Week 2: Care & Conservation

Shumin He of the 2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy

The first workshop of the Civic Engagement Workshop series was hosted by The Honorable Thomas Wong, Board President of the San Gabriel Valley Municipal Water District (SGVMWD). The presentation was directly tied to our CLA group project, which challenges us to get 15 businesses to buy or switch to high-efficiency toilets. Rarely do I think about my water bill on a daily basis, as it has always been included in my tuition and rent. Likewise, there are many others that do not think about their water bills, thereby prompting the main challenge for our group project.

Thomas Wong speaking to the 2019 CAUSE Leadership Academy

The presentation provided important context to the issue of water conservation in California. As an East Coast native, my perception of the West Coast was framed by images of forest fires and warnings of droughts presented in media. I’ve always thought that the drought was a problem in this state, and soon my speculations were confirmed. Thomas Wong’s presentation showed California’s cycles of drought, in which there was an alarming dip in 2018 as ground water fell below historic levels. Even though there was heavy precipitation earlier that year, it was not enough to alleviate the drought completely. That being said, one of the misconceptions about the drought is that it can be solved by a few downfalls. The idea of water conservation is much more complicated and goes beyond the amount of water a community currently needs, as it is also crucial to predict and plan for the future. 

The SGVMWD has achieved significant water conservation success in the past. Their efforts include funding programs for community initiatives and various rebate programs. For our group project, we are in charge of promoting the rebate program for Premium High Efficiency Toilets. A quick Google Search has already convinced me of the benefits of high-efficiency toilets. Not to mention its environmental benefit, a low flow toilet can save around $20 per toilet per year. Who wouldn’t want more cost-efficient toilets? Nonetheless, there are still some challenges standing in the way, such as the cost of replacing and maintaining such toilets. Some buildings might lack the infrastructure to install new toilets whereas some business owners might not want to go through the hassle of replacing their toilets. 

In order to convince others to buy low flow toilets, I need to encourage them to think about the long-term future and overlook the short-term inconveniences. Since we are targeting businesses, a possible strategy would be to focus on the company’s public image, in which having low flow toilets and being environmentally friendly would boost their reputation. Businesses serve their clients, and knowing this, we can work backwards to determine which businesses we should target. I already have so many ideas we can use for this group project, and I am sure that with care and coordination, we will exceed the expectations of this project!