By Talia Soglin
The historic drought facing California is one of the most severe on record, with consequences ranging from wildfires to rising food prices. While the state is scrambling to conserve water, the pressure is also on institutions and individuals to do their part.
Principal Robert Ithurburn said that while there has not been a concerted effort among the staff to conserve water at Alameda High, AUSD has reduced grounds watering on campus and across the district, including on the softball field at AHS. “If you look at our grass areas and our planter, you can actually see the effects of that. We have a lot more brown than we have in the past,” he said.
Apart from grounds watering, Ithurburn says, “I don’t know of any areas of the education system that require large uses of water.”
However, Ithurburn acknowledges that there has been an increased awareness on campus of the importance of being environmentally conscious in general. He mentions the uptick in the usage of reusable water bottles as an example, coupled with the arrival of two new water stations which will be placed inside the gym and the West Wing.
“I think what we could be doing is sort of educating our population more on how in general we could be saving water,” he says.
One student taking matters into her own hands is junior Megan Cvitanovic, president of the AHS Garden Club. This summer, she began a project to transform the weed-ridden atrium in the center of the Main Building into a drought tolerant garden. Cvitanovic wanted “ to make it a space for students to enjoy being outside.”
At first, she said, the soil in the atrium was rock hard and full of weeds. Garden Club members first brought in soil and manure to make the area a healthier environment for plants. They then researched drought tolerant plants, and ended up using plants like succulents and marigolds that can survive with very little water.
“I really enjoy gardening but I wanted to make sure we were doing it in a sustainable way,” she says, adding that, “We also laid down mulch to also conserve water so that the water doesn’t evaporate as quickly.”
Cvitanovic aims to finish the atrium by the end of the year. She added that Garden Club is interested in partnering with artists at AHS to further beautify the atrium.
Dr. Carolyn Cover-Griffith teaches AP Environmental Science at AHS, and says she’s incorporated the drought into her classes. At the end of last year, her students each researched issues related to the drought and then wrote persuasive essays. Many of them found that foods like meat and almonds take an especially large amount of water to grow, and argued that perhaps we should be cutting these things out of our diets.
Griffith notes that many people think only about the water they use in their daily lives, rather than the water they consume indirectly through manufactured goods or food. “You start to think not just about the water in your water bottle but the water it took to make my water bottle,” Griffith said. “There’s a lot of water in industry,” she adds, “and then the biggest thing we’re using water for is to grow food.”
Griffith emphasizes that while personal actions are important, they don’t have as big of an impact as large-scale policy decisions. “I think it has more to do with voting than your personal habits,” she says.
“You should take a shorter shower, but that’s not going to do anything compared to how you water your backyard, like installing a drip-system, or using recycled water. But that stuff takes more than the individual, so I feel like being involved in policy, being involved in making good, smart decisions about how you vote, who you put into office that are going to make those decisions, that can have as much to do with water issues as how long your shower is,” Griffith said.
“When you’re worried about the drought, it’s kind of nice to be like ‘Well, I’ll just turn the shower off for a while.’ That’s not the answer.”