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Campus continues to conserve water while drought worsens

Since January, the Mills Sustainability Committee has been making water conservation efforts throughout campus. (Ari Nussbaum)
Since January, the Mills Sustainability Committee has been making water conservation efforts throughout campus. (Ari Nussbaum)

As California’s worst drought in over a century continues, students at Mills will have to continue cutting down on their water usage this Fall. Conditions have been worsening as reservoirs dry up and restrictions are inflicted on Californians.

On July 29, mandatory statewide emergency water use restrictions were approved by the State Water Resources Control Board. Hosing down driveways and sidewalks and using water as a decorative feature are prohibited, as is watering outdoor landscapes. Additionally, Californians may only hose down their cars if the hose has a shut off nozzle.

Statewide, California’s major reservoirs are currently at 31 percent total capacity and are lowering by about 1 percent every month, according to the California Drought Pacific Institute

According to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Aug. 12 article, the Bay Area has not yet achieved the 20 percent reduction in water usage Governor Jerry Brown called for in his January drought emergency declaration. 

The Mills Sustainability Committee has been making efforts to conserve water since January.

Linda Zitzner, Associate Vice President for Operations and co-chair of the Sustainability Committee, stated in January that low flow toilets were being installed around campus, and the irrigation systems were turned off. While low flow toilets are still being installed around campus, the irrigation systems currently remain on, with reduced watering times which is causing trees, shrubs and greenery to die. The Sustainability Committee is also still looking into grey water catchment, which will reuse rainwater for gardening and irrigation.

Claudia Peck, a junior at Mills studying Environmental Science, is worried about how this drought will effect the country as a whole since there is such a large reliance on California’s crops. In 2013, California remained the number one state in cash farm receipts with 11.3 percent of the US total according to The California Agriculture Production Statistics. 

“For the first time in many people’s lives, [we’re] faced with the issue of not having things that have always been available to us, like clean drinking water,” Peck said.

Environmental Science Professor Kristina Faul said that the drought is equal to or worse than the drought in the 1970s.

“For the last three years the rainfall has been very low, but it wasn’t until this year that it became a news item,” Faul said.

Senior Adrienne Geraci said she has been trying to conserve water as an on-campus resident.

“I’ve been doing less laundry, not washing my car, and brushing my teeth in the shower while the water gets warm,” Geraci said.

Peck thinks that it is not just about conserving water, but it is also about making permanent environment changes for the long term because we need to think about the future.

“It’s generally a good rule of thumb to be as sustainable as you can: compost, recycle, reuse things, don’t waste energy, etc.,” Peck said.

Although the Sustainability Committee is working to conserve water on campus during the drought, Zitzner acknowledges that these changes will not be easy.

“Our infrastructure is very complicated as it has evolved for 162 years,” Zitzner said.