Californians Waste A Lot Of Water

By Roy L Hales

Screen-shot-2014-03-18-at-3.43.47-PMWater is a finite resource. According to Stephanie Feldstein of the Center of Biological Diversity, “Every time you turn on the tap, that water is coming from rivers, lakes and streams that wildlife depend on.” With Levi Strauss & Co’s help, the Center created the “Don’t Be a Drip” to identify some of the most wasteful activities and counties in the United States. Despite a four year long drought, they discovered Californians waste a lot of water.

Californians Waste A Lot Of Water

Click on image to access the Don't Be a drip website
Click on image to access the Don’t Be a drip website

The drought plagued state only ranks sixth worst overall, with the average inhabitant using 108 gallons per day (gpd).

The worst states are: Arizona (168 gpd), Utah (167 gpd), Wyoming (144 gpd), Nevada (134 gpd) and Colorado (111 gpd).

However four of America’s ten worst “water hog” counties are in California:

  • Riverside County – where the Myoma Dunes Mutual Water Company reports that its customers use 379 gallons per person, per day. This county is an area that loves water-sucking landscaping with more than 7,400 public swimming pools, spas and water features, and 11 golf courses within a single five-mile area of the Coachella Valley desert. Riverside County gets its water from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta, where there are  20 endangered species …
  • Sacramento County – where one of the water agency’s top FAQs is “My lawn is turning brown. Can I sue the County for this?”
  • San Bernardino County – where The situation has become so dry that along with fellow water hog Riverside County, San Bernardino officials launched a “Your Future is More Important Than Your Lawn” campaign.
  • Orange County – where water usage may be as high as 140 gallons per person, per day. It’s been reported that many residents are ignoring water restrictions

“Unfortunately, some Californians haven’t been willing to trade in their lush landscaping and sweeping green lawns to save water, which is why so many California counties top the water hog list. Excessive water use has contributed to the stress on California’s water resources for years, and although people are now more aware of the consequences of excessive water use because of the drought, many are unwilling to change their lifestyles or aren’t well informed about how much water can be wasted through everyday habits. And, like many other environmental threats, it’s all-too-easy to think that the drought is someone else’s problem or that there’s little that individuals can do to make a difference, but we hope that the “Don’t Be a Drip” project will show that we all play a role in water conservation,” said Feldstein.

HERO PACE

Photo Courtesy Renovate America
Photo Courtesy Renovate America

Her news release was issued the same day that Renovate America, which originated in Riverside County, announced its’ HERO PACE Water-and Energy-Efficiency Programs are now available 37 Californian counties.

“Water conservation in our homes is the first step to dealing with our water crisis. In fact, it’s one of highest-impact actions a homeowner can take. The HERO Program provides innovative financing for residential water-efficiency renovations, including in-home upgrades and outdoor water-use projects such as installing drip irrigation and artificial turf lawns. This type of project can significantly reduce monthly water bills, and they ultimately reduce the water use in our homes for years to come with one thoughtful retrofit,” said Severn Williams, of Public Good PR.

His client’s HERO program has been used to help fund residential efficiency projects in “almost 47,000 households,” which isn’t many for the entire state.

There are other PACE programs in California, like California First and Ygrene, but HERO is by far the biggest.

PACE programs offer to finance “100 percent of the home improvement, requiring no upfront cash outlay; the term of the financing is based on the useful life of the product, up to 20 years, lowering the size of monthly payments; and collection is conducted through regular property tax payments.  The products installed must meet federal and state efficiency standards, enabling homeowners to lower monthly utility bills and help pay for the cost of the improvement over time.”

Conservation & Recycling

Click on Image To Access Don't Be A Drip Website
Click on Image To Access Don’t Be A Drip Website

While this is good “news” for people who need residential efficiency upgrades, many Californians simply have not yet come to terms with the idea they need to change their water usage habits.

According to a poll cited on Don’t Be A Drip.org,  95% of San Diego’s inhabitants think it is their civic duty to conserve water – until  it gets hot! Then they worry about their lawns. Earlier this year Matt O’Malley, Waterkeeper for San Diego Coastkeeper, pointed out that about half of the residential water use is outside the home.  He believes the cheapest and most efficient route to tackle the drought is water conservation and recycling.

Don’t Be A Drip.org

Click on Image To Access Don't Be A Drip Website
Click on Image To Access Don’t Be A Drip Website

“The reality is that water is a finite resource, and careless human water consumption is altering our ecosystems, destroying natural habitats and sapping water sources for birds, fish, mammals and other wildlife,” said Feldstein.

The campaign website (www.DontBeADrip.org) includes an interactive map of high water-use counties, the majority of which are in California, and infograms showing how much water is required for different household activities.

People can also share colourful graphics with messages like “I take shorter showers for the sandhill crane,” or “I water less to leave more for the arroyo toad” to show their commitment to saving water for wildlife.

Top image: Vattenspridare by Sara Bergström via Flickr (CC By SA, 2.0 License)

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