Starting April 21, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency to various counties throughout California. Though droughts are nothing new in Californian history, they call to mind the frustrating requirements of lessening time in the shower, not running the faucet so often and avoiding watering the lawn. Unfortunately, the truth is that these civilian contributions, while noble, are not going to solve the drought on a large-scale level. Instead, the burden of limiting water use should be placed on the people who use it most — the agricultural industry.
Although it might seem unorthodox at first to place the responsibility on agriculture, especially since California provides one-third of fruits and nuts to the rest of America, the concept of asking the agricultural industry to improve its water practices is nothing new, as this article from 2015 suggests. Unfortunately, things have not changed; agriculture still takes up 80% of the state’s water use. The truth is, even if the governor or counties tried to enforce civilian rules to help try and lower the use of water, the impact would be minimal compared to actively trying to fix how water is used in the agricultural industry. Although there have been some measures passed in the past, such as the Water Conservation Act of 2009 (SB X7-7), the same amount of water is still being used, meaning these laws are not doing nearly enough.
If the California government wants to try to curb the severity of the drought we’re entering, it would be wise to start with agriculture. For instance, they can allot time and money into the incredible universities throughout California to work with these farmers to research better and find more efficient ways of irrigation. Almost every single California university has an agricultural department doing this exact research, which is all the more reason the government should be partnering with them. This is a problem that desperately needs to be addressed because lessening the water use now is better than the country suffering from a food shortage down the line when there isn’t enough water to go around. Though it is uncomfortable to suffer through restrictions, if they are not set now, we will pay the price later.
However, this is not to suggest that civilians should do nothing in the face of the approaching drought. Even though plenty of water used by the state population is recycled, it is always wise to try and lessen the amount used, especially during a drought. If the governor wants to ensure civilian compliance to preserving water, he must stand up and do so rather than worrying about his public image. Some ways to help current civilians could be to offer an incentive system for people who use under a certain amount of water in a week or a month. People are more driven to do things when there is a reward to be won, and this could be a good way to help people commit to using less water.
However, as with all major problems, the root of helping the population better understand the importance of a cause should start in the classroom. The government should be wise to invest time and money into helping children understand the importance of saving water; though some education of California partially exists in fifth-grade classrooms, it doesn’t go nearly in-depth about the environment and climate of California as it should. Children deserve to learn about the state they live in, its climate, what they can do to help prevent droughts and who they can hold accountable for not helping this cause.
If the California government wants anything to be done about this budding drought, they need to be the ones to put sanctions on corporations or farms for using too much water. The government should not leave water limits up to cities; some more liberal counties would likely take the drought more seriously than more conservative ones, leaving an imbalance in fairness. All counties need to take this issue seriously in order to help prevent California from falling into a water shortage, and the government needs to be the one to put a regulation out. And although some people may feel that their personal rights are being infringed upon because of these restrictions, a little discomfort now is necessary to prevent far more discomfort down the line. We must take this drought seriously as a collective and do our best to follow whatever guidelines the government could potentially put out.
Lastly, the government should be more mindful of how it markets this drought initiative. There have been countless TV commercials for the COVID-19 vaccine initiative, and this exact same press should be given to saving water. The climate change initiative has unfortunately not been “marketed” as well as it should be, given the issue’s severity. People should have a better understanding of this crisis than what they have currently, and advertisements are the way to spread necessary facts. If the government wants to make people more aware of the severity of the drought, then they should put their money where their mouth is and help raise awareness to Californians and to the rest of the country, who rely on California to provide them with produce.
If the Californian government and population want to prevent a severe water shortage as we enter this new drought, we all must be willing to be proactive. The government should work with and penalize those industries that are using the majority of California’s water in the first place, and if they want the citizens to help take part in the water crisis, they need to take the time and money necessary to help educate our population and inform them on why what they are doing is so important. As we are still at the beginning of the drought, we have the unique opportunity to start making changes to prevent the water loss from being too severe; but if we are not careful, we will quickly find ourselves in a predicament where many people will suffer all because of the selfish desire for individualism.