I grew up in a very water-conscious household. We weren't living in a drought-ridden area like California is today, but my parents understood scarcity, having grown in a country, India, where water could never be taken for granted.
This meant I grew up with a cut-open gallon jug in our sink, which we would fill up with usable water (leftover coffee, the rinse from non-meat pots and pans) to feed our plants; short showers (with buckets to catch the cold water while we waited for it to heat up); and reusing glasses and other dishes as often as possible. It was a way of living, which I internalized and, eventually, turned into my full-fledged adult environmentalism.
So, when I read this article from the New York Times on how chefs and other food producers in California are using new practices to minimize water usage, it struck home. These are exactly the things my family has been doing for decades, and a lot more.
Using pressure cookers instead of blanching and pouring leftover water in gardens are familiar, but rigging air-conditioners to air-clean dishes, cooking pasta with cold water, making pho in a pressure cooker, and steaming instead of boiling were new to me. The article talks about how chefs across the state are changing their practices and their use of ingredients to better manage water.
It shows a new reality – how people all across California are making small, but significant, changes in their daily lifestyles to help the state deal with the drought. I know many who are taking shorter showers, letting their lawns go dry and refusing tap water at restaurants. As articles on Triple Pundit have shown, as a society California has a long way to go to reach other dry regions such as Israel or Australia, which use far less water per-capita than Californians, but these social changes are the first step toward a sustainable water culture.
The drought will not be with us forever, but other challenges facing water – growing population, pollution and transportation – will. What I fear is that, once the rains begin, people will revert back to their old practices. It is telling that only those in the drought-affected West are minimizing water usage, even though California's water crisis affects the entire nation. Climate change will likely make droughts more common across many parts of the world. Therefore, we all, no matter where we live, need to begin preserving water in our daily lives.
Saving water shouldn't just be something that we do when the soil is dry; it is something we need to make a part of our lives, in how we live and what we consume. Sustainability needs to be a part of us no matter how wet or dry the climate is, because we have to think about the bigger picture. My parents never let go of their water-stingy ways despite being in America for over three decades, because they never forgot that there are millions around the world who lack access to clean water. Had all Californians been like them, we probably wouldn't be facing such a scary water crisis now.
Image credit: Robert Wade