The unscientific Daily Republic website poll this week asked, “Should the state enforce mandatory water restrictions with fines?” As of this writing, “no” was getting 57 percent of the vote. Sorry no voters, but you’ve lost.
The State Water Resources Control Board on Tuesday approved local law enforcement and water agencies to levy fines up to $500 a day for those who waste water. The move comes after it was found that 70 percent of water districts had not approved water restrictions, even though we’re suffering under the third-worst drought in California history.
Those watering their lawns until water runs down the sidewalk and street are subject to fine. Washing cars without a hose with a shutoff nozzle is a no-no. Hosing down driveways and other flat surfaces and running fountains with potable water are restricted.
The sad thing is most of these so-called restrictions are things we should be doing even when we’re not enduring drought conditions. Getting a low-flow shower head drops water usage from five gallons per minute to 2½. Solanosaveswater.org also has tips like only watering plants and lawns every other day between 2 and 6 a.m.
But what compounds the problem is that issues that used to be bipartisan or nonpartisan – like conservation, championed by Republican and Democratic presidents alike – now often deteriorate into partisanship. Efforts to clean and preserve our environment and protect resources are often pitted against climate-change deniers, job creation and an absurd new definition of liberty.
The National Climate Assessment released in May says that drought is likely to be a persistent condition because of climate change. I’m afraid that might make climate-change deniers believe the drought is overblown. But it’s worse than people think.
Lake Berryessa is at 70 percent capacity and is expected to be at 50 percent a year from now.
For some reason, whenever the government announces guidelines or suggestions – whether it be serving healthier school lunches, exercising more or driving less – a certain segment of the public views it as an egregious assault by Big Brother on their freedom.
These folks seem determined to preserve their way of nonpreservation.
We also found out Tuesday that despite Gov. Jerry Brown’s call for Californians to take shorter showers and limit water use, water usage actually crept up 1 percent.
That said, at least 80 percent of water usage in California is agricultural. So while the general public shouldn’t waste water, if the state really wants to conserve, it has to go where the water usage is. The majority of California farms irrigate their crops by flooding their fields. If switching to a drip system were mandatory, we’d save a lot more water than everyone limiting his or her showers.
Some have suggested Californians (and presumably the rest of the nation) change our diets. Since it actually takes a lot more water to produce meat than vegetables, if we all reduced or eliminated our meat intake, we’d save a lot of water. Plus, since livestock produce more greenhouse gases than cars and factories, it would be great for the environment, too.
But realistically, we haven’t been able to get people to take shorter showers. Do we really think they’re going to give up burgers and barbecue? Peace.
Kelvin Wade, a former Fairfield resident, is the author of “Morsels” Vols. I and II and lives in Sacramento. Email him at [email protected]