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Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism University of Southern California
Southern California

Aquarium Tackles Drought

Experts host a live webcast discussing California's historic drought. 

California’s drought has increased significantly since 2011, leaving the state in an extreme water deficit. The U.S. Drought Monitor, which collects weather data throughout the United States, revealed in its October report that the majority of the state is experiencing extreme to exceptional drought conditions, compared to 2011 when the drought map was clear.

According to the report, more than 36 million people are affected by the drought, especially those who live in Southern california. 

“We’ve been in crisis for quite some time because we’re now 38 million people and not anymore 18 million people like we were in the late 60s,” Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said in an interview with 60 Minutes correspondent Lesley Stahl. 

Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific brought in experts to address California’s drought and water scarcity around the world with the hope of increasing awareness. 

“Over the past four years, we’ve used about 75 or 80 percent our stored water,” said Kevin Wattier, the former general manager of Long Beach’s Water Department, who spoke at the event. “We’re at a critical time where if this drought continues it’s going to be a very difficult situation for all of us here in California.”

The Aquarium hosted a live webcast, featuring questions sent in from people inquiring what could be done to curb the water deficit. Wattier said residents managed to save between 25 to 30 percent of water, but more needs to be done. “With the climate change and other changes facing our water situation, we can’t just respond during these droughts. We need to respond all of the time.”

One of California’s main sources of water, the snowpack, ran out early this year, a major marker of how severe the drought is. State officials put limits on water consumption and farmers are taking a hard blow. The California government put a freeze on farmers drawing water from rivers and streams

The Golden State is not the only area affected by the drought.

The Colorado River basin, which supplies water to California, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada and Arizona, is depleting and has been for the past 16 years. The U.S Department of the Interior Bureau of Reclamation reported in 2010 Lake Mead, one of the reservoirs that supplies water to the basin, dropped to 1082.36 feet, the lowest since it was filled in the 30s. 

In 2010, the Annenberg Foundation in Southern California worked with National Geographic to combat the water shortage through a photography exhibition. An Annenberg r epresentative, Camille Lowry, said the exhibition was created to bring awareness to the lack of fresh water. 

The Aquarium partnered with the Annenberg Foundation to use the same exhibition with hopes of pushing the issue further. “The exhibition captures images from across the world, how people relate to water, how they use it and how they abuse it,” said CEO of the aquarium Jerry Schubel. 

The aquarium is combining the photos with a series of lectures and films to bring awareness that will last until Feb. 15.

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