03.03.2014 Local News No Comments

Desperate Times for Water by Debbie Cook

Desperate Times

When it comes to water, we are living in a drought of reason and drowning in distortion.  With the help of our politicans and the media, we have whipped the public into a furor ready to approve agricultural bailouts, build tunnels, and blight our coast with desalination plants.  But don’t try to bring up facts.  “Dam the facts, I have an opinion,” is the mantra of the day.

OK, so it just may be the driest year on record.  What of it?  Should we panic and do something desperate or remain calm and do something rational.  In lieu of watching this slow train wreck, here are a few of my suggestions:

1.  Acknowledge that we live in a desert and plant accordingly.  Nothing would make us rip out our lawns faster than tiered water rates.  How long must we procrastinate before they are implemented.

2.  Come on folks in Central and Northern California, get those water meters installed.  It’s hard to take you seriously when you pump your wells dry and refuse to meter your water.

3.  Create a water ethic for the long haul.  MORE water will not solve our problem.  We have plenty of water to waste, we don’t need more to waste.

4.  Capture, capture, capture.  More than 50% of the water we use is for outdoor watering. There is huge potential in the water that we let escape our property.  Brad Lancaster explains the concept in this short video:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3wbyUz4IkjM.

5.  Local government and/or water agencies need to get serious about building relationships with us customers.  A good start would be in producing workshops to teach homeowners and gardeners how to use and adjust their irrigation controllers, how to repair leaks, how to install rain and moisture sensors.

6. Rein in out of control water districts.  The public is not paying attention to these obscure boards where lobbyists and consultants exercise inappropriate influence over decisionmakers.  And there are far too many elected directors who work for the industry in one capacity or another.  Here, conflicts of interest are unchecked and frequent.

7. Establish a “loading order” of preferred water resources.  In guiding energy decisions, the California Energy Commission long ago established a priority loading order consisting of decreasing electricity demand by increasing energy efficiency and demand response.  Under this system, new power plants are the least favored resource. Water deserves a similar treatment.  Conservation and efficiency would be the highest priority followed by storage and reuse and absolutely dead last would be schemes like tunnels and ocean desalination.

8. Dismantle California’s water law (politically impossible but not irrational).  Farmers (aka Big Agriculture) has been getting away with murder with their  prior water rights, wasteful use of water, and subsidized rates.  Big Ag has turned the Central Valley into a toxic dust bowl and we all share in the blame with our “it’s all about me” attitudes.

The more I learn about water, the more I am convinced that we do not have a water supply problem, we have a water behavior problem.  Even rational elected officials will choose the technical responses (tunnels/desalination) over the behavioral solutions because voters don’t like being told how to behave (e.g. plastic bag ban).  We can’t change everyone’s behavior, but I maintain that if 20% of the people change their behavior, most will follow.  Are you in?


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