Pinch of Salt Graphic (English)

Here we go again.

The first snowpack measurements of the year showed that the Sierra Nevadas are at a dismal 18% of average — 2.3 inches. Long Beach has had just one respectable rain since the season began.

I know it seems somehow improper to talk about lack of precipitation in the wake of the Montecito mudslides. My thoughts and prayers go out to all those who have suffered there.

Still, I'm beginning to get worried.

An incredible season of rain and snow last year broke the five-year drought in a record-breaking way. It was so overwhelming it almost washed away the Lake Oroville Dam in northern California. I was, and am, afraid that it washed away the concern for conserving water in the face of more frequent and more severe droughts.

There is a reason for hope, at least here in Long Beach. Even with the end of the drought and water use restrictions, Long Beach residents and businesses continue to use less water than they did five years ago.

We were walking the dogs last week when Maria noticed that there seems to be more drought-tolerant gardens replacing lawns in our neighborhood. And for the most part, the lawns that remain are the proper winter brown instead of the water-gulping green that once was so prevalent.

That's all good. But the fact remains that our population continues to grow (no, I will not get into the Land Use Element debate), and our water supplies do not. We do have more water storage than we did a decade ago, but even that will only last a year or two should a severe drought return.

I think it's pretty common knowledge these days that we — the Southern California we — get a lot of our water from Northern California, and more from the Colorado River. As with any import, the cost of that water tends to rise over time. That's yet another reason to be mindful of how much water you and I use, and to avoid wasting it.

As you are aware, I serve on the city's Water Commission. It is a small, local way that I have to impact the larger world of being a good steward of our natural resources.

That sounds kind of pompous, doesn't it? As if I, a single person, could impact the fate of the planet.

But you've got to start somewhere. When I'm joined by a fair share of the Long Beach population, it does make a little difference. And if Long Beach is joined by all of Southern California, it makes a little more difference. And if Southern California can somehow convince Northern California to join in, that makes a real difference.

It seems clear to me that we are going through climate change, global warming and all that other stuff certain people refuse to talk about. We must prepare for more extreme weather events, including wild swings in precipitation, temperature spikes, rising sea levels and more.

Saving a little water, being mindful of how I use it, trying to make others mindful as well, is my little contribution to our survival. And I really don't care if that one sounds pompous. As long as it works.

Harry has been executive editor of Gazette Newspapers for more than 20 years. He has been in the newspaper business for more than 30 years, with experience on both weekly and metropolitan daily papers in Colorado and California.

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