EcoFacts: Santa Barbara is at 19% of Normal Rainfall, Lake Cahuma at 40% of Capacity

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

Rain and snow supply much of the water we use, the runoff continuously filling freshwater bodies – lakes, rivers and reservoirs – in normal or wet seasons. That water is then filtered and treated before pouring out of our faucets and showers, flushing our toilets. About half of the U.S. population relies on this, the other half on water from groundwater supplies and aquifers, stored in natural formations underground and pumped to the surface. Groundwater supplies are rapidly being depleted, more for irrigation than anything, and most of that, for livestock feed.  Certain industries such as mining and fracking use lots of water too.

Some recent news on our water supplies:

Today, more than a quarter million people in W. Virginia cannot drink, cook with or bathe with any water, thanks to  a chemical spill  from a Freedom Industries plant that produces chemicals for the coal industry.

Can you imagine that it became a good idea to fill facial and body cleansers with tiny plastic beads to scrub and freshen your skin? So where do they go from there? Down the drain and into our (fresh) water supplies and the oceans, ingested by fish and remaining for decades. The Great Lakes are inundated with them, but of course they are everywhere now.

One of the largest bodies of water in the U.S., the Ogallala Aquifer, will be gone if withdrawals continue at the current rate. It is hoped that advanced irrigation practices can be applied to avoid this.

Last summer in Canada, toxic waste from the Alberta oil sands spilled and killed all forest and plant life, the leak affecting an area said to be the largest of its kind in North American history.

Here in Santa Barbara we are currently at 19% of normal rainfall, with Lake Cachuma at 40% capacity.

The theme of this year’s World Water Day on March 22nd is Water and Energy, working to increase awareness and policy dialogue on their interdependence, globally.

About Barbara Hirsch

Classical recording engineer and eco-person. Barbara's EcoFacts column is published on Santa Barbara View every weekend and is archived under the Green & Garden tab.

7 Responses to EcoFacts: Santa Barbara is at 19% of Normal Rainfall, Lake Cahuma at 40% of Capacity

  1. Anonymous January 11, 2014 at 7:34 am #

    Time to put bricks in the toilet – stop watering lawns and close car washes

    • Measured response January 11, 2014 at 11:10 am #

      We put bricks in the toilet during the last major drought and many have long ago replaced their lawns. Car washes already recycle their water.

      Time to stop stack and pack densification building projects cramming even more people into this natural resource poor area. Time to crank up the desal plant.

      • anon. January 12, 2014 at 10:28 am #

        It’ll take a couple of years to get desal online and the energy use and cost will be out of sight. Better to do as they are, holding off for at least another year.

        In the meantime, how about stopping the schools from soaking the lawns so the water runs down into the streets? And are all the schools (and other public buildings) retrofitted with the low flow, 1.28 gallon toilets? And as Measured Response says, time to stop the high density “affordable” and not so affordable projects that are coming along rapidly, Sandman Inn, for instance.

  2. Quelle domage January 11, 2014 at 11:06 am #

    There won’t even be enough water to wash all those eco-freak hair shirts. Alors!

  3. Anonymous January 11, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    We could pull a Rick Perry and fill up the County Bowl with people praying for rain! That ought to do the trick! Wait, that didn’t work in Texas. Um, uh, well let’s see, what to do. We could hope! Nah, won’t work. Without hoping and praying, we’re left with science. OMG! We might actually solve or mitigate the problem if we applied science to the problem. But no one believes in that now. Too complicated for simple minds focused on other more important subjects like welfare recipients, non-existent voter fraud and food stamp receivers, probably.

    I’ve got it! Let’s attack and name call those who want to do something about it. That’ll work, like it has many times. Right?. We’ll call them eco-freaks and eco-terrorists, for daring to stand up for our environment which we all depend on. And that egotistical feeling will certainly result in rain. So far it hasn’t but hope springs eternal! We could also ignore the facts, facts found out by science, and hope that our esteemed fellows in the oil industry don’t forget which side their bread is buttered on and ruin our water supply for all eternity. Hope, pray and trust the oil tycoons. That’s the ticket.

  4. Dan Seibert January 12, 2014 at 7:06 pm #

    I hate to bring logic into this but in all of my fifty four years of life I have never turned on a faucet and not had water flow out.

  5. Anonymous January 13, 2014 at 9:16 am #

    This drought is going to be really bad people. Time to pay attention!