It’s Getting Hot Out Here

Megadrought Is The Water Crisis We Can’t Handle & Yet We Must Find A Way, Plus: A True Environmental Hero

Los Angeles reached 106 degrees on Tuesday. On that same day, Palm Springs hit 120, just 4 degrees above the June 15 record set in 1961.

That’s hot and not in a good way.

May 2021 tied with 2018 as the world’s sixth-warmest May on record, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Information. June temps are looking just as heated.

Along with these hot temps, we’ve got increasing drought conditions.

Drought definition: drier than normal conditions that can eventually lead to water supply problems.

Really hot temps can make a drought worse by evaporating moisture from the soil. Now, just think about how pollutants make the small amount of drinkable water undrinkable. We are inching toward disaster!

As we discussed last week, droughts don’t come suddenly but rather are a creeping trend (as defined by the National Weather Service).

In May, 93 percent of the Southwest and California was in drought and those conditions began developing in 2020.

Current California conditions show 100 percent of the state in moderate drought and about 85 percent of the state can be classified as extreme drought.

What we need to think about is that the weather we have right now could be the best we will see for some time. Scientists continue to predict warming trends and more extreme and unpredictable weather in the coming years.

Our friend, Dr. Pablo Ortiz, a climate scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists says he’s worried, calling the current drought “a national and international crisis” in a recent blog post.

“Considering that California produces more than a third of the vegetables and two-thirds of the fruits and nuts sold in the United States, the drought is affecting more than California and the Southwest,” he writes.  

He also states that droughts don’t just cut water availability, but that they also impact water quality, especially for disadvantaged communities already dealing with water access and pollution issues.

“Water in many communities is contaminated by pesticides, nitrates, arsenic, bacteria, and other contaminants,” he writes. “As we keep overdrafting our groundwater aquifers, some of these contaminants get concentrated, further impacting access to drinking water.”  

Experts predict that 2021 could be one of the driest years in the last century.

It’s time folks. We’ve gotta conserve where we can and push our elected officials to make the necessary changes.

Just like with other environmental disasters, the cost of prevention is much lower than dealing with the aftermath.

The time is now to get all hands on deck. We need to invest in water efficiency reform, protect our forests and soil, and go big on sustainable agriculture practices. We need to repair leaky water infrastructure, recycle more water, and do more to capture and clean stormwater.

We’re not at a wait-and-see moment, and we haven’t been for quite some time.

It’s raining freaking PFAS in the Great Lakes basin, as scientists have started monitoring these forever chemicals more closely and finding them in high concentrations. Of course, this is just one area that’s actually testing for them.

Are you picking up what I’m putting down? If the rain we do have is contaminated and half the country is in a drought, I just don’t know where we go from here.

I’ve spent my whole career talking about water issues and I can’t think of anything more important than doing everything we possibly can RIGHT NOW.

Feeling lazy?

Check out Conan’s tips for water saving (from 2014), they still apply.

Kudos to Cancer Alley Activist

Sharon Lavigne, a special education teacher turned environmental justice advocate from St. James Parish, Louisiana, is one of six winners of the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize, in recognition of her work within the “Cancer Alley” community where she was born and now continues to mobilize for environmental justice.

In October 2018, she founded RISE St. James, a faith-based, grassroots environmental organization that started with a meeting in her living room with 10 community members and her daughter taking notes. Now, she manages a small staff and some 20 volunteers. (That’s what I’m talking about!)

They successfully stopped the construction of a US $1.25 billion plastics manufacturing plant alongside the Mississippi River.

Lavigne’s advice for others living near fossil fuel projects is simple: “Tell them to be vigilant of what’s going on in their community. If they see stuff that’s going on that’s not right, speak up. Don’t just sit around and say somebody else should do it, you go out and do it. Cause I did that.”

Learn more about her incredible work here.