By Barbara Kessler
The Save Our Water website is drenching Californians online, on Facebook and on the radio airwaves, with urgent warnings to save water.
At least the alarm bells are ringing. The state is suffering an historic drought, and meanwhile, as much as we know and agree that water is “our most precious resource,” we’re still only half listening.
SOW (we reap what we sow?) is tasked with breaking through our deafness on this issue and our habitual waste of water because California (though it’s not alone) has no choice but to pare back. Virtually every last acre of the state is listed as in severe, extreme or exceptional drought. In addition, the human population long ago breached the threshold for the California water system, setting up this hair-raising outlook:
The state’s water system was originally built to serve a population of just 18 million. But today it must serve 38 million. And may have to accommodate 60 million by 2050.
Yikes! Let’s hope the next generation and the Pope do something about that projected population increase.
So the water situation is dire. The good news is that SOW, formed in 2009, is doing some great PR work on behalf of water.
It’s promoting one of my pet solutions to excessive water use, letting the car go dirty.
I rarely wash my cars. I’m sure my neighbors are unappreciative of my sacrifice. But honestly, what better way to save both time and water? I believe it’s possible too that the film of dirt and pollen left to encase the family vehicles protects their finish from solar radiation, though I can’t be sure about this.
Now, if you must, there are car washes that recycle their water. But you have to seek them out. Many car washes don’t recycle.
I like using a waterless car wash even better. I’m always surprised that people still seem not to know about this option. When I really want the car sparkling, I use the Bayes Waterless Car Wash that’s lasted for a couple years. I think it works just fine, and the price is reasonable at around $15 or $16. (The link is to Ace Hardware, which are locally owned stores. It’s also available at many other places.)
Recently I found another waterless car wash, Eco Touch Waterless Car Wash. It’s available at many green retailers and a few others. I’m planning on trying it soon.
Both of these car washes are made with biodegradable ingredients.
The SOW site offers many more tips. Some are just creative and industrious, like taking the water in which you soaked your beans or cooked your potatoes to pour on your house plants or vegetable garden. (Make sure it’s cooled!) This is clean, green living because you’re doing on-site recycling with Germanic efficiency. You can also take shower water to the landscape if you collect overflow in a bucket and are using a mild soap like Dr. Bronner’s or some bar soap made the old-fashioned way.
Where SOW really hits the mark, though, is in its “Real People, Real Savings” feature, where Californians have started to showcase some of their water-saving landscapes that are dominated by native plants and hardscapes. Some of these architectural displays are so beautiful, and so much more interesting than just a rug of turf. Turf may have it’s place, like in sports settings, but who says it needs to be in your front yard? Take a look at Judy Rodriguez’ front yard. It’s bee-friendly and bee-utiful.
Outdoor irrigation generally consumes 40 to 70 percent of a household’s water usage, according to various experts. The US Geological Survey says outdoor watering uses five to 10 gallons of water per minute. So you do the math.
Californians will figure it out. They’ve led the way on many issues, and their agriculture, tourism and other industries are at stake. (Speaking of agriculture, if we all ate a lot less meat, that would save huge amounts of water. But we’ll open this can of worms on another day.)
Everyone in the US better hope California finds a path out of the woods — most of the domestic produce is grown there in the long, fertile Valley that bisects the state vertically and which is currently among the driest areas. The drought threatens everything from the avocado crop to the salmon upstream to the widening circle of houses that fall into brush fire territory.
Save Our Water is a good public education start. Some other droughty states, like Texas, Colorado, Oklahoma and Kansas, could take a page.
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