The Art of Conservation: Drought Emergency in California

Sacramento CA

A twenty percent reduction in water consumption was issued last week by Governor Jerry Brown in response to the drought emergency that has been declared for the state of California.   Being the heathen that I am, briefly showering every other day is normal for me so I doubt that I will feel imposed on if we are asked to sacrifice bathing. We’ve already begun capturing excess water to use on the garden. Numerous churches and religious leaders are hoping that prayers for precipitation will be heard and responded to, and even I have been dancing, chanting, and shaking my Native American Rain Stick everyday in hopes of a positive response from nature.

There is a risk that approximately 200,000 acres agricultural land in the Central Valley will not be planted as a result of the drought.  To further complicate the impact that a dwindling water supply is having on farmland that produces about 45 percent of the nation’s fruits and vegetables, the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta is on the verge of collapse.  The Delta is a critical part of the state’s water supply from Silicon Valley to San Diego.   It is estimated that 30 percent of Southern California’s water supply moves across the 700,000-acre Delta, the largest estuary on the West Coast of the Americas and home to 750 distinct species of plants and animals.

Invasive species, pollution and the destruction of most of the area’s wetland and river habitat due to existing water-supply operations continue to have profound impacts on the Delta.  The natural direction of the rivers flowing out of the Delta have been reversed and as a result of water conveyance systems and other issues, several native species are on the brink of extinction.  A sustainable path forward in the Delta must be insured or the continued ecological collapse of the estuary will result in further reductions in water supply for California cities and agriculture.

There is a proposed plan to build two massive twin tunnels under the delta to divert Sacramento River water around the Bay/Delta estuary for distribution to San Joaquin Valley agribusiness and Southern California cities and suburbs.  The monetary costs could range above $69 billion, and the irreparable damage to the environment?  Astronomical.    Seems to me that there isn’t enough water in California to justify the destruction.   Are we not wise enough to realize that creating a resilient water distribution system based on recycling, conservation and the development of local supplies is more worthy of consideration?  The Environmental Water Caucus’ Responsible Exports Plan provides sustainable solutions that are more economical and less taxing on California’s rivers and bays.  The science and common sense applications that are demonstrated in the report conclude that:

…”The combination of water efficiency solutions and reduced reliance on the Delta that are recommended obviate the need for increased surface storage and increased conveyance through the Delta.  Water efficiency actions can provide California with the largest increment of future water supply that is currently available to us; the solutions will also provide ample water supplies for population growth, agricultural and industrial growth, and for improving the conditions of our natural landscapes.”

Conservation really is a work of art.  I have started a mixed media series of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta and should any of the work sell, ten percent of the profit will be donated to a conservation program of the collector’s choosing.
Please leave a comment if you are interested in supporting the effort.

~T.

American River
American River – Pencil on Paper – 8 x 11 ” © 2014, Theresa Funk


 
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