What are you doing about it?
California is just a broken levee or another dry winter away from a full out water supply crisis. And that’s just the issue of having enough water for the bare necessities. That doesn’t count the growing dust bowl in the Central Valley that’s emerged since water supply to farming areas already has been cut. It doesn’t either include the environmental crisis in the delta that many say already is in full swing. If you take that into account, you could argue that we’re already in the middle of a crisis.
Yet, there doesn’t seem to be any awareness about this and most people (and local government) certainly don’t have the feeling of urgency to do something. We can all pull our weight and make a difference with just a few simple changes. Actions like not letting the water run during tooth brushing, limit time in the shower, install water efficient toilets and washing machines are some of the common recommendations. You should certainly do all of that, but there’s a easier target to go after first. The biggest consumer of water for the average Californian family is their landscaping. The lawn alone takes 20,000 gallons per year. That’s about a whole swimming pool of water.
Long term you should phase out plants that require a lot of water to survive and move towards more drought resistant landscaping. In general, this tend sto mean moving towards native plants that already are adapted to the climate.
However, here’s a quick tip that most people can implement right away: Most irrigation system have a way to adjust for seasons. Our system allows us to to set a percentage of the times you’ve programmed for normal irrigation. Many (inlcuding yours truly) have defined “normal” as the level you need to get through the hot parts of the summer. This means that you expend too much water most other days.
If you instead set the normal level to be perfect for the more average summer days you should be fine most of the summer and just need to keep an eye out for the need to water just a little bit extra on the hottest days.
Instead of reprogramming your whole system, you can just use the seasonal adjustment to check what level works for you. In our case we put it at 70% when we normally would’ve turned it to 100% for the summer (of course, we already have it completely turned off during the winter and only gradually increase the run times through the spring)
This approach works very well for us, there’s been a couple of hot spells when I’ve had to manually water a little bit more to supplement the automatic system, but the lawn is definitely still green and doesn’t seem to be hurting at all.
If you figure that the manual add-on watering amounts to 10% (or less), i.e. that we in our case in reality run the system at 80%. Then this strategy still translates into saving at least 4,000 gallons of water for the average family.
Now for your local government, how about foregoing those lawns on the medians of the roads? Plant native plants instead to provide some greenery if necessary. And how about making sure the irrigation systems work as expected, are tuned to the right levels and don’t leak? Just a few blocks from where I live, there’s a leak that’s been there for more than a couple of weeks now…