Debates are starting to rage across social media, and among actual live humans at cocktail and dinner parties, about how poorly or adequately California has been addressing our drought catastrophe particularly after that stark op-ed from the NASA water guy on Friday that claimed the state only has one year of water left. The state has, in turn, stepped up their water conservation rules from last year, as the Chronicle reported last night. But as many will tell you, these measures are decidedly not enough not to mention the fact that Central Valley agriculture should probably be severely curtailed if we're going to get through this on more than just luck and shorter showers.
Here's what the State Water Resources Control Board voted unanimously to approve, mandate-wise, at their Tuesday meeting:
- Outdoor watering of lawns and plants at homes and businesses is prohibited within two days of rainfall (should that ever happen again).
- Outdoor watering should be limited to two days a week.
- Restaurants and bars are to serve water only upon request.
- Hotels are to launder towels and sheets for multi-night guests only upon request.
- All the restrictions put in place last year still stand, and are subject to fines, including spraying down sidewalks, driveways and patios; watering lawns or gardens to the point of causing runoff; washing cars without a shutoff nozzle; and using drinking water in ornamental fountains.
Offenses can carry fines up to $500, but enforcement is going to be shoddy at best. Many environmental advocates and water experts have been quick to criticize these restrictions for not going for enough, since we may only have one year of water left. And yes, agriculture is the biggest consumer of water, by far. Like three-to-one what residential consumption is not to mention that the majority of residential consumption is from outdoor watering, which needs to be curtailed severely.
Below, a list of what you should be doing, regardless of what the state says, and below, check out a startling video by Grist that outlines just how much water it takes to grow your favorite foods. Yes, to get eight ounces of steak (eight ounces!) you need the equivalent of 54 showers worth of water. So, skipping that steak this week would save an enormous amount of water. Also: Think twice about avocados and almonds.
- Stop watering your lawn, period. If you happen to live in a suburb with a big lawn that makes you proud, get over it. This is no time for vanity. It is time for brown lawns this year.
- If you have fruit trees in your yard, or plants you'd like to water, or a vegetable garden of your own, and you have your own washer/dryer, consider installing a greywater system to recycle your laundry water for outdoor watering. Your plants do not need clean drinking water.
- Harass local store owners you see hosing off their sidewalks, and report them to the city so that they are fined.
- Shame your neighbors who are over-watering their lawns, and get them fined.
- Stop washing your car, and do not patronize car washes.
- Plant drought-tolerant plants in your yard or on your deck.
- Install more water-efficient shower heads and faucets.
- Only run dishwashers and washers with full loads.
- Taking shorter showers and skipping the toilet flush for pee will make a small, but not negligible dent as well.
- Don't leave water running while rinsing vegetables, washing dishes, or brushing teeth.
- Eat far fewer avocados, almonds, and less beef and chicken if you can help it, per the Grist video, and this Mother Jones piece.
- Consider writing to or calling your state senator or assembly person to address the water shortage and how Central Valley farmers are going to step up and address it.
- Refer to this water conservation site for 100 more tips.
Got all that? This is not about being some intense treehugger. This is about being a decent citizen and helping us all get through this next year without a crisis. San Francisco may be sitting prettier than most (even our East Bay neighbors) because of the Hetch Hetchy, but that does not mean we should be acting like it.
Previously: California Has One Year Of Water Left