Water conservation: a permanent way of life



There is no doubt about it — California is heading for a major crisis and Californians seem all too indifferent about it. While Gov. Jerry Brown hasn’t declared a state of emergency yet, the recent formation of the Drought Task Force is just the precursor of hardships to come.

“It’s the No. 1 issue.” —Assemblyman Jeff Gorrell, R-Camarillo

“We are coming off the driest year on record. If this isn’t a call to respond, then we won’t ever hear one.” — State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara

It’s gotten so bad that on Tuesday, Jan. 7, the California Conference of Catholic Bishops asked people of all faiths to join in prayers for rain.

Basic facts about the oncoming drought crisis:

1) 2013 is the driest year on record for California;

2) Temperatures were markedly higher in 2013;

3) State’s major reservoirs are below level for the month; Ventura County’s Lake Piru is beyond low at 25 percent of its high water mark;

2014 is showing no signs of reprieve.

Basic facts about average Californians’ average household water consumption (California Single-Family Home Water Use Efficiency Study released in March 2013 conducted by Home Energy Magazine):

1) The average household  total water use is 132,000 gallons per year;

2) Fifty-three percent of the total is for outdoor uses (landscaping); 47 percent for indoor use.

There are some relatively easy remedies to reducing our water footprint:

1) Dig up the lawns and landscape arid-climate plants.

We understand that many homeowners take pride in plush green lawns, fun for the kids to roll around in and that they are overall aesthetically pleasing. But what’s going to happen when we actually have to limit our water usage and pay a substantial price to take care of our lawns and/or our lawns die out in the meantime? Imagine what any particular homeowner’s water bill would be with an arid-climate garden, using just a small fraction of the current nearly 6,000 gallons per month for irrigation. Imagine a beautiful garden that requires little water and little overall maintenance, plus the animals that would visit such gardens. It’s possible. We highly recommend taking a walk around your neighborhood and natural parks for a little inspiration.

2) Reduce indoor water use with efficient products

In the bathroom, regular-flow toilets can be replaced by new ultralow-flow toilets and, older model low-flow toilets can be replaced by the latest ultralow-low. To conserve in the shower, reduce the flow rates with an efficient showerhead and reduce the duration of the shower. The latest in efficient washing machines use less than 30 gallons per load — now is a good time for an upgrade.  Leaky faucets and other water distribution devices contribute to several gallons of water wasted. It’s time to fix them.

3) Install a gray water system

Gray water systems recycle used non-toilet-generated H2O — soapy water from sinks, bathtubs and washing machines — to water landscaping. Recently made legal in California, gray water systems may be the easiest and cheapest route to take in reducing water usage by eliminating the need for fresh water to irrigate. If one so chooses to be hyper vigilant about reducing their water footprint, updating appliances and other products and installing a gray water system will surely significantly impact the looming water crisis.

We understand that these practical ways to conserve water may be easier said than done — mainly due to financial reasons, or perhaps the effort just isn’t worth it. So we call on our lawmakers to incentivize some of the most stubborn Californians to consider a change. Very little speaks more loudly than money so consider passing legislation on the local and state level that kicks all of us into gear with tax subsidies — lest we face a severe crisis that will leave us more than parched.

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posted by kathrynjchick on 1/14/14 @ 10:28 a.m.

Some great ideas above.

Add the possibility of compost toilets as the architect of the bitsy house on the cover did. Save lots of water.

Reduce hardscape. In case nature ever permits us the healing balm of rain, we want it to soak into the water table and not rush headlong to the ocean carrying whatever pollution it might as well. Save the swales!

Likewise should it rain again, gutters that carry the roof's offflow to cisterns below will give your family a small edge against rate increases.

Many macho types like to hold out for techno fixes like desalinization--as Qatar, for example, has done. But that takes more money and time than we have. Climate change is no longer a future threat. We are up our ears in the change now and it will only get worse.

posted by cassandra20 on 1/14/14 @ 12:26 p.m.

p.s. A word about greywater recycling--much as I like cheap, low tech fixes, it pays to pay the cost of having it done right. A simple primitive system I set up in my back had to be jettisoned. It put a strain on the washing machine, resulted in water damage around the leaky hose outlet and increased hard pack where the water flowed out.

Many people locally have set up systems that work just fine. Talk to them.

posted by cassandra20 on 1/14/14 @ 12:33 p.m.

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posted by heatherlpostma on 1/15/14 @ 09:40 a.m.
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