A lot has changed in the last several years, with challenges to many key assumptions that have been around for generations. The impact of our current economy serves as a sorely needed wake-up call.
As a country, our expectations for our lives are outstripping the ability to support such fantasies. I call it our “American-society bubble,” where we take for granted many foundational things in our society while most others in the world live with far less.
For example, in his new book, “The Big Thirst: The Secret Life and Turbulent Future of Water,” Charles Fishman writes that “the invisibility of water in our lives isn’t good for us and it isn’t good for water. You can’t appreciate what you don’t understand. You don’t value and protect what you don’t know is there.”
The invisible recently became very visible for me during an eye-opening trip. I was invited along by Glendale Mayor Laura Friedman, who also is a director with the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the agency responsible for supplying the majority of the water to local residents.
Over three days, we toured the Colorado River aqueduct system that provides water to the Los Angeles basin, which is in addition to the water Metropolitan brings from the north. It starts with the Colorado River and several large dams at the Arizona border and then moves west through the desert for almost 250 miles.
The water is pushed through several pumping stations, enormous pipes and a variety of lake-size reservoirs, with quality being checked around the clock, before arriving at our faucets.
Studying this infrastructure gave me an appreciation for what it takes to enable our lifestyle. Most of us don’t have much awareness of how precious water is, or what it takes to deliver it to our homes. Most also don’t realize the nexus between electricity and water.
For example, almost 20% of the electricity generated in California is used for the purpose of moving water around. When you consider that we use almost 70% of that water to irrigate our landscaping, it points to a serious issue.
There is a disconnect between what it takes to deliver fresh water and how we treat or misuse it. Southern California is predominantly a desert landscape, but we have turned it into a tropical oasis, and at great expense.
The time has come to look at the natural resources we use to support our lifestyle in a different way, adjusting our habits to align with the precious nature of these resources. We got lucky this past winter in California — there was abundant rainfall, so the reservoirs are full. But experts predict we will have a very hot summer.
Many cities have lifted water restrictions, but we need to change our behaviors and treat resources such as water with care, regardless of restrictions. Each step individuals take to conserve makes an impact.
The reality is, we’re not paying the true price for what it takes to deliver water to our cities and those days are numbered, especially as the infrastructure is in great need of further investment.
We’re all being faced with tough choices based on many things changing around us. Families are trying to prioritize and change relationships with money and debt. Cities like Glendale and Burbank are trying to balance budgets in a world of reduced revenues. Schools are struggling to meet student needs. And our planet is sending us a message that we need to show greater care for the environment.
As we celebrate our country’s 235th year of independence, perhaps it’s time for us to take a step back and assess how we live our lives in America, and what each of us can do to make our society better for future generations.
ZANKU ARMENIAN is a Glendale resident and a corporate communications professional. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.