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From drought to deluge: an ecological approach to California’s water crisis

From drought to deluge: an ecological approach to California’s water crisis

Mudflats, Erik Ohlson Nov 2015 article on drought
Dry creek bed in California. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Climate change is the greatest threat to human civilization and a major driver of droughts, floods, fires, food system collapse and economic destabilization. Basing our infrastructure on fossil fuel technology that is imposed upon rather than in harmony with the natural environment, we have created and exacerbated all of these crises. Most importantly, while we need to reduce consumption, we also need to fundamentally change the way we interact with each other and our planet. It is imperative to realign the needs of civilization with the sustainable management and regeneration of Earth’s natural processes.

Water is one of the greatest indicators of how far we’ve strayed from designing so much of what we build and shape to be regenerative of our environment.

In California we especially need to rectify our relationship to water. The state has been experiencing one of the greatest droughts in its history. The agricultural industry is at risk, and groundwater and public water supply regulations now affect millions of people throughout the state.

While the media focuses on larger-scale challenges, small-scale, implementable solutions seem absent from the discussion. Small-scale solutions are beautiful because they often address both drought and flood problems. With one of the strongest El Niños on record developing in the Pacific, California may see a massive deluge this winter. It could be damaging if we don’t prepare now. On the heels of a multi-year drought, flash floods and the inundation of dry, crusty soils will be especially damaging.

A sensible relationship with water is a key factor that has been missing from the management of our landscapes over the last 100+ years. The development industry thought of water as a negative that needed to be drained away lest it destroy our structures and cause flooding. This mindset must end.

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