As California's wealthier residents worry about keeping their swimming pools full and their lawns green, many of the state's less fortunate are simply trying to figure out how to survive in communities that have no access to running water.
Thousands of Californians live in areas where local water supplies have either completely dried up or are contaminated by pesticides and other pollutants. In these 'dry' communities, many have been without direct access to clean water for the last two years and the number of people who have no running water in their homes is steadily growing.
In Tulare County alone, more than 5 000 people now have no access to drinkable water.
The four-year long drought has taken a serious toll on rural California communities that are not served by the network of pipelines and aqueducts that supply urban areas with fresh water from northern California and the Colorado River.
There may be efforts in the future to connect these communities to the urban water networks, but at present these are little more than expensive long-term plans that may or may not be implemented in the next few years.
Meanwhile, farmers and residents in these dry areas have been forced to rely on solely on water pumped from wells which are depleting groundwater supplies at an unprecedented rate. In many areas, the groundwater supplies are too contaminated by pesticides to be useful as drinking water and there are no longer surface water resources available.
In some California communities, arsenic contamination in the water supplies has become a serious problem. Agricultural use of fertilizers and mining operations both contribute to elevated levels of arsenic, a substance which is normally present in water supplies but at much lower concentrations.
Arsenic is linked to several types of cancer and can also cause birth defects and nervous system disorders.
No relief in sight
With no indications that the California drought will end anytime soon, even the water used to supply the cities and large agricultural concerns has become increasingly scarce, so there's little hope on the horizon for the poorer communities whose water supplies have already disappeared.
The entire state may be in danger of drying up completely over the next few years, and the implications of such an occurrence are almost unimaginable, considering that southern California is home to more than 20 million people.
Water conservation begins at home
Most of us take the water pouring out of our faucets for granted. The average household wastes up to 10,000 gallons of water per year due to leaks, and that figure doesn't take into account the thousands of gallons we squander by taking long showers, letting the water run while we brush our teeth and dozens of other wasteful actions we scarcely notice.
No matter where you live, it's important to be aware of just how precious our water supplies are, and how quickly they can be depleted, contaminated or made unavailable otherwise.
To prevent and prepare for a water emergency, we must learn how to waste less, conserve and collect more - all the while making sure there is an adequate stockpile in the home in case of a sudden cut-off from local water providers.
Have the leaks in your home fixed, become aware of the water you waste on a daily basis and take steps to minimize it.
Collect rainwater, put a bucket under the bathtub faucet to collect the water you use waiting for it to heat up, water your lawn at night, use a drip feed in your garden.
Make sure you have enough water stockpiled to last at least one month in case of an emergency. Each person needs at least one gallon per day, so for a family of three you should stockpile a minimum of 100 gallons.
Buy a good portable water filtration system, such as the SteriPEN or LIFESAVER jerrycan in case you have to leave your home in a disaster situation.
Keep in mind that water is the most crucial resource in terms of survival. Don't waste it or take it for granted.
Written by Daniel Barker (Natural News)
Featured image: Sandy Wool Lake by Don DeBold (CC - Flickr)