A Drop in a Desert

Intensifying heat waves and droughts are drying up river beds around the world. SCU and Silicon Valley Power launch Sustainable Futures Program to promote eco-conscious students.

A Sign Cautions People Not To Dive From A Bridge Over The Kern River, Which Has Been Dried Up By Water Diversion Projects And Prolonged Drought, In Bakersfield, California. (photo By Scott London)

Answers to decades-old mysteries and unsolved cases are surfacing from the world’s rapidly evaporating rivers. But more issues lie in the mud cracks these droughts leave behind. 

Craggy earth in place of where rivers once flowed and greenery thrived exemplify a growing shortage in water and intensifying heat. Drought plus minimal rainfall not only means less drinking water but possible extinction for many animal species. 

And yet, water flows easily from our taps and many of our lawns remain a pristine green. To environmental studies and sciences Professor Iris Stewart-Frey, this startling juxtaposition proves just how much we’ve lost our connection to the natural water sources that keep us alive. 

“These rivers have sustained salmon populations and other wildlife for millennia. They can do a lot with very little if we let them,” Stewart-Frey says. “If people were more familiar with our rivers, we would really be aware of the impacts of the current drought.”

Drought is a combination of many elements and its solution likewise requires numerous people to work together. Santa Clara University and Silicon Valley Power are helping educate students through their new joint Sustainable Future Program, which will provide scholarships and fellowships to up to 35 future leaders in sustainability. The program will provide selected students—especially those transferring from community colleges—the skills they’ll need to compete for emerging green jobs, such as water conservation. 

“This is just for starters, there is much, much more that every one of us can do to reduce climate change, reduce toxics, and therefore preserve water, it would fill this entire article,” Stewart-Frey says. “If you are serious about it, start reading and doing.”

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