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Dive Dry with Dr. Bill

#684: Drat This Drought

After several years of taking 0 to 2 showers a week, I was really looking forward to heading to Palau this spring to enjoy its incredible diving... and shower EVERY day thanks to its tropical climate and usually ample rainfall. I think a few island residents were hoping I'd get to do that too! Last spring when I made my first trip there, the shower in my bathroom was so complicated even the hotel clerk couldn't tell me how to use it. I finally figured it out despite the many control knobs and umpteen shower heads... and enjoyed the luxury of a daily shower!

This year I was supposed to return to Palau for four to six weeks. Palau Dive Adventures had asked me to teach two two-week sessions on coral reef ecology, and then enjoy a few weeks of diving on my own with them. I would truly be living the life!

As my departure date approached, the situation in Palau changed. The El Niño that we hoped would bring us record rain this year, had the opposite effect (as strong El Niños occasionally do) and we have had desert-like precipitation this season. Unfortunately it had a similar effect in Micronesia. Near record drought there has severely impacted the freshwater supply on Palau and other islands in the region. Some forecast that the freshwater supply in that island nation could virtually dry up in a month or two.

Palau has declared a national emergency and is requesting aid from several other countries including Taiwan and Japan. Our military may also assist in providing water to the country, which has a strong alliance with the United States. Palau not only uses the US dollar as its currency but English is commonly spoken there.

After consulting last week with Chris Lubba, co-owner of Palau Dive Adventures, who traveled to Palau to assess the situation; we have decided to postpone my trip this spring. We will wait and see if the rainy season, which begins around June, will resupply the reservoirs there with freshwater. I may return in October and then again next spring to teach.

We here on Catalina know the pain of several years of poor rainfall. We have to rely on water trapped in the Thompson Reservoir plus what is produced by our desalination system and a few wells. Unlike mainland SoCal, heavy snowpack in the mountains of northern California does us no good. I've been using 7-10 gallons per day, and can't reduce my showering much more without totally alienating the affection of the ladies. It's going to be a rough six months ahead for us here.

But don't cry for me, Catalina! I can always "bathe" in the refreshing waters of Mother Ocean (although the residual fish smell may turn some women off). And I'm already looking at options for the near-term, such as a possible trip to the Maldives (before they sink under rising sea levels) in the Indian Ocean. Or maybe I'll notch my sixth continent with a trip to South America... if I can find a lovely señorita to assist me with the Spanish (and the "universal language," sigh). After all, I'm not getting any younger.

© 2016 Dr. Bill Bushing. Watch the "Dive Dry with Dr. Bill" underwater videos on Catalina Cable TV channel 29, 10:00 AM weekdays and on Charter Communications Cable channel 33 at 7:30 PM on Tuesdays in the Riverside/Norco area. You can also watch these episodes in iPod format on YouTube through my channel there (drbillbushing). Please help me climb out of self-imposed poverty... buy my DVD's (see this link). Yes, take Dr. Bill home with you... we'll both be glad you did!

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The Rock Islands of Palau and reef hook diving at Blue Corner; the mysterious hotel shower and "when in drought..."

This document maintained by Dr. Bill Bushing.
Material and images © 2015 Star Thrower Educational Multimedia