Things are very bad in California. The Golden State is quite literally golden, baked by the relentless sun as it enters its fourth year of a devastating drought. 2014 was the warmest year on record in California and 2015 doesn’t look likes it cooling down in any way. It’s gotten so bad that the Governor declared a state of emergency and everyone has been ordered to cut their water usage by at least 25%. It’s estimated that the reservoirs only have about a years worth of water left in them.
The effect on California’s landscape is noticeable. Lake Oroville’s water level have dropped almost 200 feet in some places and the land is parched, cracking and splintering in some places. Golf courses across the state are brown and scorched. Entire fields and orchards are bone dry, not able to produce any food—and since California is the top farming state in the US, this is a huge problem for both consumers and the workers that depend on these crops. When the land dries up, the migrant workers lose their jobs and the economy will suffer for it. It’s also so hot that it doesn’t even snow on the mountains anymore, it only rains. This leads to the snowpack declining and even that has consequences: ski resorts are forced to close and lakes and rivers that need the run off that melted snow brings, continue to dry up.
To sum up: California is very dry and there doesn’t seem to be any relief on the horizon any time soon.
Water bottling companies aren’t making the drought any easier. Nestle has recently come under fire for its refusal to cease bottling operations in California. Instead of looking for a solution, Nestle is pointing fingers at the state government. Jose Lopez, head of Nestle, said, “In California, the infrastructure is not there. You’re not going to look at me and make me responsible for that the infrastructure is not there to cope with the situation today, are you? It’s easy to demonize something like that.” In fact, Nestle plans, not on stopping or decreasing to help with the drought in any way, but on increasing the amount of water bottled in California. They believe that if they stop, then somebody else will take their place, so what’s the use? While it’s true that California’s state government needs to step up, Nestle has a responsibility to its consumers and employees to help in whatever way they can with the drought. Nestle isn’t the only company bottling in California; Walmart doesn’t plan on stopping as well, recycling the same reasons Nestle has given. Despite the many different petitions demanding bottling companies outsource their operations to other states, these two companies believe it’s in their best interest to stay and continue with their business. Starbucks decided to move their operations to Pennsylvania after the company also came under fire, saying that it is their job to be globally responsible.
This drought can’t entirely be blamed on the lack of rain and over usage of water, though. Global warming definitely has a hand in it. In Los Angeles this March, there were six 90 degree days—the most amount of 90 degree days in March since 1977, which only saw three. A lot of people don’t see global warming as a threat—especially not the congressman that threw a snowball on the senate floor—but it is and it’s only going to get worse. What with the polar ice caps melting and the east coast getting slammed by blizzards, the consequences of global warming are already upon us. Without considerable change, Daniel Swain—a graduate student from Stanford—warns that “all years are likely to be warm – or extremely warm – in California by the middle of the 21st century. This means that both drought frequency – and the potential intensity of those droughts which do occur – will likely increase as temperatures continue to rise.” Not only will California continue to suffer, but temperatures will fluctuate drastically everywhere. Boston was hit by multiple blizzards this past winter, setting records for snowfall. This happened because when the water warms up, it creates dramatic atmospheric changes, actually causing more snow to fall. So while the west coast is heating up, the east coast will continue to see more snow more frequently.
We already know all of the problems, but now it’s time to talk about the solutions. California’s governor has already declared a state of emergency, demanding that all California citizens decrease their water usage by at least 25%. If you live in the state, you could think about cutting down on your showering time and installing more water conservative appliances. If you don’t live in California, you can still help. Many petitions are going around, calling for big name bottling companies to stop taking water from California and to go elsewhere. You can find them here, here, and here, or with a quick google search. You can also donate to the Pacific Institute to help them research ways on how to combat the drought and work around it. Going to the source of the problem—climate change itself—will also help. Recycling, conserving, writing letters to politicians, and holding companies responsible for their environmental mishaps is the way to go. The previous generation has already given up on the earth, but that doesn’t mean we have to. If we want our grandchildren to see a real live polar bear, then we have to take control of our future and be responsible in how we live our lives.
This article was written by Halley Dewey, a writer for dusk magazine.