Beyond the shadow of a drought

In the midst of the driest year on record and following Gov. Jerry Brown’s recent declaration of a statewide drought, Citrus College is taking steps to cut back on its water usage.

According to data from the Department of Public Works, less than 1 percent of the capacity of the 14 dams used to serve Los Angeles County is available for release. With only 2 inches of rainfall in recent weeks, there is little to alleviate the stress placed on dams and reservoirs.

Much of Southern California relies on the State Water Project for its supply. More than 70 percent of the water provided by the project is used for urban areas, according to SWP’s website. This system uses 22 dams and 700 miles of piping to deliver water from Northern California to Southern California. It provides drinking water for 23 million people.

However, following Gov. Brown’s declaration last month, the State Water Project announced that surface water allocations would be zero. This essentially slashes the water supply for California residents, forcing reliance on groundwater.

About 30 percent of California’s annual water supply comes from groundwater, but in drought years, this number jumps to 60 percent, according to the Water Education Foundation.

This pattern is unsustainable, according to the UC Center for Hydrologic Modeling. Both Glendora and Azusa rely on groundwater for a portion of their water supply.

“We should definitely be concerned about a water shortage due to the low rain and snowfall,” said Captain Stacy Rios of Glendora Fire Station 151. “We need to do our best to conserve whenever we can.”

This task may be difficult due to no mandatory water rationing put in place yet. Until Gov. Brown decides that the drought has reached a severe level, he advises a voluntary cut in water usage.

As a state with a vast majority of the land consumed by agriculture, it is no surprise that nearly 80 percent of our annual water use is for landscaping according to Keith Condon, Deputy Forrester at Fire Station 32 in Azusa.

“A significant amount of our water and residential use goes toward landscaping, and without watering trees may be more susceptible to pests due to drought stress,” said Condon.

These record dry conditions were apparent last month as the Colby Fire burned throughout the Glendora foothills, charring nearly 2,000 acres according to LA County Fire. As an area that had not burned since the 1960’s, the dry conditions were enough to allow the fire to spread rapidly.

Due to the current high temperatures and dry conditions during the months when California is expected to rehydrate itself, this summer could feature several more sudden fires as vegetation continues to get dryer, only worsened by the lack of water available for irrigation.

As cities are looking to decrease water use in residential areas, local schools are also expected to assist in the effort.

An average sized school uses approximately 22,284 gallons of water a day, according to the Center for Environmental Education. With 27 schools between the Glendora and Azusa school districts, more than half a million gallons of water are used each day.

Citrus College is conserving water across campus in a variety of ways. The most noticeable effort may be shutting off the owl fountain located in the center of the quad near Hayden Memorial Library. Groundskeepers have also shut off most irrigation systems, choosing to water at night only or by hand if an area is particularly dry.

“Citrus College is under the city of Azusa’s jurisdiction, and when the city feels that there is a water shortage, the school is made to comply with certain rules which were put in place over a year ago,” said Fred Diamond, Citrus College director of facilities and construction.

Citrus has taken several other measures to lessen water use, including placing drought-tolerant plants in new construction areas, as well as placing thermal blankets on the pool to prevent heat loss and water evaporation in months of non-use.

“Between turning off the excess water, changing irrigation times and using low-flow utilities, Citrus College is doing a good job at being water-wise and saving nearly 30 percent of our water a year,” Diamond said.

While Captain Mark Delg ado of Fire Station 32 in Azusa remains optimistic that Mother Nature will provide more rain, he also encourages students to use water wisely, suggesting taking “shorter showers, turning off the water while brushing teeth or washing hands, and choosing to wash your car at a car wash because the water is later recycled.”

Students at Citrus can also encourage others to decrease water use by 20 percent at minimum according to Captain Rios and be more understanding when they happen to see a dry patch of grass while walking across campus. By being more water-wise, students can do their part to help the environment.