by Aaron Bercovitch
Sitting at home with the cooling sensation of Aloe Vera being absorbed into my sunburned shoulders, I can't help but wonder how much longer until California and San Diego accept responsibility for what has long been an unsustainable use of water.
While much of inland Southern California is a desert, our thin layer of comfortable, Mediterranean climate along the coast can sustain only so many people with a finite amount of resources, yet many of us choose to grow non-native, water-intensive plants in our lawns and gardens as desirable ornamentals. But despite the egregious overwatering of man-made, "life support" landscapes in some communities, the average San Diego residence uses far less water than agriculture or industry.
Over the last few weeks I've heard San Diegans asking each other, and myself, how this drought affects us, and until recently I've never had an answer. But as I earned my sunburned shoulders with a hike up Iron Mountain near Poway this weekend, I noticed something unusual in the scenery. Other than the Pacific Ocean, I couldn’t see any bodies of water. I did see where former bodies of water, from the vernal pools of the Poway Peaks to community reservoirs once were, but each of them appeared to be completely dried out.
The first time I hiked Iron Mountain was with Boy Scouts while I was in high school. Our scoutmasters occasionally stopped us along the way to point out the different reservoirs visible from the trail. I don't recall all of their names, but I'll always remember the view of the scattered bodies of water around the backcountry as another one of the beautiful secrets of San Diego.
If anything, the drought has pushed our community into a place where we can at last have a lengthy discussion about water usage in San Diego, and its effect on the environment – and us. Step one isn't promoting a policy, but demonstrating why a policy is necessary. For that reason, I want to present a challenge to San Diegans.
Go out on hikes and take pictures of the reservoirs and local bodies of water in our area, whether in the cities or in the backcountry. In the same manner that scientists are documenting shrinking glaciers around the world, we can do the same by documenting shrinking fresh water availability in Southern California – and learn from it.
Lace up your boots, go out on a hike, breath the fresh air, enjoy the scenery, connect with nature – and take a picture of our drought. Then share those photos and your experiences on social media and on-line outlets. It's a simple challenge, but one which will demonstrate why we as a community need to make responsible sacrifices to save water wherever and whenever we can, and hopefully, minimize the effects of the drought on our region as best we can.
Aaron Bercovitch was raised by a conservation biologist and is a life-long environmental activist and outdoorsman. He is a member of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.
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