THE SANTA CLARA
February 20, 2014
California’s drought is not getting any better.
The worst dry spell in almost a century, the drought has nearly exhausted what water reserves California has. Folsom Lake, near Sacramento, Calif., has a reported water level of over 100 feet below normal. CNN recently reported that 91 percent of the state is in “severe” drought.
Yet you would never know it walking across campus.
Despite Gov. Jerry Brown’s plea that we all cut water usage by 20 percent, the numerous water fountains around campus continue to flow. Not the drinking fountains, mind you, but the large, decorative ones that do little more than add to the ambiance.
As someone who has heard Santa Clara’s message of sustainability over and over again in my time here, I find this to be troubling. Wouldn’t turning off the fountains be an obvious first step in conserving water on campus? Sure, a dry fountain isn’t as nice as a running one, but at least it would help California’s current troubles.
The amount of water the fountains on campus use is difficult to calculate, but it is certainly not negligible. Even the most efficient showerheads on the market use around 2.5 gallons per minute when running. Left on for eight hours, that adds up to 1,200 gallons. After 12 hours, that’s 1,800 gallons.
Now imagine that tiny showerhead as the fountain outside the Benson Memorial Center.
Water is a highly recyclable resource, of course, but it is physically impossible for Santa Clara to recapture every bit of water it is using in its fountains. Even if the recycle rate for water is 100 percent, there is an inevitable loss. Drops fall onto the pavement, or the wind blows water onto unsuspecting passersby.
Logic dictates that, recycling system or not, the way to save the most water is to turn off the water altogether.
It is our responsibility to pull together amid this environmental crisis. Brown has done all he can to make us aware that we are in trouble. He has called for federal aid from President Barack Obama and said, time and again, that every little bit helps.
Santa Clara markets itself as a leader in going green. What could be more green than avoiding unnecessary water usage in the midst of a terrible drought?
Even if turning off the fountains would do very little to help California as a whole, and even if the water recycling system is so efficient that loss is negligible, the drying of the fountains would be a powerful symbol of environmental conscience. It would spark conversations as people walk by, becoming a stark reminder that California’s drought is real, and we all can help make it hurt just a little bit less.
It is unfortunate timing that Santa Clara added an additional fountain to the Palm Drive mall just before the drought hit. Every time I walk by and see it running, I can’t help but be reminded of just how little water there is to spare.
But gosh, at least the fountain’s pretty.
Jonathan Tomczak is a senior political science and history double major and editor of the Opinion section.