As a life-long Californian, I’ve lived through the great drought of the ’70s and many record-breaking hot-summer days, which resulted in energy-usage restrictions. During our last drought, we had numerous brownouts and blackouts. It appears that this drought may cause some of those same issues, as a headline in our local newspaper recently read: “Californians urged to conserve on electricity use.”
Although this article didn’t touch on the affects of the drought on energy use per se, it does reflect on how dire our energy limitations are. For the most part, Californians are typically requested to conserve energy during our hot summers when usage peaks due to ever-running air conditioners. However, our exceptionally cold winter resulted in an energy spike, draining much of our natural gas supply.
Additionally, according to the website, California Department of Water Resources, 10 out of the 12 largest reservoirs are well below historical levels, which limits their ability to provide hydroelectric power. Granted, in a typical year, hydroelectric power only contributes to roughly 15 percent of California’s available power. However, it is doubtful that we will have that extra 15 percent of energy to rely on this year.
With our natural gas supplies drained, combined with a drought-induced hydroelectric shortage Californians may not be able to escape from our 100-plus degree weather this summer-no electricity equals no air conditioner.
All of this happened with the ’70s drought and we struggled through it. Nevertheless, it wasn’t easy. Besides conserving water, we didn’t use our air conditioning even when we had ample power. People compensated by sitting outside more and talking with their neighbors instead of running the television. It became somewhat of a contest between friends and family of who could use the least amount of water and electricity. I still remember the uncomfortable cold and extremely short showers.
Since our population has nearly doubled since the ’70s and we don’t have many other energy-producing options, our drought related energy issues might be more difficult than in the past. Of course, we are using more solar power, which seems like a no-brainer in this sunny state. Nevertheless, solar-power plants are not sprouting up all over the state yet.
For now, others may benefit by doing what worked for me in the ’70s. This summer the television and thermostat will grow dusty. I’ll read more, enjoy our patio at night until it gets too dark, and my barbecue will be my most used cooking method.
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