(Update 4/3: more on California's drought. And the draining of our ancient and irreplaceable aquifers.)
It's about time. Because our state is beginning to look like this:
I wrote this post in 2008 but it still applies now:
Turn off your taps!
Finally! The California Gropenator has declared a drought. You know... not enough snow pack, no rain, no water:
(SACRAMENTO, Calif.)—Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a statewide drought after two years of below-average rainfall, low snowmelt runoff and a court-ordered restriction on water transfers.
Schwarzenegger warned that residents and water managers must immediately cut their water use or face the possibility of rationing next year if there is another dry winter.
"We must recognize the severity of the crisis that we face," the Republican governor said Wednesday at a news conference.
He signed an executive order directing the state's response to unusually dry conditions that are damaging crops, harming water quality and causing extreme fire danger across California. Many communities already require water conservation or rationing.
The statewide drought declaration is the first since 1991, when Gov. Pete Wilson acted in the fifth year of a drought that lasted into 1992.
Snow measurements last month found that the Sierra held just 69 percent of an average winter. Runoff into California rivers was at 55 percent of a normal year. The state's major reservoirs are at 50 percent to 63 percent of their capacity at a time when they ideally would be full.
Conditions could be even worse next year if there is another dry winter, Water Resources Director Lester Snow said.
"We need at least above normal in terms of our snowpack, and then we're still going to be tight," Snow said. "The idea is to put programs in place now to soften the impact in 2008 and to prepare for a potential third year of drought in 2009."
California's population has mushroomed since the last drought, while the water supply has dwindled, he said.
An eight-year drought in the Southwest means California can't depend on Colorado River water to help supply Southern California. And a federal judge's order last year requires that more Northern California water be left in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to aid declining fish populations.
"We're suffering the perfect storm, if you will," said Timothy Quinn, executive director of the Association of California Water Agencies. "The purpose of the governor's declaration is to send a wake-up call."
California has never resorted to statewide rationing during droughts, Quinn said.
Worst-hit so far is the San Joaquin Valley, which could soon merit an emergency declaration because of crop damage, Snow said.
What people can do immediately:
# For indoor conservation High-Efficiency Toilets: EBMUD customers can receive rebates for purchasing qualifying WaterSmart High-Efficiency Toilets, which use less water and remove waste effectively. For toilets using 3.5 gallons per flush or more, devices such as displacement bags, toilet dams, or adjustable flappers save water and are a less expensive alternative to replacing your toilet.
# Shower head: Install a water-efficient shower head that uses no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute. A standard shower head uses 5 to 10 gallons per minute.
# Energy Efficient Washing Machines: A high-efficiency machine uses 30 percent less water and 40 percent to 70 percent less energy. EBMUD customers can get rebates for purchasing and installing approved high-efficiency washing machines from a list of qualifying washers.
# Install Aerators: Low-flow aerators can limit flow rates of 2.2 gallons per minute for kitchen faucets and 1.5 gallons per minute for bathroom faucets. EBMUD provides its customers with free devices.
# Replace worn washers on faucets and look for hidden leaks. Check the reading on your water meter. Don't use any water for 30 minutes, then read the meter. If it shows water used, then you have a hidden leak that needs repair.
For outdoor conservation
# Water yards less frequently but more deeply. Watering to the root depth of your plants creates a healthier and more efficient garden. This means applying a half-inch of water to moisten the soil to a depth of 6 inches.
# Routinely check your irrigation system for leaks. Drip irrigation systems apply water more accurately and at a much lower rate than overhead spray. EBMUD offers rebates to customers who install drip irrigation systems.
# Adjust your irrigation controller according to the seasons. Add days to your watering schedule for the summer season and reduce the number of days as fall approaches.
Source: East Bay Municipal Utility District
Recalling the last time we went through a drought, I can add some simple suggestions:
# Don't automatically serve water at restaurants, make the customers ask for a glass.
# Turn off your faucet while you brush your teeth.
# Shorter showers or use the Navy Shower technique:
A navy shower (or "sea shower") is a method of showering that allows for significant conservation of water and energy. The steps in a basic navy shower are:
The total time for the water being on is typically under two minutes.
A ten-minute shower takes as much as 230 L (60 U.S. gallons) of water, while a navy shower usually takes as little as 11 L (3 U.S. gallons); one person can save 56,000 L (15,000 U.S. gallons) per year.
# Do only full laundry loads, full dishwasher loads.
# Skip washing your car, and when you must, invest in a spray control for your hose or use buckets. Park your car on your lawn and use biodegradable soap.
# In more severe droughts, fine people for running water down gutters or late night extravagant watering. Let your lawn die. Better yet, pull up the grass and put in drought resistant plants. Start taking rinse water out to your garden. Make new housing complexes have some sort of gray water reuse system and restrict the building of pools.
This is the new reality, guys, not Bush's reality. We can do it, we just need to be wise. There's lots of ideas out there that will help us cut back our usage.
Because water wars are coming and we should be ready.
crossposted at American Street.