A Challenge, Not A Death Sentence

The Governor a few days ago announced a mandatory reduction of 25% in water use by California residents. 
 No restrictions on agriculture were imposed.  80%-85% of California water use goes to agriculture. 10% of California water use goes to almonds;  a much larger amount goes to the production of beef--water for beef includes growing Alfalfa for feed.  It was announced that agriculture would have no mandatory restrictions on use;  receive no federal water allotments this year, and must "report" on their water use, as if that somehow made up for not having to conserve.  Agriculture is simply drilling wells to make up for the federal allotments.  
New drip line out front:
 For every one hundred gallons of California water, eighty are used by agriculture;  twenty are used by businesses and residents.  25% savings on twenty gallons is five gallons.   What would be saved if agriculture was forced to use water slightly more efficiently.  What's 25% of eighty gallons? Twenty gallons--the amount used by hundreds of thousands of businesses and thirty eight million residents.
Okay, one small leak is fixed: 
 Let's be fair--agriculture provides food, jobs and improves our country's trade balance--a lot of those almonds are exported outside the US.  What if agriculture was forced to save just 6.25%?  That's also five gallons, equal to the 25% conservation from the thirty eight million people who live in California, and all the businesses. 
I'm not saying this doesn't need to stop:

What's 6.25% of agricultural water use?  Fixing leaky pipes?  A little better monitoring and reduction in run off?  Switching some modest portion of spray irrigation to drip? (25% of spray irrigation is lost to evaporation.)  Is that too much to ask, when so many farmers in California are millionaires or billionaires, or large, profitable corporations?  
Not mine, no.  From up the hill:
NOW, NOW, I'm not saying in any way, shape, or form, that residents should not work harder at conserving.  I'm saying everyone should be asked to conserve.  Asking Big Agriculture to save a modest 6.25% in addition to asking residents to save 25% would double the savings.  
When you are only part of the problem, it's tougher to be all of the solution.
I've been spending a lot of time and energy (Owwww!  My knee!  My shoulder!  My neck!) this spring converting the remainder of our irrigation system to drip;  I'm also reducing or shutting off the irrigation to some zones and either letting all the plants die or moving the plants to areas that are already receiving water, where they can survive.  The last bit of lawn is gone.  Short showers.
Are you thirsty?  I hope not:
Less flushing.  Dishpan water dumped outside in the garden.  Washing and dish washing machines are already high efficiency water saving.  The warm-up-the-shower-water has long been collected in a bucket to water the balcony plants.   I am committed to reducing our water consumption by at least 25%--and will to try to better that.  It's a challenge, not a death sentence. 
Gardeners will meet this challenge, oh yes!  

Comments

  1. I've already given up beef, now I am going to have to give almonds a second look. Do any of the local municipalities reuse waste water?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our county (Orange) recycles ALL waste water back into the aquifer. We have a state-of-the-art treatment plant that converts waste water back into distilled, which is then pumped back into the aquifer.

      Southern California is not so unprepared as the news media makes it out to be. Many new reservoirs have been built since the last severe drought. The local dam upgrade by the Army Corps of Engineers can now catch ALL rainwater and direct it back into the aquifer.

      LA County is finally planning to do more to catch the hundreds of billions of gallons of rainwater that are normally dumped into the ocean after a storm via the concrete channel that was the Los Angeles river, and direct that rainwater back into local aquifers. I am hopeful for the long term.

      Gave up beef decades ago. Much of the almond crop is exported, and 40% goes into breakfast cereal.

      Delete
  2. You've answered the questions I had upon hearing the news with a reasoned analysis. Unless agriculture is included these restrictions will make little difference. Drip irrigation is not only water conserving it means healthier produce, less diseased foliage, leaching of nutrients, and fewer weeds to spray. If they can't see that, at least they could fix a few pipes.

    I'll be interested to follow how you deal with further reductions in water use. It seems you have cut so much already.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. People need to understand the real situation, and realize that government must balance no-holds-barred capitalism with the needs of residents and the environment. Balance, balance, balance, not all power to business or all to people, but balance between the two.

      If I end up with a garden of one rose bush, one Oak tree, a few Aloidendron and a lot of boulders, well, it will still be a garden.

      Delete
  3. You go gardener! I heard this story about the new California restrictions not pertaining to big agribusiness and thought of you gardeners in that state. Interesting.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. People need to be more aware of what goes on--gardeners certainly pay more attention than the rest of the population when it comes to bee colony collapse disorder, water, bird populations, etc.

      Delete
  4. Thank you for voicing so many of my own frustrations with the new rules. Based on a study my husband just did of our water usage, it appears we met the 25% reduction with the steps we took in 2014. There's nonetheless more we can do, like putting more of our irrigation system on drip and taking out the remaining lawn (most of which is weeds anyway). However, while I'm sensitive to the interests of the agricultural industry, I do think choices need to be made about what California grows - the water hogs like alfalfa and almonds should be grown in areas that receive ample water and California should transition to sustainable crops.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think what I was trying to say is that Ag could be more efficient at very small cost.

      I'm preparing to do a more meticulous examination of my own watering, sitting out on the driveway watching the water meter tick as the different zones run. That should be interesting! Do you miss your front lawn at all? I don't miss any of our little lawns that we had at all. Mulch looks better.

      Delete
    2. No, I don't miss the front lawn. From the time we moved in, I intended to get rid of all of it - in manageable increments. After last year's effort, I was hoping to hold off on the remaining 2 strips of lawn until next year but, as I've already reduced their water, they're becoming increasingly ugly patches of mostly weeds. I don't think my husband and I have the energy for another full-blown lawn removal project on the scale of last year's effort but maybe I can find a service that will do better than remove the top inch of grass. At a dinner we attended last night, a former landscaper told me I should just use Round-up but I've avoid it this long, I'd hate to cave now. The same landscaper told me about the amount of rice grown in California. I'd heard about the alfalfa and the almonds but not rice! It depressed me all over again.

      Delete
    3. I had my mow-blower cut my last little patch short last summer and I turned off that zone and just left it. In January I was able to pull it all out by hand--what was left of it, 95% all dead. The plastic netting was the difficult stuff to pull out.

      The rice, I think there was a Huell Howser or something on the rice--it's not as bad as I thought, its in places that are below the surrounding Delta level, so they flood easily and then the water all goes back into the Delta, something like that. It was land no one could do anything with anyway, and water that was just there anyway. But perhaps that was just a part of the rice fields...it was a very interesting show. .

      Delete
  5. "When you are only part of the problem, it's tougher to be all of the solution." What a great post - I could not agree more!!! All power to you. I also agree with what Kris P suggested above - I heard an NPR report on the almond growing in CA the other day. She raises a great point, and we should all pay attention to our water use, whether we be Californians, or not.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Anna K. We seem to be paying more attention culturally to consequences of consumer society--the world is getting smaller and more crowded with our own species, and more affects us than it used to.

      Delete
  6. Yes, a challenge. Let's experiment. Let's see what works and what doesn't. Since first reading this post last night, I have been boning up on California and its water and what it means for us.

    I love Hoover Boo's garden to bits. I wish to emulate it, but haven't the same resources, much hotter here, no fog, different water restrictions, very small urban lot on a slope. But I still try. I bought eight new rose bushes; they are still in posts with saucers. No sense to put them in the ground now.

    I worry, for example, how her roses will react to drip irrigation. Will it cause excessive growth and thereby shorten the lives of the plants? Will it provide a better environment for fungal disease and insect growth? Will it be perfect, just what they need liking water as they do? This is a wait and see thing, hoping it's not too late to correct any damage. Source: Las Pilitas web site

    There will be different rates for different cities. Those with higher per-capita water use and few or no conservation programs will have a higher reduction goal. Those with lower per-capita use and robust conservation initiatives will have lower goals. Some districts may have already cut a lot so they may only be asked to cut back 10 percent and another may have done little and need to cut 30 percent. Example: Monterey Park decreased its water usage between January 2013 and 2015 by -12.06% while Tustin increased theirs by +2.50%. Source: KPCC

    Be careful what we wish for item: Nursery plants as an agricultural crop. The state’s top 10 agricultural products are: milk ($6.9 billion), grapes ($4.5 billion), almonds ($4.35 billion), nursery plants ($3.54 billion), ..." Ha-ha. Oh, my! I inserted this just to lighten up the discussion. Grin. Source: watereducation.org

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Excellent comment, thank you.

      Put the roses into the ground. They'll use much less water there, and roses want cool roots. Roots are much hotter in pots. Most of my roses have been on drip since 2000 and you see the results. The ones on drip have less fungal problems than the ones on spray (now formerly on spray).

      Nursery plants--a lot of them use "reclaimed" non-potable water. That's something. Do you have the link for the KPCC article? I would like to read that. Thanks!

      Delete
    2. http://www.scpr.org/news/2015/04/02/50747/california-drought-restrictions-faq-what-the-gover/
      California drought restrictions FAQ: What the governor's executive water order means for you

      Great relief knowing the roses do well on drip. Thanks for the advice on planting.

      Delete
    3. Thanks for the link. Informative article, thank you. I did have a few issues with some bits in it--for example:

      "Though they look like water gluttons, many cemeteries and golf courses are actually pretty water-friendly because they recycle their water. That's why you often see huge water features at golf courses with recirculating fountains."

      Really? Huge water features, even with recirculating fountains, have a significant amount of evaporation, especially in places like Palm Springs. And then there's those acres and acres of turf...

      Also I think the article lets Agriculture off easy--for example:
      "Last year, the state's system provided only 15 percent of requested allocations, and that figure is expected to rise to just 20 percent this year."
      If you as a grower want X amount of water and you know the state is only going to give you 15% of what you ask, you simply ask for more. Also why is Ag getting a larger allocation when residents are being forced to cut back?

      This is no way a criticism of your comments, Jane, I am just reading articles with a more intense eye these days. Many reporters these days seem to accept what they are told without questioning it.

      Delete
    4. You say: "Many reporters these days seem to accept what they are told without questioning it." This is so true. I've been looking for answers to the question: "Why are the farmers (and golf courses) getting off so easily?" There are many different answers, mostly economic, having to do with money, from many different reporters mostly from big newspapers and magazines from out-of-state, sometimes even contradicting themselves. Most are saying farmers have already had cutbacks, or if farmers have to pay more for water, food prices will go up. They are accepting this! They don't live here as ordinary citizens or ratepayers as they are called.

      I questioned that exact same statement about the golf courses and fountains. Doesn't matter, does it? You've hit the nail on the head. The evaporation rate is the same whether the water is potable or not. Wish I could find the source of where I read this yesterday, but I can't: Coastal evaporation rate is around 4%, inland rate is 7%, while desert rate is 12%. When I worked for Department of Water Resources Planning Division in the early 80s, Palm Springs and Palm Desert had the highest water usage per person in the state. Still do. For every inch of water delivered to the surface of a golf course or large lawn, you had to put out one and one half inches.

      Delete
    5. Another great comment, I agree. The number of 400,000 acres left fallow last year also made me look around at numbers--the number of crop-producing acres in California is about 27 million acres; wow, 400,000 sounds like a lot, but 400,000 /27 million is 1.5%. 1.5%!!! That all of a sudden isn't so much.

      Flood irrigation is still used on 40% of California crops. It was in the LA Times yesterday. 40%!

      I read that Brown used up a lot of political capital last year getting Big Ag to agree on eventual curbs on groundwater extractions--most of which will not be phased in until the 2040s. I know it must be difficult, and that he is trying. He does seem to be taking the long view of things.

      Delete
  7. What is the reasoning do you think behind not requiring the agriculture biz share in the cutbacks?

    ReplyDelete
  8. I'm seeing this as mostly a step in the right direction, big ag politics aside. Politicians have been terrified of recommending necessary collective action since Jimmy Carter was drummed out of the White House for suggesting we turn down thermostats a bit and wear sweaters indoors, so I think this is a brave move by Brown, even if he is up to his term limit. (And I would add to your list of water-saving tips keeping a 5-minute timer near the shower -- ours is a little plastic minute-glass.) I think Brown's move is a good start that will hopefully bring pressure to bear on wasteful water practices beyond the residential, e.g. the amount used in fracking, Big Ag, etc.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jimmy C. is turning out to have been way ahead of his time. Brown is doing better 2nd time around..I just wish he'd been a little more assertive towards Big Ag, even in a token way.

      Delete
  9. Brilliant commentary on the current situation. I couldn't agree more. We're doing pretty much the same things, hauling gray water from the showers into the yard, capturing the water from rishing dishes, etc.

    We still have a small patch of lawn in front of the house where the girls like to lie and read. It gets irrigated once a week and is doing OK. It's not lush and the weeds are starting to overtake the turf grass in spots, but it still does its job. And if push comes to shove, I won't have any hesitation letting it go.

    But it hurts to see a certain neighbor washing his wife's luxury car once a week and in the process hosing down the driveway and a bench by the driveway. Not to mention their pristine front lawn that gets watered 3+ times a week. I've been tempted to say something but don't want to alienate them in the interest of keeping the neighborhood friendly. And yet...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Gardeners are the ones who are really aware of water use, and I think we appreciate agriculture and farmer's needs also.

      It's quite exasperating to see the runoff around here, because we have super-high rates due to a for-profit water company. People complain about the water company, but you look at their property early in the morning and there's water pouring off their lawns and into the gutters.

      Delete
  10. The area where I live was put on water restrictions a few years back because the dam which supplies our water was below capacity.
    Hand watering with a hose was banned during daylight hours, no sprinklers, spray irrigation was banned and drip irrigation only between certain hours. I learned a lot about conserving water, like you I collect the cooler shower water in a bucket for the garden, I limit the time I am in the shower. In a country as dry as ours it makes sense to conserve as much water as possible. It would make me angry to see a sprinkler left on a front lawn or garden with too much of the water going on driveways and foot paths and running into gutters, a total waste of water. I don't water my lawn now it has to rely on any rain that falls, it looks a little patchy in parts but seems to survive.
    xoxoxo ♡

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember hearing on the news a few years ago how your country was in severe drought--I hope it is better now. Conserving is easy once we practice a little--it can be done!

      Delete
  11. We've been hearing about this on the news, but surprisingly weak on the details. It's good to hear the straight scoop from a concerned citizen.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thankfully there is a lot more coverage and information on California water these days. We need to know more.

      Delete
  12. Reading backwards on your blog so now I know you are already doing the things I mentioned on a more recent April post.

    I will add that our car washing is around twice a year. Light-colored cars in the desert are a blessing.

    It should be noted that pistachios are watered with drip.

    Also, many cities across the state have had lemon and orange trees razed. So, agriculture has had some cuts, too. I know some farmers won't be getting any water. It does depend on the age of their water rights.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From what I've been reading some of the small farmers are being hammered. The big corporate farms are drilling wells and planting more almonds.

      I had a black car for 19 years. Shady parking spots only!

      Delete

Post a Comment

Always interested in your thoughts.

Any comments containing a link to a commercial site with the intent to promote that site will be deleted. Thank you for your understanding on this matter.

Popular Posts