California may fall away into the Pacific Ocean, but not necessarily from the Big One. The more likely scenario of demise is a crumbly, dusty, dry death due to the California drought wreaking havoc on the state, rather than an earthquake rupturing it off into the sea.
The California drought has put the state in emergency mode—water is being rationed, with reductions as much as 35 percent in some areas, and plans are in the works to explore additional measures like desalination and large-scale grey water systems.
But the news still isn’t good. Experts estimate only a year’s worth of water remains in the state; the Sierra Nevada snowpack is at 6 percent of normal levels and farmers are selling their water to cities, instead of growing food. With so much of the nation’s food supplies depending on California farmers, the damage could be devastating.
Still, there is a bright side to all the dryness. If the state is able to get water rationing under control and prevent a mass exodus of thirsty Californians, there could actually be quite a few long-term gains.
- More solar power: According to Grist, “less rain means fewer clouds, fewer clouds means more sun, more sun means more solar power.” This could be a big boon to an emergent economy and decrease the need for fossil fuels (which often employ large amounts of water).
- Long-term conservation mentality: Remember how your grandparents who lived through the Great Depression still picked up every penny they found on the ground (even with arthritic knees) and never let any food go to waste? That’s because they survived scarcity, but not without learning important lessons about value. Even if water comes flowing back into the state, there’s a good chance Californians won’t ever let the water run while brushing teeth or shaving again.
- Healthier residents: One of the biggest water-reliant industries is animal agriculture. While there aren’t official restrictions on the amount of animal products people can consume, there are scores of unofficial suggestions urging people to eat less meat. The benefits to a diet rich in plant-foods, beyond the environmental impact, are of course many: from healthier weight to reduced risk for heart disease and cancer.
- Stronger community bonds: The severity of the California drought is already bringing people together to troubleshoot and problem solve. This can impart a deep sense of connection, and when we see our neighbors as members of our community rather than the people who always park in front of our house, we’re more inclined to work together and support each other.
- Self-reliance: The drought may restrict the state’s agricultural output, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have delicious, healthy food to eat. A small amount of water at home can help a food-filled garden thrive. And other measures like installing rain barrels, capturing grey water and fixing leaks can improve your quality of life while also supporting the state’s drought needs.
- Better educated on issues: Why are people talking about fracking in the midst of the California drought? Because it’s a water-intensive practice already controversial for a number of reasons. If you’re not already aware of the risks and damage caused by fracking, the drought is an opportunity to learn more and take steps towards regulating or restricting this controversial practice.
- Wildlife conservation: It’s not just humans being impacted by the California drought. Wild animals rely on water too, and many animals are losing their habitats, food sources and abilities to procreate. With the drought helping to bring these issues front and center, it could bring awareness to the state’s wildlife and measures to protect these creatures for the long-term.
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Drought image via Shutterstock