Hey David,Dear C,
I really enjoyed your AMA on water shortages in California and the problems with our water management system in the US. I am recently out of college, studied mechanical engineering, and am finding the water scarcity issue (in the western US & the rest of the world) a scary, but inspiring issue to get involved in. I am currently in the middle of reading Cadillac Desert, which led me to searching reddit and finding your AMA.
My question is: From your expertise, how can I as someone motivated and new in the work force get involved in and help make a difference in these issues? I am not fixed on staying with careers directly linked to my college major. I would appreciate any advice you are willing to part with.
You've made the first step, admitting that WE have a problem :)
As for the next steps, I think there are two ways to go.
The first way is to "address the symptoms," i.e., using your skills [engineering for you; other things for others] to help increase supplies or reduce demand for water -- and thus try to reduce scarcity.
The second way is to "address the disease," i.e., get involved in the organisations responsible for making policies that drive water scarcity. There are many potential organisations to choose from, from the local drinking water utility, to a state board on water resources, to a chamber of commerce interested in protecting its members water reliability.
I gave my first book the title of End of Abundance to highlight the need for us to change the ways we manage water in a new world where abundance cannot be taken for granted. That book (as well as Living with Water Scarcity) suggest new ways to think about water, and YOU can play a useful role in helping people understand that the situation is neither inevitable nor hopeless. The good news is that water scarcity is a local issue that's solvable by local, concerned citizens.
Bottom Line: Everyone can reduce water scarcity (and the risks it brings) by doing their part. It's not that complicated, but it takes time and community interest.