Save water, drink beer. As Isla Vistans, we’ve all heard the saying, but what does it really mean? Most I.V. residents would argue that this slogan advocates the copious consumption of a frothy liquid until the point of drunken debauchery, but as an environmentalist, I would argue a much different message — one of conservation and limiting consumption of the world’s most precious resource — WATER. Water sustains life. It helps plants grow. It hydrates the earth when it rains (and athletes when they’re thirsty). It cleans our kitchens and bathrooms. It helps cook our pasta dinner. It makes up that sick wave you rode this morning. It fills up our Brita water pitchers. It provides a refreshing swim in your pool on a hot day. It is ESSENTIAL to life — so why do we insist on thinking that it is endless?
With today’s ever growing population (we surpassed seven billion on Halloween!), we must concern ourselves with the quality of life every person is entitled to have. This includes adequate drinking water. While we Americans have access to seemingly endless amounts of “clean” water for 30-minute showers, perfectly green lawns, and to quench dehydration, not every person is guaranteed that luxury. Some people have to carry their clean water over three miles to bring it home for cooking, cleaning, bathing, and drinking every single day. Let me say that again. Many people in developing countries have to carry an entire day’s worth of water over three miles EVERY SINGLE DAY. Can you imagine having to walk from I.V. to the Santa Barbara airport every day to get just enough water to survive? The water you bring back doesn’t include showering, flushing a toilet, or running the dishwasher in your house. We’re talking about carrying only enough water to stay hydrated, cook enough food to keep you from going hungry, and wash your body to stay hygienic. I don’t know anyone, including myself, who would be willing to do that. And that’s my point — every day we take for granted the ability to turn on the faucet and have access to not only clean water, but also hot water. This is a luxury that we are not entitled to, but rather a privilege that should not be taken for granted.
We should be doing everything in our power to save this precious resource we have. Our very own state of California is in the midst of a water crisis; whole lakes are being dried up by overuse. California’s economy, environment and quality of life depend on the availability of water, which is rapidly dwindling. For example, California is one of the nation’s (and world’s) leading food producers, which contributes greatly to the productivity of our economy. If we do not have enough water to sustain these food crops, millions of people will go hungry and lives will be lost, not to mention our economy will continue to spiral downward to the point of no return. How would you like eating only one meal a day because there isn’t enough water to produce enough food for your hungry belly? I know I wouldn’t be too fond of the idea, but these are the realities that we are up against. We cannot just sit back and think that everything will be okay, because if we continue at the rate we’re going, we won’t be worried about finding food for our next meal, we’ll be worried about quenching our thirst. Because we are currently tapping into water reserves that are supposed to be used in the case of a major earthquake or flood, we are seriously affecting our future ability to provide the basic necessity of water for Californians in the event of a crisis. I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be able to have access to drinking water for the next 50 years of my life.
We should also be helping those who don’t have access to this basic necessity of life. How can I help others who live thousands of miles away gain access to clean water when I don’t even know where the water I use comes from, you may be wondering. The answer is simple — use less. In the midst of today’s ever-failing economy, the solution seems intuitive — cut back in ways that we were careless before. This pertains to water as well. We need to reduce the careless ways in which we waste water, like leaving the sink on while we brush our teeth, showering for 20 minutes every single day, washing only three t-shirts in a full laundry load, the list goes on and on. You may not consider yourself a conservationist, but consider this: By reducing your water consumption you can simultaneously save hundreds of dollars a year on your water and gas bill (since gas is used to heat your water). I don’t know about you, but I’d love to have a couple extra hundred dollars to spend on something else like concerts, surfboards or whatever else you’re into.
Therefore, I encourage you to think about the ways in which you use water, and really appreciate the comfortable life it has afforded you. We are a privileged group of people who should want to better the quality of life for everyone in the world, not just those in our community and country. The first step is to reduce your consumption. Yeah, it may be annoying to take five minutes off of your shower time, but it would be even more bothersome if you could only shower once a week. It may not be convenient to wash your clothes only when you have enough for a full load of laundry, but it would be even less convenient if you could only wash your clothes in a river three miles away from your house once a month. I could continue on with examples of ways in which we think we “have it rough,” while we live the life many others would kill to have a fraction of, but I won’t because I’m sure you get the message. With that said, I hope you all THINK outside of the sink (or shower, or toilet, or laundry machine) and make a conscious effort to reduce YOUR water consumption.
If you are interested in getting involved in our own beautiful campus’ water conservation projects, I encourage you to come to my Water Working Group’s meetings every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in the Graduate Student Lounge in the MCC (during the EAB meeting). The Water Working Group discusses and implements ways in which our own campus can save water. Big things are happening this year, and it’d be a shame to miss out on these great opportunities to increase awareness and save some water (but not by drinking beer, of course).
Lauren Barnum is a second-year environmental studies major and a Green Campus Program intern.