Are we in a drought? Should I replant my lawn? Can I take more than one shower a week? California is emerging (hopefully) from a long and severe drought. Some parts of the state are even dealing with torrential rainfall and flooding. Last week the State Water Resources Control Board wrestled with whether they should declare the drought over. The Board finally decided it would be wise to wait until May so they would have a better understanding of the total precipitation for the season. As you can see from the graph below, we have had many drought years since the 1990s so there is good reason to be cautious.
So officially, the State and the City are still in a drought. This means we continue with two days a week outside irrigation watering in the winter. If the drought is declared over in May, the emergency restrictions will be eliminated, but the permanent water conservation measures will remain in place. We also need to prepare for the future where we make water conservation a way of life.
We know that our state is facing severe water challenges, and many communities and ecosystems are suffering as a result. Environmental problems, the pressures of a growing population and the effects of climate change are making it extremely difficult to keep water flowing reliably to our economy, our environment, our farms and our communities.
Going forward, we will need to continue to integrate water saving habits into our daily lives. The state is working on new regulations that will establish water budgets for each water agency. The current proposal would allocate 55 gallons per person per day for indoor use and the Board is developing a system to use aerial imagery to develop a water budget for outside irrigation. These rules would not take effect for a number of years, but City staff are preparing for these changes.
Our residents and businesses should prepare as well. Just as Californians have embraced energy efficient light bulbs and recycling, we can adopt habits to reduce our water use inside and outside our homes on a daily basis. As we have seen with energy conservation, small changes in our daily habits can make a big difference for California.
So join in this statewide effort to save California’s water. Plant water-wise or butterfly-friendly landscaping, install a SMART irrigation controller, and reduce the amount of unnecessary turf or replace with drought resistant grass. These are just a few of the easy ways we can all help to “save our water.” Moreover, if you did reduce your showers to once a week, we appreciate your dedication, but suggest that you install a free water conserving showerhead from your local water agency instead.
*Main photo taken in Rancho Sierra Vista that was once a dirt area a few months ago that is now a large pond. Photo courtesy of Conejo Valley Guide