OPINION: The 5Cs must take an active role in water conservation

Water pours from the fountain in Bixby Plaza.
The 5Cs must improve water conservation amid California’s ongoing drought, argues Willa Frank PO ’25. (Julian Chapin • The Student Life)

Finally, a drought emergency was declared on Nov. 9 for the Metropolitan Water District (MWD), which includes Claremont’s local water wholesaler, Three Valleys Municipal Water District. California’s current drought is at an extreme or exceptional level of severity in Los Angeles County, yet there has not been any mass shift in behavior — you may not even know a drought emergency is in effect. 

As college students who are surrounded by beautiful landscaping, bubbling fountains and a daily plethora of dining options, the drought can feel far away. However, we are situated in the heart of this crisis, and we need to start acting like it. 

Faced with such a crisis, and with data indicating that water stress will only get worse in the coming decades, it is “clear that individual and collective water conservation must become an ingrained habit,” says Char Miller, chair of the Environmental Analysis department at Pomona College. 

As students, the main goal of our individual actions should be to affect our most immediate sphere of influence — our colleges. Possible actions include cutting down our shower times or doing fewer loads of laundry, as well as keeping ourselves informed of the water crisis and taking a stance on this issue in order to pressure those with greater power. 

In my eyes, no change in behavior has been made as to how the Pomona campus is run, water-wise, since the drought emergency declaration. If something has changed, there has been no communication about that. 

We all see the sprinklers misting in the night, and the excess water that runs profusely down the sidewalks. Sprinklers are a horribly inefficient form of irrigation. In such an arid climate, we should not be irrigating our large and lustrous quad through a method that has a water loss rate of 40 percent. It is frankly irresponsible to allocate so much water to a cosmetic feature of our campus in such dire times. This is no minor, seasonal drought. This is a climate change-driven event, foreshadowing dangerous drought that demands behavioral change for this year and all the years going forward. 

Although many of us distantly understand the water crisis, there must be a greater emphasis on water in our everyday existence — we are living in a high-density, industry-heavy area of the country that is extremely dry and water-poor. These conflicting factors make our lives in Southern California rather perilous, especially in the years ahead, and it is imperative that we understand this and take measures to adapt. 

The current drought crisis pushes us to focus on adaptation in addition to mitigation — we must begin to think ahead as opposed to only retrospectively attempting to fix the problems we encounter in the present. Besides watering the wealth of lawns on this campus a little less, we as students, should start thinking about how the college can go beyond these small steps of cutting back — how we can push ourselves to new heights of water conservation. 

With the drought emergency finally declared, students must take action and incorporate the knowledge of the water crisis into their everyday behavior. 

Willa Frank PO ’25 is from Cambridge, Massachusetts. She enjoys petting every dog ever on Marston Quad and professing her love for New England to no one in particular. 

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