The Huffington Post: When It Comes to California's Water Crisis, We Are All in This Together
By Sandra Fluke on April 23, 2014
I grew up in a town with a nuclear reactor. The entire region was sold the promise of a power source and good-paying jobs, but that promise was inadequate given the environmental and safety risks my community was asked to shoulder. Because the hazards and consequences of the reactor were mostly isolated to my community, people living in the rest of the region faced a much different question when they considered the merits of the reactor.
This experience made clear one of our primary barriers to environmental action: the frequent lack of recognition of shared consequences and shared responsibility. Far too often, many don't see or understand the consequences of an unsustainable lifestyle because they don't live near a reactor, coal plant or landfill. Now, as California faces an unprecedented water crisis, the very real consequences of waste and inefficient use of our water resources touch all of our lives, and the environmental maxim of "we are all in this together" has once again been the rallying call for action.
One of the most urgent environmental issues for the State Senate district I am running to represent, and for California as a whole, is conserving water to alleviate the effects of drought and ongoing water shortages. Senate District 26 is largely a coastal district, and it includes the Ballona Wetlands, Santa Monica Bay, Hyperion treatment plant and more than 900,000 people who need water everyday: water to drink, water to bathe, and water to keep our communities green. Protecting our water supply is critical and there are many ways we must improve the way we use water locally and throughout the Golden State.
Although they have made great strides in recent years, the Hyperion treatment plant still loses far too much water -- as much as 260 million gallons a day -- in its treatment process. It is simply bad policy that we dump this huge amount of water into the Santa Monica Bay when we could instead recycle and safely reuse that water by utilizing modern water recycling technologies already employed by other water agencies in Southern California.
Water conservation must also be a priority. Southern California homeowners already use less water than those in other regions, but we can still do better. By investing in statewide and regional public education campaigns to inform the public on simple ways to conserve, we can save homeowners money (not to mention gallons upon gallons of water) by incentivizing smart irrigation systems and clearing away bureaucratic barriers to gray-water systems that allow people to reuse water around their homes and gardens.
We also need to rectify years of inadequate policy concerning flooding and stormwater. A staggering 50 to 80 percent of the water that falls from the sky when it rains ends up in the sea, which means that billions of gallons of perfectly good water that we could be capturing and using are lost each time it rains. Capturing and reusing rainwater is like benefitting from solar power -- once you invest in the infrastructure that makes it possible, you get to rely on completely free production, compliments of the natural world around us.
In addition to improving the way we use water, we need to prevent future egregious waste. Solving our water crisis absolutely requires that we pass a moratorium on fracking and other dangerous drilling practices that use a tremendous amount of water. Fracking requires millions of gallons of water to frack a single well, and once that water is mixed with chemicals in the fracking process, it becomes too dangerous to ever use again. This is just one reason I am a strong supporter of the efforts by the Los Angeles City Council and Senator Holly Mitchell to impose a moratorium on fracking here in Los Angeles and across the state -- it won't only stop a dangerous practice, but will save us water we so desperately need.
When it comes to a reliable water supply, particularly for the large majority of Californians living in Southern California, we must first focus on our local water supply. Prioritizing recycling, conservation and rainwater capture is critical. We need to invest in the programs that will allow us to work in better harmony with the planet, and save money in the long term by being smarter about the ways we use -- and reuse -- water locally.
As I learned from the nuclear reactor in my hometown, it sometimes takes recognition of shared consequences and shared responsibility to motivate people to protect their environment. California's drought affects us all, and as a State Senator, helping to find solutions to our state's water crisis will be one of my top priorities. I look forward to working with you to confront this challenge. After all, we are all in this together.