Describing it as a wake up call, Governor Schwarzenegger declared a statewide drought in California on June 4th 2008. Citing two years of below average snowfall, low snow melt off, and populations pressures, the governator was clear Californians need to get by with less, so even more Californians can get by with even less.
In a press conference that got little fanfare, due to the Hillary Clinton show following her defeat, Arnold continued his battle with the California legislature pitting growers against city dwellers in the conservation allocation game.
Warning residents to immediately cut their water use or face the possibility of rationing, Schwarzenegger took the opportunity to push a $11.9 billion bond to fund delta, river and groundwater improvements, conservation and recycling efforts, and reservoirs. His goal is to get water to farmers, California's major consumers of this limited and shrinking resource.
As mentioned before in this column California is reaching it's limits on population and development. This drought, a "perfect storm" of water scarcity, follows the driest spring in 88 years, a reduction of water from the Colorado river, environmental regulation prohibiting water transfers from the Sacramento Bay delta and millions of suburban residents who insist on maintaining thirsty lawns and lush tropical landscapes, is bringing the golden state to the edge of economic disaster.
Conservations is only the beginning.
The best way to conserve water is not to use it. Of course residents need to eat, drink and bathe. Clothes need to be washed but cars don't. Swimming pools may soon become a luxury we can no longer afford. Ornamental fountains, water parks, and decorative ponds must also be reconsidered as cities such as San Diego begin to consider toilet to tap policies in order to keep up with growing demand for potable water, and an ever increasing population.
The easiest way to conserve water is to plant native species. Once established indigenous plant species require no irrigation and will thrive with only natural rainfall to sustain them. Reducing or removing turf grass and lawns goes along way to achieving economic and environmental sustainability.
For far too long Californians have taken imported water for granted while ignoring the reality that the majority of the state is considered arid or semi arid desert. We have also allowed, in fact encouraged the development to destroy sustainable habitat for sterile, yet thirsty, landscapes.
Water conservation must now become a way of life, if life as we know it is to continue. Learning to learn with less becomes increasingly important as climate change, oil shortages, and unsustainable populations change the very nature of the California experience once and for. To do nothing is to invite disaster.
Heeding Governor Schwarzenegger warning and reprimand is in everyones best interests. Without water the California dream would become a nightmare of epic proportions as the economy withers away as cities becomes ghost towns of suburban dust bowls.
Thank you Governor Schwarzenegger for the wake up call, it's long over due.