WATER CRISIS - While Time may be infinite, the ongoing drought in California, and the entire American West, is showing us water may not be infinite.
This should not be new information, yet water authorities are just now acting to reduce water usage in the state. This should have been done last year when taking into account the drought has stretched back years with a just couple of years respite.
The restrictions from the Metropolitan Water District will affect some, but not all areas of Southern California. Restrictions and mandates should be applied to all. No one can predict how long this drought will last, and while some water agencies may have water stored now, if not restricted now, that water may not be available in the near future.
To save water, one restriction is to reduce outdoor watering to one day a week. There are also discussions of reducing household water use to 80 gallons a day.
During the restrictions for the last officially noted drought I shifted my watering behaviors to reduce water consumption. The change began while waiting for the water to get hot, and realizing a lot of good water was running down the drain, wasting a very precious resource.
With a bucket I began a process of placing it into the sink and running the water into it until hot water started flowing. This water was saved, cooled overnight, and used to water outside plants.
This process evolved to doing the dishes to where I now fill six buckets of water when doing the dishes-I wait until evening to wash the dishes at one time. Water is collected in the buckets waiting for the hot water, rinsing, and then washing the dishes. No soap or food products go into the water. This water is cooled overnight, and then transferred to a two-gallon watering can.
The yards have been replaced with low water and drought tolerant plants. I have some natives, but I’ve killed off some. I water the plants in the yards and in pots with the saved dish water every day on a three-day rotating cycle. The grass lawn was not watered and has mostly disappeared.
The yards are now plants and dirt paths, no crushed gravel which gets too hot and adds to the increasing city heat, and no tree bark-who wants to chop down a Redwood Tree or some magnificent tree so its bark can be on a yard? I like to stand and walk in the yards on dirt, not on gravel or chipped trees.
In the bathroom I now use one-half gallon milk jugs to collect the water as it turns from cold to warm. This takes one gallon.
My March 2022 LADWP bill shows my water usage at 8HCF, and last year at this time period it was 15HCF. I am in the lowest water tier for LADWP. Billing units are expressed in Hundred Cubic Feet (HCF). One HCF is equal to 748 gallons of water.
Math warning, proceed with caution, the calculations may not be correct. If we are to be restricted to 80 gallons a day, and with the LADWP bill sent bi-monthly, for sake of argument that is a 60-day billing cycle, for that period we will be restricted to 4,800 gallons of water each two-month billing cycle.
In my last bill I used 8HCF which is (could be) 5,984 gallons in the 60-day billing cycle. It looks like I use 93.5 gallons of water a day. But this includes water out of the tap to first wash dishes, and then repurposing that same water for outdoor watering. I do not use the outside faucets or line irrigation to water outdoors.
Should I water outside one day a week, with filling six buckets a night, I would need to store 42 buckets of water for the one day a week watering. Obviously, this is ridiculous.
With my watering style, the mandatory restrictions of one day a week do not seem realistic.
And will the no-mandate truckers come out for this new mandate for watering?
If outdoor watering is restricted to one day a week, what is to stop people from watering all day for that one day? This would not save water.
From photos in the real estate sections of the Los Angeles Times, Southern California is filled with mega-mansions and mega-estates, and while not mega estates of various sizes, whose landscaping’s filled with lush greenery and rolling lawns. These properties are highly water intensive, and in the dry Southern California highly inappropriate.
With one day a week watering what would stop these property owners, some of whom are part time residents, from having their estates soaked for one day to maintain the illusion of living in a wet climate?
With the drought there must be mandatory water restrictions, but those restrictions must be based on the volume of water used, not time of water usage. To encourage less water use, those in the lower levels, or LADWP tiers, should be rewarded with lower rates of use, and then steep increases in penalties for those rising on the tiers using more water.
Year-round green lawns in Southern California are on the same fantasy plane as Disneyland. Realtors, home flippers and developer’s false narratives of year-round green lawns must end and change to the reality of limited water supplies. Our Mediterranean climate is not subtropical, which was a very enticing selling phrase for Southern California since the early 20th Century.
Global warming, and the climate crisis, will increase heat in the already warm and increasingly hot American Southwest. This heat will more severely dry out the land with greater evaporation.
Moreover, global warming is creating more wind events of greater wind speeds, and this also dries out the land.
Water agencies need to look at the reality of human behavior in the reality of the climate crisis. Many people will try to skirt the one day a week water rationing. This will not work.
To make water use reductions a reality, the reductions must be based on costs to the consumers based on the property’s water meter, or meters, not on how much water can be wasted in a given period of time.
(Matthew Hetz is a Los Angeles native. He is a transit rider and advocate, a composer, music instructor, and member and President and Executive Director of the Culver City Symphony Orchestra.)