By Gerry Ellen

Ah, the Golden State!

Full of beaches and cutting edge creativity, celebrities we idolize, trends that take hold and thrust outward to the rest of the country, agriculture we need, wine we adore and collect, gardens galore, outdoor recreation for days on end, a timeless sense of old school and iconic art, and aqueducts and lakes and rivers that are drying up forever.

If I could end that long sentence with the final words of “drying up forever” it is an understatement.

California is, and has been, in a water crisis for years now, and unless Mother Nature casts her beautiful rainy self on the western state with rain and snow pack, the remainder of the country is in peril—not just California.

I moved back here eight months ago. “Third times’ a charm” was the mantra I implored when steering my car back west. The ocean was calling. The incredibly awesome weather was too tempting to not be a part of, and I just love California—always have and always will.

This time is different though.

Not only in the sense of my movements and wanderings and inspirations while being here in the southern part; it’s the land that feels thirsty and barren. Succulents and cacti and drought-tolerant gardens are thriving in the parched state, yet the waterways, not so much.

When Governor Brown recently declared a state of emergency with imposing restrictions on the citizens of the state—the first ever of its kind—it seemed like a little outcry too late. I applaud his reasoning and efforts for the mandate, yet hasn’t this water shortage been going on for years and years, as the limited snowpack and climate change altered the course of Mother Nature’s actions?

Now is where I am choosing a different approach to this altogether. Not dwelling on the political or the socio-economical, and deciding to observe from the eyes of a child just learning about this in conversations with peer groups, or hearing adults speak about it in gatherings. Children are extremely astute in how they process information, especially when drama is involved.

Let’s imagine the child is about eight years old—an age still full of wonder and excitement and possibility. Also it is an age that might be too consumed with technology, yet continues to revel in playing outdoors and recreating on grassy fields. Suppose this child was told he can no longer participate in soccer games because there is no more water to keep the grass fresh? And those after-school snacks of almonds and raw crispy vegetables aren’t as plentiful anymore, so parents resort to foods that require little growing and more packaging.

Or most of the playgrounds that provide water fountains (old-school style) are no longer running and—oops—no water bottle was filled either prior to leaving the house: dehydration city.

The child will ask questions, lots of questions, especially if his or her beloved outdoor sport is no longer taking place on enormous fields of plenty.

This is but a small fraction of how the impact of the drought could affect our generation and those next in line. It’s nothing to smirk at, nor is California’s serious situation something to turn our backs on. We all enjoy everything that the Golden State has to offer. All that I mentioned earlier, as part of the offerings is something that has stood the test of time, from the entertainment industry to the flowers we present our loved ones, to most meals that adorn our tables.

The water crisis is no joke and needs to be taken seriously.

How we go about it is another matter altogether. Desalinization is a strong consideration, and I wonder about the fate of the oceans anyway. The restrictions on homeowners is a given, as penalties will appear on utility (water) bills come 2016. Where will this all lead? Unless someone mighty and strong can do an incredibly powerful rain dance and bring about a miracle, we have to be resourceful and diligent. There is no going back at all.

My simple solution is this: plant drought-tolerant stuff;  take shorter showers, install spigots and showerheads that monitor flow and keep things in check, grow your own garden with a drip system, say “goodbye” to lush lawns, or simply don’t water them every day. Allow precious vehicles some dirty time (no need to wash them as often), recycle water wherever it’s feasible and flush the toilet only when necessary (you get the picture).

And be diligent and responsible about the entire crisis unfolding.

I guess one could say that it’s California’s problem, but in truth, it is all of our problems. If we consciously choose to inhabit this world together and be one with each other, then we will do whatever it takes to ensure a prosperous world for us all, no matter where it originates and how much work it takes to keep things spinning for our children.

On that note, think of water as one of our most precious elements, as vital as the air we breathe. If we approach it from an awareness of the big picture, the end result might surprise us.


Photo: (unhealthy earth/source)

Editor: Dana Gornall