Southern California - Conservation as a Way of Life
The mud and debris has only been about half way cleaned up in Montecito, CA. from the recent mud slides of a month ago following the torrential rains that followed our fires. It seemed we were in for more rains and possibly more mud slides but everything has changed. We are officially back into a drought. The snow packs in the mountains are thin and we are back onto our over riding trend of less water resources.
Water Usage and the Drought - Our New Reality
Nationally, outdoor water use accounts for about 30 percent of average household water use. In fact, current estimates are that residential outdoor water use accounts for nearly 9 billion gallons of water each day, mainly for
landscape irrigation. This number rises dramatically in hotter and drier parts of the country.
In California, the average jumps to 58% and in dryer regions of the state the percentage can easily go to 85%.
An average lawn requires about 10,000 gallons of water a year to keep grass plush and green. Drought-tolerant plants, trees and native California shrubs need only a fraction of that amount to stay healthy.
After the recent December 2014 Californian rains it is estimated that we are still 11 trillion gallons of water away from where the state was just 4 years ago. This is the number of gallons needed to recover from the drought.
The economic impact are losses of $2.2 billion dollars and over 17,000 jobs for 2014 alone.
What Has Changed
The State Water Resources Control Board approved unprecedented emergency regulations that allow local law enforcement and water agencies to impose a maximum $500-a-day fine on water wasters.
In July, the State Water Resources Control Board implemented new outdoor water restrictions to encourage Californians residents to conserve more water. The new restrictions prohibit the following outdoor water uses:
Washing down driveways and sidewalks with potable (drinking) water.
Causing runoff as a result of excess outdoor watering.
Using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is fitted with a shut-off nozzle.
Using potable water in a fountain or decorative water feature, unless the water is recirculated.
Thus far, cities have not opted to hand out fines but focus on education and notifications for compliance but..... State regulators will also be able to fine urban water agencies $10,000 a day if they fail to implement water conservation plans, such as limiting the number of days people can water outdoor landscaping. The state board will require water agencies to track and report water use based on gallons per person per day beginning in October. The goal for these regulations are a 20% decrease in water consumption. Southern California's water consumption has dropped less than 4%. Look for fines to be implemented sooner than later.
The Good News
The state has enacted, with participating water agencies, generous turf removal rebate programs for the use of Irrigation Controllers/Soil Moisture Sensors and Rain Barrels. Depending on your water district supplier rebates are running between $2 - $3.75 per square foot of lawn. Think of it as being paid to conserve water to help the drought.