Despite last month’s rainfall, the city of Santa Cruz is facing a critical water shortage, along with the rest of the state.

Central Valley farms and residents who depend on state and federal water supplies are up a creek, and there’s no paddle in sight. Although the Monterey area and Santa Cruz are doing well by comparison, California is in a state of emergency.

And water conservation is not just the solution; it is the future.

If necessity is the mother of invention, then it’s necessary to reinvent the American and Californian lifestyle. Twenty-minute showers, half-empty wash loads, and other reckless acts of disregard for the value of water are no longer acceptable. The time to reconcile humanity’s irresponsible consumption of natural resources is now past.

In the face of such scarcity of our most valuable resource, priorities need to be reevaluated. It is up to the consumer to decide whether indulging oneself in a bath is more important than affordable produce, for this is the decision we are faced with.

With the absence of state and federal support, many of California’s farmers who produce fruits and vegetables for our state and the rest of the nation will face the dire financial implications of massive underproduction due to the lack of water.

California is the nation’s No. 1 exporter of fresh produce. Hence, if no compromise can be made in regard to the allocation of water to the state’s farms, the nation will face soaring prices in the grocery store and food scarcity.

Countless jobs will be lost, the numbers of which are impossible to determine due to the volume of undocumented workers who participate in the agricultural industry. Small farming towns will wither.

Our nation of consumers often neglects pursuing responsible behavior in favor of a blissful ignorance of the consequences of their actions. Golf course greens and shopping mall fountains monopolize water for aesthetics that would better serve us in more practical applications. Consumerism contributes to a mindset that water is a luxury to be taken for granted. People do not cope well with the idea that the substance second only to oxygen in importance to our existence is a precious gift that is not to be squandered.

Conscientious living does not require that everyone forfeit common comforts; it involves making the decision every day to take a shorter shower, using efficient appliances like water-saving showerheads, and collecting excess water and putting it to use watering plants.

Californians have already compromised the quality and quantity of fresh water in the state by acting irresponsibly in waste disposal, the consequence being a bacterial contaminant present in our fresh water. Giardia has made fresh water in California not potable.

The time has come and passed for Californians to recognize the consequences of their actions. Water conservation is a program that must be prioritized in order to secure the integrity of California’s present agricultural industry and the future of the state’s well-being.

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