One of the main principles of biology is that water is essential to all forms of life on Earth. Yet, as humans and other animals across the planet face widespread environmental change, the availability and safety of this basic component of survival becomes increasingly threatened. Fortunately, it is not all bad news. Individuals, politicians, and environmentalists across the United States have recently begun looking to the state of California as a trendsetter in developing laws and techniques to protect the planet’s oceans and conserve safe drinking water.
Water in the Desert
As home to approximately 24 million people, Southern California (commonly known as SoCal) is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the United States. However, the SoCal climate is growing progressively more dry, with Los Angeles only receiving about four inches of rainfall in the entire 2017 calendar year.
Meanwhile, just outside of drought-stricken Los Angeles, 330 gallons of fresh groundwater become hyper-salinated and evaporate from the Mojave Desert each second. Located in the town of Cadiz, California, the Cadiz Water Project is offering a unique solution to utilize this groundwater and provide SoCal with reliable, long-term access to clean drinking water.
Through its ground-water-protection program, the Cadiz Water Project aims to reduce the amount of groundwater lost to evaporation and salt contamination. An aquifer system will capture and store billions of gallons of groundwater per year. Recovered groundwater will be sent to regional water providers via a 43-mile pipeline to the Colorado River Aqueduct. Since the water from Cadiz contains less salt than the water currently distributed through the Aqueduct, water providers can also save money on the desalination process. This will effectively lower water rates for consumers.
Looking to the future, the aquifer system will also feature additional storage space for saving excess water to be used in times of drought. This impressive project promises to supply 400,000 Californians with water each year and create nearly 6,000 new jobs in the process.
Solving the Floating Plastic Problem
Covering more than 70 percent of the planet, oceans host a vast number of Earth’s ecosystems and play a key role in the water cycle. However, the worsening of human pollution is gradually affecting the oceans and their ability to sustain life. Plastic is one of the worst forms of ocean pollution, with estimates of 60 to 90 percent of marine pollution coming from plastic debris. Unless plastic consumption drastically changes, the amount of plastic in the oceans may soon exceed the number of fish.
In 2016, California legislators and voters took a significant step toward curbing plastic use by issuing a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at all large stores. The law also implemented a 10-cent minimum charge on all reusable bags and recycled paper bags.
More recently, the state’s environmental policies have made news once again. As of January 1st, 2019, all sit-down restaurants in the state will no longer give out plastic straws unless customers specifically ask for one. Although straws are a seemingly small item, they are part of a larger problem with the way Americans think about single-use plastics.
Combined with reducing pollution, these laws make the use of straws and plastic bags something that people have to think about consciously, rather than something that is simply second nature. Environmental advocates hope this awareness will translate into other areas of life, leading citizens to reduce all forms of plastic use.
Conservation Is a Universal Concern
As a coastal state that has faced severe drought in past years, California has a strong interest in ocean and water conservation. Nonetheless, access to clean drinking water and the health of the world’s oceans are concerns that affect us all. The conservation efforts undertaken in Cadiz, California, and by the state legislature should serve as a blueprint for the rest of the nation. If humans wish to ensure a livable planet for themselves and all creatures, conservation must be a priority in everyone’s mind.
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