These last couple of months has filled social media sites with video of friends and celebrities doing the Ice Bucket Challenge. If you participated (and I hope you donated to the worthy cause as well) or just watched, there might be one thing you were overlooking in those videos: where the water went afterwards.
First things first: I’m all for donating money to research ALS. I believe that donating to help fund any research impacted by a decrease in funding to the National Institutes of Health is a very good cause.
However, maybe dumping water on your head over concrete is not the best way to avoid donating or to raise awareness. And with so many people doing the Ice Bucket Challenge, that’s a lot of water evaporating into thin air. There can be serious consequences to using water in a capacity the system was not designed to handle. In fact, an entire island in Scotland had it’s water system shut down due to too many of it’s 135 residents participating in the challenge and it’s stores were running out of ice.
In California, which is into the 3rd year of a record-breaking drought, and across the Southwest, water scarcity is becoming a real issue. More and more people are looking to the groundwater as their primary source of water as opposed to runoff from rain or snowmelts stored in reservoirs behind dams due to the lack of runoff water. Using groundwater above and beyond the rate at which it can naturally replenish itself has lasting consequences on the aquifers. State officials are criticized for misuse of water, individuals are fined up to $500 a day for wasting water and yet many celebrities still take part in the challenge despite the shortage. In parts of California, the personal wells of residents have dried up (most likely not due to the Ice Bucket Challenge, but alarming all the same), and emergency rations of bottled water were distributed.
California and much of the southwest will become the trial grounds for water conservation and management in the coming years. As climate change impacts the precipitation levels, legal battles will be fought between big business, environmentalists, and cities for how much water each gets. This year, almond farmers and environmentalists concerned about in-stream flow levels in regards to salmon migration and spawning have reached a tentative agreement with the almond farmers diverting less water from a major tributary to allow for the movement of aquatic species. But as the drought worsens and reservoirs are depleted, these arguments will become more tenuous with each party having more on the line.
The next time you watch an Ice Bucket Challenge video, ask yourself where the water ended up. The answer should make you think.
Please join the conversation on Facebook and let us know how you feel about the Ice Bucket Challenge or another issue important to you.