Let’s face it. The quiet crisis building in the background of our Mendocino County lives is water. Though completely abstract to many residents of the county, some are well acquainted with the desiccating landscape around them. The sound of a water truck coming up the road reminds them of the parched landscape seemingly less hospitable each year.
The problem of a water crisis, like many of our community’s existential threats, is its abstract nature. Talk of some old dams being decommissioned, cubic feet per second being adjusted, and desalination plants seem foreign and far away. Reporting on the crisis is chalked full of jargon and water resource experts that fall short in stirring the radical changes necessary to bail us out of this mess.
Sometimes a couple of photographs can tell the story better than any reporter could.
Four sun-kissed young ladies sat on a Lake Mendocino dock four summers ago, the sun on their shoulders, the cool waters lapped at their toes. A pontoon boat meandered toward deeper waters. Another boat settled for a moment, bobbing up and down in the aqua-marine.
Four years later, one of those young women returned to the lake of her summer memories and found it irrevocably changed. A bog-like waterway ridden with reeds and algae has replaced the blue-green dreamscape of her youth. There are no boats. The water seems stagnant. There are no new memories made- just nostalgia for what used to be and a sinking feeling things will never be the same.
For those that have the privilege of water security in our county, consider those young women happy and carefree, those families gliding across the blueness in their boats, the sense of comfort and safety our reservoir once provided. Compare those days to the tepid puddle that stands in its place. Consider the murmurs of dried-up wells, of water wars, of a collapsing agricultural industry.
Suddenly, the water crisis doesn’t seem far away. In fact, it’s in everyone’s very own backyard.