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Will California Be Left High and Dry? This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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Scientists are searching the galaxy for signs of life. They are looking for another planet with the major ingredient of existence; without it, life certainly would not be possible. Seventy-one percent of our planet is made of it. We, earthlings, take this resource for granted and are using it with little thought of the consequences. Earth could become just another desolate planet circling the sun if we do not realize soon that life is built on a very limited resource that it is steadily decreasing. It is water, and it will not be around forever if we continue using it as we do.

Earth is called “the Blue Planet” for a reason. Over two-thirds of its surface is covered with water. Yet, only one percent is suitable for direct human use as well as our many other needs, such as farming. Of that one percent, U.S. citizens use about one trillion gallons a day. And the state that uses the most water is California – about 25 percent of our country’s consumption, or 250 million gallons a day.

The water that California uses goes primarily to irrigating crops, making it the fifth largest supplier of produce in the world. Without water, the state’s agriculture and economy would collapse.

Water is extremely important to our daily lives. Just think of living a day without it: you couldn’t shower, brush your teeth, flush the toilet, wash dishes, or do laundry. However, these luxuries create a costly lifestyle.

The use of water is obviously not unique to California. However, two factors make the issue of greater importance there than elsewhere in the country. California is one of the hottest and driest states. The snow each winter supplies water for the summer drought. But climate change is diminishing California’s snowpack by about 10 percent annually. With increasing temperatures, the Sierra Nevada snowpack is expected to decrease by 90 percent by the end of this century.

The second factor that makes California’s water shortage even more severe is population growth. Scientists predict that the state’s population will increase by about 20 million by 2031; that’s 65 percent in just over 20 years. The stress of the rapidly growing population and the dire impact of climate change mean that California’s future is in jeopardy. A change is needed.

The solution must include a combination of scientific methods to increase water availability, as well as decrease its demand. Desalination – the process of removing salt from seawater – is one method of increasing supply. It seems like the perfect solution; after all, we have a seemingly unlimited supply of ocean water. However, desalination has many downsides. For starters, it’s ­expensive. The process also requires massive amounts of energy, which will produce CO2 and other byproducts, the leading cause of climate change. As a result, those greenhouse gases will make the earth hotter, causing snow to disappear at an even greater pace.

Another science-based solution is a process known as cloud seeding. Clouds hold a lot of moisture but sometimes need encouragement to release rain. There is evidence that we can force clouds to rain by dropping chemicals into them. However, the results are uncertain and we do not know what other problems could occur.

Given these complications, science and technology may not provide an easy solution. In other words, we need to seriously consider how to decrease the demand for water. This challenge can be attacked from many angles. For example, curbing population growth is one way to lessen the burden. Restrictions on immigration might help, but ultimately, it requires reducing birth rates. However, would Americans be willing to let the government control something so personal?

Lifestyle changes do not need to be this drastic, however. Each of us can take simple steps to help preserve water, save money, and slow climate change. The wonderful thing about this is we do not have to wait for the government to take action. Every individual can make a difference.

One way to save water is to eat less meat. It takes 2,500 gallons of water to raise one pound of hamburger meat, whereas a one-pound soy burger, with similar protein content, requires one-tenth that amount.

There are many ways to save water around your house. While brushing your teeth, turn off the faucet. This easy step saves three gallons each day. Shortening your showers by just two minutes will conserve five gallons a day. If 50 million people started washing only full loads of laundry, that would save one trillion gallons of water a year.

Did you know that you can recycle about 40 percent of the water you use at home? The waste water from showers and sinks is called gray water. Although not safe for consumption, it can be used for watering your lawn and plants.

Conserving water outside is important, since hoses can use 10 gallons a minute. So, use a broom to clean driveways. Water your yard before 8 a.m. to reduce waste from evaporation and wind interference. Also choosing plants that are accustomed to your area’s climate will significantly reduce the need to water.

Simple, effective steps like these are our best bet to conserve water. The water situation in California – and many other states – is increasingly precarious. Water is essential to life and is our most precious resource, but it is also a very limited one. It is clear we need to do something. Whatever the method, we must conserve as if our life depends on it, because it does.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

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This article has 5 comments. Post your own!

brezec said...
Oct. 25, 2009 at 8:14 pm:
I agree with your view on water consumption. We could all use less water, all that it takes is a little more effort. The problem is that most people are not willing to make that effort. You offered some solutions like "desalination" and "cloud seeding." I liked how you noted how they helped conserve water but also mentioned their disadvantages. I also liked how you mentioned the effect of population on water consumption. It sure is a plausible idea to limit immigration. Event... (more »)
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thepreechyteenager said...
Oct. 18, 2009 at 4:13 pm:
nice, and it must be heard
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BeWaterWise Rep said...
Jul. 13, 2009 at 1:06 pm:
California can be helped out of this situation if all Californians become aware of the seriousness of the situation and start doing simple things to conserve water. It does not cost you money but in fact saves you some money. Check for leaks in your garden hose, install smart sprinklers, take shorter showers, turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth, are some simple ways how you can save water. Get more tips on how to save water and save California from becoming dry.
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Travis L. said...
May 29, 2009 at 7:05 am:
Absolutely superb! Investigative, to-the-point, and down-to-earth! Your writing was great, I couldn't keep my eyes off!
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Spaceman said...
Mar. 13, 2009 at 8:26 pm:

Amazing! Clearly researched and reported. Excellent writing--KEEP IT UP! Your introduction = !!!! Great job.
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