With water flowing freely through the taps for continuous disposal, it is difficult to imagine the life-sustaining fluid as anything but an unlimited resource. However, as the state’s key water sources dry up, the reality of water being a limited resource is becoming all too real.
On Nov. 12, experts on water conservation solutions gathered in Los Angeles for the Forum on Water Crisis in Southern California.
The forum screened “The American Southwest: Are We Running Dry,” a film directed and produced by the event’s moderator Jim Thebaut. Narrated by Emmy-award winner Jane Seymour, the documentary chronicles how a combination of low precipitation levels, increased populations, and both urban and agricultural growth will surpass water availability from key water sources, including the Colorado River.
Keynote speaker Davis Nahai, a former chief executive officer of the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and a senior adviser to the Clinton Climate Initiative, said Southern California’s access to water from the Colorado River will eventually be capped due to a scarcity of the valuable liquid.
“Water, water everywhere, not a drop to drink,” Nahai said, opening his speech with a quote from Samuel T. Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. “We actually don’t have ‘water, water everywhere.’ We have a scarcity of water everywhere.”
Facing its worst drought in a century, the Colorado River’s water shortage will affect 30 million people. The river and its reservoirs provide water for the entire American Southwest, which includes six other states in addition to California; however, American Rivers, a non-profit organization that seeks to protect and restore rivers in the United States, named the Colorado River as the most endangered of all the nation’s watercourses. It listed outdated management and overuse as primary threats to the river’s security. In other words, the river’s water supply cannot meet growing consumer demands, especially as populations continue to increase.
The city of Las Vegas is already beginning to experience the results of the sins of water exploitation.. In August, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Southern Nevada Water Authority, the greater Las Vegas Valley’s water provider, called for federal disaster relief as a result of the Colorado River’s decreasing water levels.
The city of Glendale will also be impacted by the water crisis, as the city’s primary water provider, the Metropolitan River District, is heavily reliant on the Colorado River Aqueduct.
“We haven’t felt the effects yet, but eventually we will,” said Aneta Badelian, a business account representative for Glendale Water and Power.
Badelian said that, in total, all of Glendale used an average of 26,000 acres of water between 2011 and 2012. As the crisis advances, however, the city will implement stricter water restrictions.
As a result of past state drought issues, Glendale city council enacted a mandatory water conservation ordinance in 2009, resulting in an 18 percent consumption drop, according to the GWP. During this time, community members were only allowed to water their landscapes three times a week.
At GCC, small but effective measures have been taken to conserve water. Vice president of administrative services Ron Nakasone says that all urinals in male restrooms have been switched to waterless urinals, while new constructions projects implement water-conserving products, such as low-flush toilets, within the buildings’ infrastructure.
For many, wasting water comes easily. The United States Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average American family uses 300 gallons of water a day, with toilet usage taking up the most amount of the liquid. Floyd Wicks, a water supply consultant and one of the forum’s panelists, said that many people do not fix toilet leaks, particularly in apartments where the residents do not pay the water bill and so do not feel the financial strain of leakages.
Letting water run unnecessarily is also a major source of water waste.
“A lot of people just don’t think about turning the faucet off when they’re washing dishes or rinsing,” said Wicks. “A lot of people will let their hose run while they’re washing a car.”
In regard to saving water, Thebaut suggested living within environmental means and using more practical strategies, such collecting water through rainwater harvesting or desert gardening, or cultivating self-sustaining plants, such as cacti, that do not require additional irrigation resources.
“We have to implement major conservation,” he said. “We live in a desert in Southern California and we need to begin to recognize that we are a desert.”