Save Some for the Fish!

tapwater-1With lakes and rivers drying up and snow pack in the mountains at astonishing lows, California is deep in the midst of a 4 year drought and it’s time as citizens of this beautiful state, we do something about it!

Over the past four years California has seen extremely low precipitation and with demand on our water supply increasing, Governor Brown has decided to do something about it. Governor Jerry Brown has mandated that the residence and businesses in the state of California must reduce their water consumption by %25. This all stems from the lack of rain and especially snowfall over California the past four years. This year’s peak was only 40 percent of the previous years peak snowpack, which was already extremely low. At one point in the Sierra Nevada Mountains the snowpack was at only 5% of its historical average with the snowpack statewide being only about 19% of the historic average. With the population increasing by more than 300,000 between July of 2013 and July 2014 the strain on our decreasing water supply continues to grow. The average population doesn’t consume the majority of this water though. 80% of the states water goes towards the growing of food. California produces 25% of the food that is produced in the US and this is an important use and reason for the need to maintain a solid water supply. We as citizens of California can implement water saving measures in our lives that can help to preserve this natural resource that is vital to the California lifestyle while benefiting from some government rebates.

Is that green carpet of a landscape in your front yard a little too much work and a drain on your water bill? Well the department of water resources is offering $2 per square foot to residents who replace their lawn with drought friendly plants, up to $2000. This rebate is aimed to encourage people to steer away from heavily water reliant plants that are purely for decorative purposes. By offering up this rebate, people who may not be able to afford or don’t want to deal with the cost of changing their landscaping, now have an incentive. Not only will this help offset the cost, but the money that you will save on your water bill will make it pay for itself. In one extreme case of this, a Camarillo woman replaced her lawn and was able to drop her bill form $450 to $60. On top of offering this two current home owners, restrictions have been made on all future developed homes over 500 square feet. All homes built will now be limited to 25% or less turf grass in their landscaped area. Previously this rule only applied to houses over 2500 feet, but because of the severity of the situation it is being enforced on smaller houses as well. With the increase in popularity of drought friendly landscaping, there are now also more stylish, elegant, and colorful drought plants to design lush landscapes with. In a recent article about the popularity of these plants a local succulent and cactus themed nursery owner described the main difference between these plants and tradition garden flowers well when she said, “Most people like to see their plants flowering and in perfect condition, and that takes the same kind of care that any other plant would. The difference is you don’t have to water this plant three or four times a week.” Beautiful landscaping goals can be achieved just the same with alternative water saving plants as without, but by saving that water we will have more for our selves, our food, and our future. If we all take advantage of water saving options instead of lush green lawns, we can slowly keep this drought from getting worse. And with rebates in order to defray the cost, there is no reason not to make the switch to a more drought friendly landscape.

Taking out your lawn is not the only initiative that was passed on Wednesday to help ease the pressure being put on our water supply by the drought. A rebate that seems to follow in the footsteps of the toilet flush restrictions is now putting limiting the amount of flow shower heads sold in the state can have. Starting July 2018, all shower heads sold in California must have a spray limited to 1.8 gallons per minute. And although the flow is less, the feeling will be the same according to a Natural Resource Defense Council policy analyst that said, “These new high-efficiency models have the same feel as old-style shower heads, but without the water waste.” Although not mandatory yet we can still buy these shower heads to use in our homes and have a great decrease in our use of water during our daily showers. The other half of this initiative is similar to that of the lawn because it also offers a rebate for water efficient toilets. Similar to the cash for clunkers program of the auto industry, if you replace your old worn out and water wasting toilet for a more efficient low water flushing toilet you can receive $100 towards the new toilet. This is a third cost effective way to make your house more efficient and save money as well as our much-needed water. By taking these simple preventative measures with the help of funding from this initiative we can do our part to keep this drought from getting any worse and work towards reaching Governor Brown’s ultimate goal of 25%.

Although these fixes seem rather simple and almost obvious start, there are still opponents of the idea that suggest capitalism or desalinization are the real solutions. The theory behind this capitalist approach and its predicted solution were recently described in an article as, “with rain and snow, the cheapest supply source, suddenly uncooperative, there has been an unpleasant change in the options and their cost. Unless dramatic changes in policy and pricing are made, or the weather suddenly turns very damp, further shortages are the inevitable result” and “the final option of raising prices and letting the market “clear” is by far the most efficient and fair. And it will stimulate new supply, which is the ultimate answer.” There are two major problems with this method to solving the problem. The first lies in the fact that water is a public works that is controlled and regulated to ensure this resource safe and reasonably priced when being provided to every home. Next to air, water is the most necessary resource to our survival, but by putting the power of this resource into the hands of wealth and private industry, the control of this resource could be exploited. The second flaw with this ideology is the emphasis on new supply to make up for what is used. The commonplace solution, with so many coastlines along California, is to desalinate ocean water to create a fresh water supply. This will undoubtedly become a greater part in water procurement in the future, but with modern technology we still have a very long way to go. Currently there is a desalinization plant being built in San Diego that has been an ongoing project since 1998. It is predicted that this massive project will be completed about 20 years after its start and by 2020 should be contributing about 7% of San Diego’s water supply. With modern desalinization having such a small effect on our lack of water, simply raising the price and putting this funding into new collection methods will not be enough to keep this drought from getting worse. If we continue to develop this technology while cutting back our water usage and participating in the recent initiatives we can do a lot more to help the situation.

From the waterfalls of Big Sur, to the mesmerizing Lake Mead, and all the farm land of great basin, California truly is an amazing land of resources and beauty, but if we want to be able to continue enjoying this great place, it’s time we all do our part and hop on board with these initiatives to start using water saving tactics in our lives.

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