Most of us have experienced it – you pick out the coolest, most hi-tech, “all that” gift for a child, await anxiously for him to open it and after a few seconds of amazement, proceed to watch him have an amazing time playing with… the box! There are no batteries or energy source, and it costs only pennies. But that box is so attractive to the child because in its simplicity it is empowering. It’s easy to understand, it avoids the distractions of bells-and-whistles, and it can become whatever that child wants it to be.
As California continues to search for answers to combat what could be the region’s worst drought in 500 years, experts are starting to look more and more at “the box.” That is, as the communities continue to feel the huge economic and lifestyle impact that has 80% of the state classified as being in extreme drought, more courses of action are focusing on the value of lower-tech, lower-cost solutions. Many of these solutions also offer such great potential because they give people the power to make a difference in the water crisis. These include actions such as education, awareness, and “rewards” which encourage reduction in water usage by individuals and businesses alike.
However, what needs to go hand in hand with taking action is a widespread (one may even say radical) change in thinking and behavior. Many proven, albeit low-tech, water conservation options – such as toilets and washing machines offering greater efficiency, collecting rainwater for house plants and gardens, sod conversions to more sustainable landscapes, drip irrigation for farmland, and regular maintenance checks to prevent in-home leaks – exist. And, slowly some are adapting them. But in light of the California crisis, there is a real need to change the thinking from “Those are things for other people to do,” to the much more productive thought of “Everyone, including me, needs to be proactive and make these changes now.”
We have to keep in mind that all this isn’t implying that higher-tech resources and solutions are suddenly not needed. Many times in this blog alone, we’ve discussed the value and necessity of technology for the overall health and conservation of our water resources. But, especially in more urgent situations like that in California, the monetary and resource costs of such solutions make them a longer-term implementation goal.
So exactly what is the solution? There is no clear-cut answer. But there is a formula based on the integration of the simple and the more complex, as well as a shift from thinking that there is ‘plenty of time’ to change to taking action. A slight elevation of some of the simplicities, some simplifying of the high-tech tools to make them more efficient, and combining the simple with the more complex in a working relationship, can go a long way. Just as the child will sooner or later make “enhancements” to his box by adding more boxes, decorations and perhaps even using that high-tech toy, the future of our water resources depends on a healthy balance of cost-efficient lower-tech and high-tech solutions working together.