When it comes to emergencies and disasters, people tend to have short memories.
Much of this is human nature. When something bad happens and we’re in the thick of it we generally do whatever’s necessary to deal with the situation. But once the crisis has past we want to move on with our lives.
That’s fine because it’s certainly not healthy to wallow in despair over something that has already come and gone. But I say again that people have short memories. And I don’t mean that literally. I simply mean that we tend to forget how bad something really was.
California’s recent drought is a case in point.
Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown announced the end of the drought state of emergency in most portions of the state, while also maintaining water reporting requirements and prohibitions on wasteful practices like watering during or right after a rainfall.
The announcement came after months of record rainfall — an onslaught that literally changed the landscape of Southern California. Hills and mountains that for years were a dry and brittle brown suddenly turned green. Dry stream beds that had long been stream beds only in name gurgled to life.
Heck, one dry river bed that runs under Bouquet Canyon Road in Santa Clarita was transformed into a virtual torrent of water. That was something I never thought I’d see — at least not there.
California averaged 30.75 inches of rain between October 2016 and March of this year. That’s the second highest rain average since records began in 1895. But all of that lush green and wetness made us forget about those water restrictions we had to abide by, those quotas that cities and water districts had to meet to reduce their usage. It made us forget that regardless of how good things might seem now, we are still living in a desert.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved all of the rain we got in Southern California — absolutely loved it. It made everything feel more alive. But as you may have noticed, the hills and mountains have already lost much of that brilliance. And as the weather continues to heat up, we’ll soon be back to brown again.
And that brings me to my point: We still need to use some measure of conservation when it comes to water usage.
I’m not saying we should be taking two-minute showers or letting our lawns go brown. But I do mean we shouldn’t be pulling out the Slip ‘N Slide for the kids while we leave the garden hose running for 20 minutes. And we shouldn’t be hosing down our driveways for 10 minutes every other morning.
The thing is, we don’t know what next year — or the year after — will bring. We may luck out and get two or three more years of heavy rain. Or we may drift right back into a severe drought.
“This drought emergency is over, but the next drought could be around the corner,” Brown said. “Conservation must remain a way of life.”
I say this because many people are going to view Brown’s lifting of the drought as a license to waste water. Like a down-on-his-luck gambler who suddenly wins big in Vegas, they will spend excessively.
But it won’t be cash. It will be water. And for all we know that precious commodity might be in short supply next year. So here’s my word for the day — moderation.
Under normal circumstances you’d have to hike into the upper mountains to see stands of green pine trees — or else could drive into one of the Southland’s well-manicured neighborhoods that are well irrigated.
But the hills have already lost much of the green and our stream beds are drying up again.