
The school has made moves to limit residential use of water by replacing Oban’s toilets with more efficient models, saving gallons of water at a time, and while this should be applauded, it should fall on us as the students to encourage them to replace more of the toilets around campus so that they might eventually use water-conserving toilets in every building. Additionally, the use of waterless urinals in every men’s bathroom could limit the amount of water used in what is likely the bathroom’s most common reason for use.
Another way to limit the campus’ residential usage would be the instillation of low-pressure shower heads. While these shower heads may mean that washing the shampoo out of our hair is a new hassle in our morning routines, it is a small price to pay in the face of the drought. The same can even be said about shower times in the residence halls and apartments. Even though students may not have to pay the water bill there, it should not be interpreted as an open invitation to contemplate the whole of existence during every shower that we take.
Even these relatively small measures could do a great deal in reducing the overhead consumption of the school, and will set the state on the right track. We can make our voices heard around campus by rallying any student orgs that we belong to to prioritize water conservation in all areas, showing the school our support in their endeavors thus far, but encouraging them to do more still.
We could all do well to remember that the need for conservation doesn’t stop after spring quarter either, and that we can encourage water-safe practices, even at home.
During the summer, the temptation to keep a water bottle in hand is ever-present, but all of us need to understand that water bottles don’t only cost money to produce, but require water usage during the manufacturing process. It takes bottling companies 1.39 liters to bottle a single liter. While this may seem insignificant, the numbers add up in the long run, and it would not only be a more sustainable practice to get reusable water bottles, but would cost less too.
Aside from our personal habits, we, as a student body and the future of our state, hold the power to influence organizations that would otherwise waste water on a regular basis.
For those students who live in the suburbs and belong to homeowners’ associations: Encourage your association to limit water usage, letting some grass die in the front of people’s lawns, regardless of the aesthetic appeal that may be lost in the process. In situations like the current drought, the standards of home-beauty must be reevaluated to account for feasibility.
Even practices that we may not have accounted for, like eating beef, contribute to the arid conditions we find ourselves in, as that particular meat comes at the cost of keeping the cows fed and watered.
As students of UCR, we should feel pride in the school’s drive for sustainability. However, we cannot let the school be the only participant in the effort to keep California watered. Educate yourselves, your friends and your neighbors, and together we can ensure that the future of the state is not bound by unsubsidized water prices, imported from a state away. Instead, we can return our state to normalcy, and adopt practices that might allow future generations to know a Riverside whose name no longer means solely irony.