kitchen sink…From The Desk Of Jayne Battey

She turned the kitchen tap and there was no water. Not a drop. My niece Kim turned to me and said, “Well, I won’t be taking a shower this morning.”

It was 10:00 in the morning and the water would be off until noon—when it would likely be on for the lunch hour, and then off again for much of the afternoon. I was visiting Kim on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, about fifteen minutes north of Tamarindo in the Guanacaste region.

Costa Rica is all it promises to be—with lush and stunning cloud forests, diverse  birds and wildlife, and beautiful beaches that go on for miles. The people are warm and gracious and friendly; the food is farm fresh, ocean caught and delicious.

Cloud Forest in Monte Verde, Costa Rica

Cloud Forest in Monte Verde, Costa Rica

But there is this little issue with water. We were just on the edge of the rainy season in Costa Rica. Yet, it barely rained at all during our visit. To date this year, Costa Rica’s Guanacaste region has experienced 65 percent less rainfall than the historical average—and they are entering their fourth year of drought. The conversation around the breakfast table is very reminiscent of those occurring in California right now—talks of water conservation, hopes for El Niño, and fears of continuing drought and loss of agricultural acreage. And the conversation all occurs against the backdrop of climate change. I should know this of course, but my trip to Costa Rica has made me acutely aware of the global reality of the climate issues we face—and that some areas of the world will suffer more greatly than others. Water shortages and increasing food costs are clear outcomes, as well as a host of associated community and personal economic impacts.

It has been outside the realm of possibility for me that I could turn on the kitchen tap one day and water would not pour forth on demand. Or that agricultural fields across California would be forced to lie fallow due to a lack of water. But I have a fresh perspective on that now. As we enter our fourth year of drought in California, we need to get very, very serious about conservation, water reuse and off-season storage.


Row crops in Bakersfield, CA.