Green Junction is a weekly column from St. Maria Goretti Parish in Dyer, IN written by Julie Peller, PhD.
The water crisis in certain areas of the western part of the US is being described as historic. The governor of California has declared a drought emergency in 41 of the state’s 58 counties. Some farmers are removing crops that depend on plentiful water, such as almond trees. The rights to fresh water in Oregon are creating serious tensions between farmers and those protecting fisheries. In Nevada, Lake Mead water levels are described as “the lowest since Lake Mead was filled.” The lake reservoir has dropped 140 feet since 2000, and the water shortage will be felt by farmers and cities in the Southwest.
To confront the drought, residents will “need to pull together again to save water,” according to those who study and implement water use standards. Californians are encouraged to do all they can to minimize water use: shorter showers, fixing leaks, and other conservation efforts. One of the main problems is groundwater overuse, to the extent that land is sinking, according to the director of a global water think tank. He also explains that it is problematic that the rules for more sustainable groundwater use will not be implemented for a few years.
Maybe the value of water and other natural resources is not appreciated until it is dire supply. Others suggest that water has not had a large enough price tag. State officials in California recognize that many people have adapted to a water conservation lifestyle. In 2014, the average Californian used 108 gallons of water per day, compared to 92 gallons in 2020. It is interesting to note that in certain parts of the state people are more willing to conserve than in others, some using on average 70 gallons per day vs those who are not willing to do their part and utilizing 4000 gal/day. Data compiled by the US EPA shows that the average US family uses 300 gallons of water each day, where 20% is for showers, 19% from faucets, 24% for toilets and 17% for laundry.
For those who are not subject to fresh water shortages, it is still important to regard water and other natural resources as precious and treat them as such.
Reflection: In the Laudato Si, Pope Francis emphasizes that “access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right since it is essential to human survival.” How can better respect fresh water?