Water: A Serious Problem

by Natalie Haber


No snow, no water. That's one powerful explanation for California current water shortage woes.


“I was baffled how little snow was atop the mountain.  It wasn’t until that moment I realized how bad this drought is,” said senior business administration major Jason Rotta. As of October 2014, 58 percent of the state of California is in what scientists describe as an exceptional drought.


The state of California depends on snowpack from the mountains as 60 percent of the water comes from the Sierra Nevada mountain range. On Jan. 9, 2013, the snowpack was at 88 percent of what it should have been. Fast-forward one year, and in 2014 the snowpack was at a mere 21.3 percent.


Governor Jerry Brown has declared not one, but two state of emergencies this year regarding the lack of water the state has.


“I don’t get the feeling Chapman students are aware of how bad the water situation is,” said junior strategic and corporate communications major, Abigael Smith. “Every time I drive over the Santa Ana River, I can’t help but feel that Chapman should advertise this more.”


Senior graphic design major, Paige Carmichael, said the only time something environmental came up in conversation with her peers was in regards to food. This past March, Chipotle announced it might suspend the use of guacamole due to climate changes.


“It seemed like everyone was talking about changes in our state only because their Chipotle burrito wouldn’t taste the same without avocados,” said Carmichael.


Chapman University has been making quite a few changes however to help with the drought.  This past summer, all the showerheads were retrofitted. It cost the university $7,000 but will save 4,599,140 gallons of water, and will pay for itself in six months.


Mackenzie Crigger, the Energy Conservation and Sustainability manager, has the sole job of making sure Chapman is as sustainable as can be. Crigger has been working hard to make changes for the better, but said, “We could reduce our water use as much as possible operationally, but if we can’t educate people and inspire them to make personal changes, we can’t really make a substantial impact.”


Some Chapman students have noticed the change in water levels outside of campus as well.  Last winter the Chapman Snow Club went to Mammoth Mountain to ski and snowboard.  The president of the club last year, Johnny Wilcox, a senior television broadcast and journalism major, was astonished by how little snow the mountains received this past winter.  Wilcox stated that the lack of snow not only impacted the ski resorts, but also the communities surrounding resorts.  


“It is really grim,” said Wilcox.


Water levels have affected students even when it comes to their summer jobs.  Amory Harris, a junior strategic and corporate communications major, works as a whitewater raft guide during the summer months.  Harris tries to work seven days a week in order to help support herself during the school year.


“Because of the drought, less people came rafting in California this summer. Less people rafting means less work for me.  This makes it even harder to pay for my school and living expenses, and really affects my life in more ways than I could have predicted.”


Harris usually works on the South Fork of the American River, which ends in Lake Folsom.  Folsom is one of the largest reservoirs in the state of California, and every day Harris is able to see the effects of the drought in the reservoir as well. The drought has led Folsom to drop at least 50 feet in the past two years, allowing new plant life to sprout well below the historic water line.


“Every day I work I am reminded of how awful this drought is,” Harris said.


Water levels are so low in Folsom Lake that an old gold mining town is now accessible. The town, named Mormon Island, was home to more than 2,000 people during the 19th century. When Folsom Dam was installed in 1955, the water submerged the town. Now, 59 years later, the town has reappeared as the water levels continue to drop.


There is still hope that this current weather trend can turn around.  As of September 22, the Climate Prediction Center states there is a 65 percent chance of an El Nino weather event happening this year. El Nino, which means little boy in Spanish, can potentially mean a very wet winter for California.  This weather phenomena is caused by warmer than average water temperatures off the coast of South America.  Air surface pressures change, causing places such as California to experience a more wet and cool winter.


“I have my fingers crossed everyday that it rains a lot this winter. To say I am really worried about this problem is an understatement,” Harris said.



Natalie 1.2
The South Fork of the American river, located about 45 miles from Sacramento, California.

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