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Posted: Wednesday, September 30, 2009 9:00 pm

Water is essential to every aspect of life on Earth and its availability is dwindling rap- idly. The problem is not a lack of water. In fact, there is still as much water on Earth as there was in the time of Je- sus. Since then, demographics have changed and popu- lations have shifted. While Spokane luxuriates in its abundance of groundwater, other areas of the country that once had few problems discovering and retaining water are now facing serious hurdles if they want to keep everyone's thirst quenched.

And no, Gatorade cannot solve this issue. California is in its third year of severe drought. Measures taken by municipalities across the state to reduce per capita usage are no match for the meteoro- logical wrath felt by its residents. Lake Oroville reser- voir near Chico, Calif., recently installed a "Low-Water Boat Launch Ramp" so Californians can continue to recreate when levels are at historic lows. According to the California Department of Water Resources, the three major reservoirs in Northern Cali- fornia are around 40 percent capacity. The entire state is in drought conditions ranging from "abnormally dry" to "severe," according to the University of Nebraska- Lincoln's Drought Monitor. Some small communities around the state, which depend on perennial streams to refill local reservoirs, have seen a steep decline in wa- tershed runoff. California is facing some tough times if this winter does not produce considerable precipitation and snowpack.

As California toys with the idea of desalinating seawater to keep thirsts quenched and lawns green, the entire Southwest region is at the mercy of the not- so-mighty Colorado River. The river that carved the Grand Canyon struggles to supply water to cities across Colorado, Utah, Arizona, California and Nevada. The river's primary reservoir, Lake Mead behind Hoover Dam, has lost half of its supply in the last nine years and according to researchers at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, it has a 50 percent chance of drying up by 2021.

In Spokane, the story is a quite different. Although it may look like a desert outside, Spokane is somewhat of an oasis for the trained eye. Fed by Lake Pend Oreille by Sandpoint, Idaho, the Spokane-Rath- drum aquifer makes its way down the Panhandle into Spokane Valley, where it is pumped out of the ground and into your faucet. Unmarred by overpopulation, the Spokane metropolitan area withdraws from the aquifer at sustainable rates and allows us to enjoy the comforts of a bountiful supply.

Although Spokane is blessed with a continu- ous and abundant source of water, there is no reason to squander our supply. As many students attending Gonzaga come from Southwest states, Spokane can provide a forgiving training ground for water conserva- tion habit forming. Water conservation is a mindset that takes practice to adopt. With time, the small changes will make a big impact.

Brent Robinson is a senior majoring in civil engineering. He has been an intern in water resources at an environmental engineering company.

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