Drought has held such a huge significance in my life over the past few years and even before then. Drought was what drove my great grandparents to pack up what little they owned in Arkansas and move West during the Great Depression. Dust Bowl migrants that saw the Central Valley of California as their salvation, so much water and fertile land for them to work and build their lives upon. But 80 years later, even that ground turned to dust.
At first, I was both fascinated and frustrated by the drought: our absolute reliance on the whim of nature and the vulnerable populations that bear the brunt of its destruction. I spent a whole year researching and writing about the drought for my senior thesis and my summer internship after. Conducting interviews with residents that were paying hundreds of dollars a month for contaminated drinking water. Talking with non-profit leaders working on the issue. Researching every little detail about rural water systems and water management techniques in the hopes that legislation would be passed to provide aid to these marginalized communities.
I thought I was sick of talking and writing about drought but it seems inescapable in the current state of our world. Coastal Colombia, like California, is going through a prolonged drought that leads to frequent power outages, lack of running water, and a devastated agricultural sector. I hear the same phrase, “No agua para la vida,” no water to live, as I did in California. Farmworkers or fishermen, whose livelihoods depend on water, now struggle to get by with what little they already had. They also do a little rain dance every time they hear the first drops fall (rain also drops the unbearable heat about 10 degrees and that alone is cause for celebration). But even if a little rain falls, it’s hardly enough to make up for what’s been lost.
When Colombians hear that I’m from California, they immediately think I live in some beachside paradise with celebrity neighbors – the side they see on TV. I try to explain that my part of California is not too different than here, but I don’t think they believe me.