Drought drains water supply in California

Cartoon by Eugine Chung / The Plaid Press

Cartoon by Eugine Chung / The Plaid Press

By Julia Fisher
9/17/2014

The California drought, severe enough to cause Governor Jerry Brown to declare a state of emergency back in January, continues to escalate, with nearly 60% of the state in drought.

Ironically, California continues to allow big name bottled water companies, including Aquafina, Dasani, Crystal Geyser, and Arrowhead, to draw groundwater from aquifers around the arid state.

The reason behind the apparent lack of concern for the environment by the bottled water companies stems from the fact that California is the only western state that has no regulations for or management of groundwater use.  Essentially, if a company drills into a groundwater reserve, they can do whatever they want with the water.

The news website Mother Jones posted a map revealing that 12 out of 13 Crystal Geyser and Arrowhead facilities draw from areas experiencing “exceptional” or “extreme” drought, the two most severe categories for drought. The Sacramento Valley, the most fertile land in California and the producer of 25% of the nation’s food, is in the middle of the area facing “exceptional” drought.

Perhaps most shocking of all is the scientific evidence that suggests withdrawing groundwater increases the frequency of earthquakes.  Removing water from beneath the earth’s surface releases some of the pressure holding the ground up and the faults in the ground together, causing sink holes and fault failure, also known as earthquakes.  (Of course, California is already prone to earthquakes as it lies on top of the Pacific fault line, but withdrawing large amounts of groundwater tweaks the timing and increases the frequency of fault movement.)

The fact of the matter is that the welfare of our home state is at stake because people continue to buy into the convenience of plastic water bottles.  Obviously there are plenty of ways to conserve water, many of which have been ingrained into our Californian minds for the past few years.

However, one of the most practical and environmentally conscience solutions to the drought is simply to use a refillable water bottle.  Water bottle companies would not withdraw so much if people did not buy as many of their products. Not only does committing to a refillable bottle reduce plastic waste in landfills, but it saves consumers money.

Tap water is cheaper and more trustworthy than bottled water because tap water is regulated and monitored by city government, while private companies that bottle water do not have to disclose their locations or amounts of water bottled.

Wrapping up the third driest year on record in California, the state has yet to pass laws regulating the withdrawal of groundwater by private bottled water companies, and scientists and citizens alike are beginning to notice the effect.

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