Editor's Note

(Photo by Carolyn Lagattuta)

The other day, splashing in the bathtub, one of my sons carefully poured water from one cup to another and back—one of his favorite bathtime activities.

"I making wadoo!" he shouted gleefully, beaming me a huge smile.

After my heart melted, I got to thinking.

Why can't we make water? We make all sorts of synthetic compounds, from silicone to Velveeta. You'd just need to slam together a couple hydrogens and an oxygen. It would solve an awful lot of problems if we could just manufacture the stuff.

For most of California, 2013 was the driest year in recorded history. Statewide, the seasonal snowpack was less than a third of the average, as reported by the state Department of Water Resources on April 1. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a water emergency on Jan. 17, calling for statewide 20 percent voluntary cutbacks, and some communities are rationing.

The severity of the drought will surely affect one thing that's central to everyone: food. Grocery bills will likely go up because fewer acres of land are being planted and crop yields are shrinking, and the drought could prove devastating to those served by food banks.

Combining two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom to make water sounds simple, but unfortunately, combining these atoms produces a lot of energy—and could cause dangerous explosions. Also, the quantities of water we need are so vast it seems likely we could never produce enough, and it would be prohibitively expensive.

UCSC researchers are working on options—and none of them is as risky or hazardous as a hydrogen explosion! The ideas range from conservation to recycled water to the creation of water reserves (see "Dry, dry again").

It's at least comforting to know that bright, passionate people here are working on some of humanity's complex, long-term, seemingly intractable issues. It makes me feel like the future my sons inhabit might turn out to be OK.

Almost instantaneously after my son "made" water, he went on to making "smoothies." Ah, the 2-year-old mind … it flows as swiftly as a river—when there isn't a drought.

— Gwen Jourdonnais, editor