On Jan. 17, Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought state of emergency, declaring the state’s dwindling water supplies and lack of rainfall to be one of the worst droughts on record. With that harsh reality, he asked Californians to reduce their water usage by 20 percent. According to a recent report released by the governor’s office, water usage has decreased by only 5 percent. This comes as no surprise, though. It would seem that either too many think the rule doesn’t apply to them or simply that they can’t help.

Focusing on the latter — that they are unable to help — the color-coded terrorism charts of the 2000s are a fair example. Roughly two years after the Twin Towers were struck in New York City, Homeland Security came up with an advisory system that kept Americans alert and on their toes, perhaps too much. It seemed that the U.S. was always either at elevated or high alert, and worse, no one really understood what that meant — poison in our water, bombs at our airports, more planes being taken hostage? America was on edge and helpless. The advisory system was phased out in 2011, as planned. Perhaps, with a nation once under attack, Californians see the warnings of the drought and have once again become desensitized.

The real issue, though, seems to be: conservation doesn’t apply to me. Despite all the news stories reporting on dwindling water supplies, the fights in the legislature about how to get water distributed from the north to the south, the fact that Southern California cannot produce its own water, Oxnard’s multimillion-dollars saltwater treatment facility being offline when its water is needed for local ag, our local lakes on severe retreat, and the pictures — so many pictures of just how bad things are — are for some reason going unnoticed. The only reasonable explanations are these sorts of mindsets: “My neighbor cut back, so I don’t have to.” “It’s not really that bad. My water bill hasn’t gone up too much and I have plenty of water.” “No one has held a gun to my head to conserve so I don’t believe it’s a problem.”

It’s just a matter of time before the worst-case scenario actually happens. It is disheartening to think a disaster could be averted but choose to believe the situation isn’t really that bad or we just can’t help. For those who believe they can’t help, here are a few suggestions:

No more watering of lawns during daytime hours (as evaporation wastes water);

No washing of cars with a free running hose (state regulators are currently considering a $500 fine for free running hoses and overwatering lawns);

No sprinkler runoff into sidewalks and gutters.

Do wash your car less (The city of Ventura is actually offering prizes for the dirtiest cars www.cityofventura.net/water);

Do save water at all times (Bring a bucket in the shower to catch the cold water as it warms up, etc.);

Do buy a gray water system to reuse your laundry water in your garden.

At this point, we are calling on all Ventura County residents (and all California residents) to voluntarily ration their water use, but also to take it a step further: call on your local lawmakers for a mandatory water rationing. We do, however, say this with caution as there are many longtime conservationists who cannot realistically be called upon to make more cuts. Such people are models for the rest of us.

There are so many easy and inexpensive ways to maintain something of the status quo that it’s rather pathetic that too many haven’t. While we wish we could mandate water rationing, it’s not in our hands — so we highly encourage everyone to do so before it becomes the law.

We are also putting our money where our mouth is. Since the governor’s declarations, those who have converted their lawns to drought-tolerant gardens, send pictures of your landscapes before and after to savewater@vcreporter.com for a chance to win prizes. Entry deadline is Aug. 3.

See above ad for contest details.