Emily Zheng, a senior at Arcadia High School
Don’t get me wrong: The ALS Ice Bucket Challenge has been a great fundraising strategy. It has raised awareness of the disease to people all over the globe and has brought a total of $112.4 million as of September 12. However, when you’re living in California with one of the most severe droughts on record, you should probably think again before doing the Ice Bucket Challenge.
During the annual Arcadia High School All-School Assembly on September 11, 2014, the Principal and Arcadia Student Body President accepted the Ice Bucket Challenge and had two large buckets of ice water dumped on them. The Principal proceeded to challenge the entire school to come the next day after school, so they could send a video to the school’s rivals, Crescenta Valley High School. The next day, about 200 Arcadia High students participated, gathering on a natural grass softball field and dumping ice water on their heads to challenge CV. The video caption includes, “In light of the drought, school officials did not water the grass for two days prior to the challenge.”
First, during the All-School Assembly, two full buckets of ice water were dumped on the artificial turf. That is two buckets of fresh water on the Arcadia High School football field, which never needed water in the first place. How many bottles of fresh water could that have been? How many plants could be watered with that amount? Was it really necessary to dump that much water in order to generate school spirit?
[Editor’s note: In April the school district banned all car wash fundraisers to conserve water due to the drought.]
This leads to my second point. It seems reasonable of Arcadia High to not water the already-dry softball field for two days. However, there are two factors the administration failed to consider: gray water and the time of day.
Gray water (also spelled greywater, graywater) is recycled water that is generated from wash hand basins, showers, and baths and then treated to limit pollution and health risks. This water is not potable, but can be safely used in toilet water and to water lawns. Gray water is most likely the water used on the school’s lawns, but Arcadia High’s Ice Bucket Challenge used 200 buckets of fresh water, which California desperately needs. Fresh water is in our showers, what we drink, and what we use to water our crops, which accounts for 73 percent of the state’s agricultural revenue. Without fresh water, Californians would have no agricultural jobs and a desperate need to import fresh water, which will be extremely costly and taxing on the environment due to transportation emissions. This summer, when my family drove up to Northern California, my parents were shocked at the scenery by the freeway. Fields that used to be luscious with greenery were barren, yellow, and dry. Signs stating “No Water = No Jobs” peppered the roadside. The drought is hitting us hard, and we should all take responsibility to alleviate it.
The time of day is also a big issue that seems to have been overlooked. Arcadia has a Water Conservation Plan in place, and we are currently under Phase I, which includes the following prohibition: “No lawn, landscape, or turf areas shall be watered or irrigated between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.” The all-school ALS Ice Bucket Challenge happened after school, which is around 3 p.m. Not only did Arcadia High School violate the City’s mandatory prohibition, but also most of the water will have evaporated due to the heat instead of going deep into the soil. Arcadia High should be held accountable for this action, since hundreds of homeowners are diligently following this prohibition.
Lastly, if Crescenta Valley does take up the Challenge, more buckets of fresh water will be wasted. They may then challenge another school, wasting even more water. This creates a domino effect that California is not capable of handling at this current state of emergency.
Arcadia High School administration, I am aware that you had good intentions. There is nothing wrong with a friendly rivalry and attempting to garner school spirit. You did try to alleviate the problem by not watering the field for two days. I am not suggesting that simply because of this Ice Bucket Challenge, California has run out of water and jobs. However, with the current situation California is in, it would have been wiser to think about the long-term consequences of this effort to raise school pride. We could have come up with an alternative to the Ice Bucket Challenge since we are not simply Apaches; We are Californians. That is why Arcadia High School’s Ice Bucket Challenge is an extremely important issue.
Learn more about ALS: http://www.alsa.org/about-als/what-is-als.html
Water conservation tips: http://www.saveourh2o.org/tips
— By Emily Zheng