Water Rationing: What’s Fair?

April 3, 2015 | By | Comments (8)

water-kick-xI was happy this week to see that California Gov. Jerry Brown has mandated a 25 percent reduction in water use. I’m all behind it—it’s been more than two years since I’ve watered either my front or my back lawn in San Francisco and much longer than that since I’ve washed my car at any place that doesn’t use recycled water.

So I worry, as I’m guessing many others do, that once again water districts across the state will ask, or more likely this time require, their customers to cut back their consumption by 5, 10, possibly 30 percent. And my concern here is that this punishes residents and businesses who have already cut back water use smartly and severely and rewards those who still insist on watering their lawns, washing their cars, and using their showers to wake up or soak their aching muscles.

I hope that water districts will look at the number of people living in each house and say you get this many gallons every month for each family member. That strikes this Libra as fair.

What do you think is fair?


  1. JBannis

    Like the last time, the controls will involve a certain allotment by household size, higher rates beyond that allotment, and penalties for not cutting back.

    I’ve lived in San Francisco almost all my life and have water conservation ingrained in me. My showers last less than 3 minutes. My garden is tiny and watered only once a week. I seriously wonder where a 25% cut would come from.

    Meanwhile, agriculture pays subsidized rates for water and they are far less than what residents and other businesses pay. Sure their supply has been cut back, but without a financial incentive all these years, I suspect they’ve not had much push to make big changes in the way they use water.

    April 8, 2015 at 11:45 pm
  2. Betsy Ross

    In Tuloumne County we had mandatory 50% reductions last year. And we did it. When faced with $500 fines and suspension of water, one gets creative about reducing. At first, water districts forbade watering of lawns. Then it was just a percentage of water reduction, your choice about how you used your ration. By then, our lawns were dead, but it appealed to us that there were no restrictions beyond our 50% reduction. By the time the Governor asked for 20% reduction, it was a huge gift to get that water back.

    Not so in the Palms Springs, a lush community in the middle of a desert, the Coachella Valley water districts not only did not EVER reduce their water consumption by 20%, but increased consumption by 11%. Just covering a small pool when not in use saves 1,000 gallons a month. Cathedral City cited some elderly residents who let their lawns die. A Desert Water District board member quipped that they were in the business of selling water, not restricting it’s use.

    Just like the agriculture argument, Californians will point elsewhere. For those who don’t understand, Ag reductions are actually underway, as farmers and ranchers can’t afford the water it will take for an additional year of drought. This week ranchers began the premature slaughtering of their herds. Not only will this beef be more expensive, it won’t have the quality, as the water shortage now hasn’t supplied the tall grass cattle need for marbling. And products formerly grown and raised here, will now be coming to us from the Midwest. Transportation costs alone will boost costs on a lesser quality product. Even if you are vegetarian, prepare for increased food costs and the ripple affects from a handicapped Ag industry.

    April 5, 2015 at 9:00 pm
  3. Berdj Joseph Rassam

    I agree that your recommendation is the only fair thing to do. It would also be a balanced approach if the extremists in our society stopped blocking new methods of reserving water for dry periods.

    April 4, 2015 at 6:02 pm
  4. John Reagan

    80 percent of the water used in California flows into the state’s multi-billion-dollar agricultural sector. The 20 percent left for urban use is split between homes, businesses, and government.

    During the last drought, building codes and incentives caused ‘us ordinary people’ to go to low flow toilets, water conserving shower heads, dishwashers and washers. There really isn’t much more that the citizens of California can do to reduce consumption any more. The last I heard is that households use 4% of the total water available. Even if you stop flushing toilets are taking a dump, and shower every third day (Please don’t do either..Thanks!), stop watering your lawn, etc, and actually reduce household use by 25% (Good luck!), that translates into a 1% savings. That’s absurd. The real savings have to come from agriculture, which has been given a free hand. a 10% reduction in agriculture would translate to an 8% savings. Maybe we need to stop water intensive agriculture, such as rice farming (my Rep, Doug LaMalfa for example is a rice farmer.) which involves flooding fields.

    Oh, BTW, if you were thinking about collecting and re-using ‘grey water’ ..forget it. All run off from gutters and down drains etc is owned by your local water districts. My runoff is owned by Nevada Irrigation District for example.

    Collecting Rainwater Now Illegal in Many States | Politics http://beforeitsnews.com/politics/2013/04/collecting-rainwater-now-illegal-in-many-states-2513766.html

    April 4, 2015 at 1:12 pm
  5. stellabarbone

    We have 100% drip irrigation and only a tiny entrance garden that absolutely needs summer water. Without a little supplemental water, the rest of our yard will look brownish until the rains come again, but it will survive. (Hurray for native buckwheats!) Even if I cut out that supplemental watering my neighbors on either side will continue to have emerald lawn.

    It’s too bad that the state can’t control agricultural water, though. The number one use is alfalfa which is mostly exported to China for livestock feed.

    April 4, 2015 at 9:31 am
  6. wendy colschen

    stop fracking and cancel the contract with Nestle’s….that should save millions of gallons and reduce the burden on the people!!! duh

    April 3, 2015 at 8:27 pm
  7. JBannis

    In the 1970s, the rationing plan was based partly on household size and partly on the amount of water you had been using. Of course, the latter is unfair to those of us who had been conserving.

    I’ve lived in California for over forty years and water conservation is an ingrained habit. I can’t figure out how I’m going to cut another 25%.

    BTW, the request to cut water consumption would be more effective if it also applied to our commercial interests, especially agriculture. Agriculture pays far less per gallon than residential users and have long had far less incentive to conserve water.

    April 3, 2015 at 5:35 pm
  8. Tv

    I agree with your take. The same percentage reduction for all is not fair to those who already conserve.

    All users should have water meters. It is ridiculous that this is not the case in Sacramento.

    And the reductions should go into effect statewide. It sickened me to see all the green lawns in LA during the late 80s drought when we let everything go brown in the Bay Area.

    Turf that is strictly ornamental and not used for play needs to the the first to go. Particularly on public lands and cemeteries. Perhaps golf courses can limit the green to only the greens.

    April 3, 2015 at 4:31 pm

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s