If a drop by drop trickle can eventually carve the Grand Canyon, how many saved drops will it take until our water usage squares with our water scarcity here in The West? I don’t know the answer, except that it’s going to have to be a whole Hell of a lot more than we are saving now. First of all, you’d hardly know California was in a historic drought if you watched or read most news sources. Because, apart from The San Jose Mercury News and, surprisingly, Al Jazeera America, few media sources are giving any real, meaningful, continuing coverage to the drought. A story pops up now and then in The New York Times. And even less frequently in the LA Times — where the drought should be front page news every single day. Then there is the sound of crickets coming from Governor Jerry Brown’s office. Everyone who had any awareness of California’s water situation — from water management professionals to farmers — knew by at least last October that this drought was headed beyond historical proportions to Biblical territory. In fact, Maybelline, a frequent visitor to this blog and who works in water management for the state, noted that it’s lucky most of their office buildings only have one floor. Because frightened water professionals would have been throwing themselves out the windows long ago.
So where are we now? Except for certain municipalities that rely on well water — where those wells have run dry — and a few forward thinking cities and towns, there is no rationing. Here in Santa Clara County, our water rates seem to have doubled, but that hasn’t significantly altered the heavy watering of lush green lawns. At least judging by the skeptical looks and shock when I took started taking out my inherited lawn, I don’t think too many people were seriously considering alternatives. I was heartened when I posted my story on the Greater Rose Garden section of Nextdoor.com. Seems there are a good number of people who were way ahead of me in converting lawns to xeroscapes and water-wise native plant gardens. The other day while walking the terriers, I came across a lawn that was way too green to be believed. Since much of my dog walks involve keeping the terriers from weeing on somebody’s lawn before we can get them to an acceptable dog relief area, I pulled the terriers away. They weren’t even interested. I looked closer and ran my hand over the “lawn”. It was plastic Astroturf. Hmmmm. I’m not sure what to think about this. Kudos for trying to cut down on your water usage. But is covering soil with petroleum-based product really an improvement?
So anyway, how are we doing? Since the last time the State measured our water usage, a little better. Back in the summer, the State found that we were cutting back a measly 5% state-wide, with some water districts (guess which!) actually increasing their water usage. Now look at us. We’re up to 11% savings state-wide. But, again, not exactly equivalent effort overall.
So c’mon, people. We can do much better than this. Kudos to Sacramento, you water-wise water savers, you. And Bay Area, you can’t sit back and pat yourself on the back with 15% savings. If we are the Green, eco-c0nscious, thought leaders that we think we are, that water saving should be at 25%. LA and San Diego, I just don’t know what to say to you. But get it together. Seriously, get it together. Because all indications are that this may not be a wet winter. And shit’s getting real.
By the way, readers in wetter states, this is your crisis, too. Probably the greater part of your supermarket produce comes from California. Then, of course, there’s all that wine. Luckily wine grapes are pretty drought-tolerant. But not forever. And really, is there ever really enough water to waste?
Top image from Shutterstock via The Huffington Post.
I am absolutely stunned that the drought isn’t the main news issue in California…and for that matter, elsewhere. My first thoughts when I think about drought out there is that the effects will be so far-reaching because of the amount of produce grown out west. How will we get strawberries in January and asparagus in August if California has no water? I’m being sarcastic, you know, but if we weren’t hell-bent on eating foods out of season and depending on food shipped across the nation, instead of relying on local farmers and eating the good fruits of the Earth in their own time, we’d be in better shape all around. Not transporting food thousands of miles means less fuel use and less pollution. Eating locally means supporting local producers and reducing transport costs. When will we ever learn? when will we ever learn?
There is definitely a shocking lack of coverage.The San Jose Mercury News does at least a story a week, but that’s about the only regular coverage. Then again, people are not paying attention and have a horrifying lack of understanding of our current drought and the general specifics of a semi-arid ecology. An example of the former: as my ranch guys and I were taking out the San Jose lawn, a neighbor was chatting with us. When he learned the guys were from Sonoma, he said, “Oh, does Sonoma have a drought, too?” Hello! Pretty much the entire state from the Mexican to the Oregon border is and has been in a severe drought of historical proportions. As an example of the latter, a fairly recent transplant from the Midwest was bemoaning that it was such a shame there was a fluke heavy rainfall in an area that had mudslides last winter. Stop. Remember 7th grade geology. That’s the weather pattern for semi-arid areas from Africa to the Pampas to California. We have long dry seasons then short intense rainy seasons where we get all our year’s rain in a few months. If you don’t understand that simple fact of ecology, how can you be relied upon to approach the land in ways that don’t contribute to erosion or water wasting?
I just don’t believe those numbers. Locally (Bakersfield), domestic suppliers of water have increased their usage of potable water compared with the same time last year. My jaw drops and I shout at the TV or radio whenever I hear local officials state that our area’s water supply is fine. Lies! Of course, those making those ridiculous claims are local politicians. Most all officials in the water world are stressed almost as much as our aquifers. Even notoriously pleasant associates are beginning to show the strain.
As for plastic grass…like a wig, I suppose some people just need that security even though going natural would look waaay better. Besides, what about runoff and percolation? Won’t weed seeds blow in and sprout between the plastic blades. I believe I will be going with a courtyard in my front yard; but it’s in the planning stages.
Thanks for putting the spotlight on one of my passion topics. Thanks for saving water.