Conserving Water Could Help Fight Global Warming


by David Beckman

California's three-year drought has done plenty to shake up the state. Farmers are struggling to bring in their crops, and wildfires are raging in these extra-dry conditions. But the drought is also doing something else to Californians.

It has gotten people thinking about water in new ways.

I have worked on water issues for fifteen years, and never before have I seen so many disparate voices making connections between drought, climate change, and how we use water in our daily lives.

Here's one unlikely source. Last week, the Los Angeles Times had a post by Emily Green in its At Home Blog about what global warming scientists have to say about California's energy and water use. This is a blog devoted to design, architecture, and gardens that usually covers Swedish furniture or bedroom sets that cost a few times more than I make in a month.

But in this installment, Green thoughtfully explored a central way Californians can combat global warming: by cutting down on their water use. To get water to LA taps or garden hoses from way up on Northern California takes an enormous amount of energy--energy that is largely generated by burning fossil fuels. If we reduce the amount of water we use, then we not only adapt to the region's desert climate, but we also reduce global warming pollution.

The LA Times At Home Blog is an example of a new medium bringing climate and conservation tips to a new audience. But old media sources are also getting more in the act.

On Sunday, the Sacramento Bee ran an op-ed I wrote about the enormous opportunity California has to tap into a new source of water: the rainwater that runs off our pavements by the billions of gallons. New construction and landscaping techniques--called low impact development--has the potential to capture this resource and help California adapt to our changing climate.

The drought--and the growing awareness that global warming will only make California drier--is making people open to new ideas. I am glad that conservation, green landscaping, and efficient energy use are among them.


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