Experts weigh in on California drought

Yiling Jiang | Daily Trojan

Yiling Jiang | Daily Trojan

Students gathered on Tuesday evening in Doheny Memorial Library to discuss the drought in California with a panel of distinguished speakers at an event hosted by the Speakers Committee.

The panel included USC professor Kelly Sanders, who is part of Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list of distinguished persons; UCLA professor and USC visiting professor Matthew Kahn, who authored several books on environmental issues; Steve Scauzillo, a writer and editor for the San Gabriel Valley News; Massoud Pirbazari, a professor of civil and environmental engineering; and Ian James, a reporter for Desert Sun and the winner of the Knight-Risser Prize for Western Environmental Journalism in 2014.

“It’s currently the fourth driest year in the history of California,” Kahn said. “Technically, a drought is, by [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] standards, when water levels reach below a threshold of average rainfall.”

The panelists discussed issues related to the drought, such as pollution of existing water, fracking, climate change and ways to control California’s water supply.

“I think that’s why early action is very important,” Sanders said regarding what could be done about the drought. “I think we have to get more efficient [with] the water that we use locally so I think water recycling is absolutely key. We need to learn to use more of the water that is in the system already and we have to get better at collecting storm water.”

Pirbazari said California could do more to address the drought.

“What other countries across the world are doing to combat droughts really puts California to shame. We must innovate and adopt techniques that will help us survive in this drought,” Pirbazari said.

Sanders remained optimistic.

Yiling Jiang | Daily Trojan

Yiling Jiang | Daily Trojan

“California will prevail,” Sanders said after the event. “I think this drought is really going to force us to rethink a lot of the ways that we manage our water and the ways that we interact with our water.”

The event was moderated by Kevin Kassel, the founding president of the club H2O, which aims to increase access to clean water.

“I thought the discussion was pretty interesting, as there were many different perspectives on the same issue,” Kassel said.

Measrainsey Meng, a first-year environmental engineering doctoral. student, agreed with Kassel, noting the diversity of the panel speakers.

“I thought it was a really great panel because it had panelists from different disciplines, so there were two engineers, two writers and one economist, and I think each person brought a different perspective to the table.”

Yiling Jiang | Daily Trojan

Yiling Jiang | Daily Trojan

This event was the latest installment in the Trending Topics series, and was co-sponsored by the Political Student Assembly and the Environmental Student Assembly.

Trending Topics is a new series started this semester by the  Speakers Committee and aims to shed light on current events that students think are most relevant.

Co-director of Trending Topics, Melissa Feldman said that the topics were chosen by USC students themselves through a survey that the committee sent out over the summer.