As California enters its fourth consecutive year of below-average rainfall, campus organizations at the University of California, Santa Barbara are working to raise awareness of the ways in which the average person can address this issue.
The Environmental Affairs Board (EAB) held the Day of Drought, an event organized to bring together various campus environmental organizations in order to present information on the California drought, on Jan. 15. Multiple drought-preventative measures have been implemented across the state over the past four years, as Gov. Jerry Brown declared California in a state of emergency.
Despite calls from the state government for a 20 percent consumption cutback, the State Water Resources Control Board has reported that overall consumption last year increased by one percent, which may seem like a small amount, but in actuality, it equates to billions of gallons of water.
“EAB organized the Day of Drought because we thought it’d be good to raise drought awareness momentum,” said the main organizer of the event, third-year environmental studies major and EAB Co-Chair Jennifer Suh.“I think once the big buzz [from] the California drought was over, people stopped caring. We wanted the Day of Drought because people think all you have to do is take a shorter shower, but there are many other things you can do, the main thing was to bring back the urgency of the drought.”
With up to 80 percent of California in an extreme drought, climate scientists have stated that this is one of the worst dry spells in recorded history, and likely one of the worst in California over the past three centuries. Climatologists are not optimistic about the situation improving any time soon, either.
In a report by The National Drought Mitigation Center and the USDA, approximately 37,004,278 people are currently affected by the drought, and findings by the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences found that, “the drought is likely to continue through 2015, regardless of El Niño conditions.”
With such dire predictions coming from top climatology reports, many are unsure of what they can personally do to help reduce their own water usage.
“To help reduce the amount of water you use, try to avoid eating almonds, beef, and walnuts, which are the three most water-intensive crops,” said Suh. “The majority of water in California is used for agriculture, so it’s important to do things like use reusable water bottles, but make sure you’re aware of which products you’re buying and the impact they have on the environment.”
Making tangible lifestyle choices was a dominant theme at the Day of Drought, and this was particularly resonant to many of the participants of the event, who repeatedly stated that although they want to make a difference in their consumption habits, they are unsure of how to go about that.
Second-year sociology major Xin Ma said, “I think by now, most people are already aware that we are currently in a serious drought. I think the importance of events like these is to offer students an opportunity to get involved with sustainability, which is crucial to working towards a solution.”