Water, Water, Every-, er, Nowhere?

I remember back in school, when one kid seemed to be taking too long at the drinking fountain, the next person would yell “Save some
for the fishes!” Is the newest appropriate response instead, “Save
some for the Californians!”?

Over the past year, a number
of California cities and counties have been kicking into the water
conservation effort, with water conservation programs, rebates, free
water-saving tips and diagnostics, and more. Placer County’s American
Water recently began asking customers to take part in a “voluntary
conservation” measure, while the City of Beverly Hills enacted two
new water conservation ordinances at the end of Mach.

Beverly Hills put
in place two new plans to save water: one concerns outside water use
(the Efficient Landscape ordinance) and “start irrigation controllers,”
which are also known as “smart sprinkler controllers” or “weather-based
irrigation devices. These are basically home (and office) sprinkler
systems that are able to independently gage when to save water, and
curtail excess water use. The new rule makes it mandatory for all newly
installed or updated “landscaped areas to be equipped with smart irrigation
controllers… [which] manage landscaping watering needs based on weather
and site specific requirements.”

And to enforce this new water-saving
rule, residents and property owners will be obligated to obtain new
permits, submit landscaping plans and obtain certification from designation
experts. In the plan, property owners must “plant materials… according
to similar water needs, where feasible,” must plan to address “erosion
and runoff controls” in their plan, and must make sure that “irrigation
systems are equipped with smart irrigation controllers.”

Irrigation experts have estimated
that 50 percent or more of the average homeowner’s water consumption
is due to irrigation and outside water use. Smart sprinklers may cost
a pretty penny, but often may save significantly more than they cost;
and with the many rebates offered by California water districts, the
price of such water-saving devices is often slashed by a significant
percentage. The city of BH estimates that smart sprinklers can save
13,500 gallons of water every year, in addition to saving more than
$700 on water bills.

Beverly Hills also
put into play a second ordinance, which requires residents selling any
property within the bounds of the city, to retrofit their properties
“with low consumption showerheads, toilets, faucets, and urinals at
the time a property is sold.”

Many water districts have been
getting involved with water conservation issues, from offering generous
rebates on the purchase of water-saving items (including the smart sprinkler
controllers, low-flow toilets, specialized faucets and shower sprinklerheads,
laundry machines and dryers) to offering water conservation tips, free
seminars on landscaping and garden tours of landscapes with native/drought-tolerant
plants, offering contests and prizes, and sending out representatives
for free water-saving “house calls” to help homeowners assess their
individual water needs and where they can save more water. These days,
anything to save money is welcome; saving water most definitely translates
to saving money. And with the threat of water rationing, if the current
situation does not improve through spring, the threat of elevated water
prices in California is a reality.

California congressional leaders
such as Ken Calvert have simultaneously been lobbying for federal restrictions
on water pumping to be removed or loosened, in the golden, but dry,
state of California. This call for loosened restrictions came as a result
of the recent judge-ordered ruling that the San Joaquin Delta be basically
locked down from Southern California, which relies on the San Joaquin
area for quite a bit of its water reserves. Ostensibly, the ruling was
made after it was found that a certain fish may have been going down
in population, with the pumping. Others have argued that the well-being
of Southern California residents (remember, Los Angeles was once a desert)
is more vital than the call of environmentalism. In 2008, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger declared the state to be in a state of emergency, after
a dry spell officially brought the Golden State into a drought.

Calvert, a representative based
in Riverside County, has cut his teeth on matters intersecting technology,
water and government. Calvert is on the Water and Power Subcommittee,
for which he was the chairman. In that capacity, he dealt with matters
of Western water issues and federal rights, alternative (water-related)
technologies, and previously introduced the Water Supply, Reliability
and Environmental Improvement Act. According to Congressman Calvert’s
official Web site, one of his goals for the 110th Congress
include “creating long-term solutions to California’s energy and water
problems.”

In the past, Calvert has sponsored
and introduced legislation to promote the building and maintenance of
facilities near the Santa Ana River and San Juan Capistrano, for water
treatment, recycling and other irrigation projects.

There are many reasons to save
water in California, and fortunately, there are also many ways to save
water, on a daily basis. Further consideration and planning is needed
to ensure that enough water continues to be provided to California residents.
If a ruling to close off the San Joaquin Delta is upheld, perhaps the
same judge can help think up a way to ensure the continued flow of imported
water to Southern California.