Did you know today is World Water Day? Yeah, me either, except that there seemed to be an unusual number of people talking about water issues today. And then I saw a clip on the PBS Newshour about different programs bringing safe drinking water to rural areas around the globe. That’s perfect, since water is one of my all-time favorite things. I mean, I couldn’t live without water.
Water is something that most of us take completely for granted. We turn on the tap, and water comes out. And except for in surprisingly few places, it’s clean and very inexpensive.
Here in California, we give a lot of talk to how tied we are to the weather cycles and our water supply. Everyone pays attention to the reports of snow pack measurements all winter, knowing that the next summer’s water supply for much of the state depends on a high number. (We’re high this winter, for the first time in several years.)
But we haven’t really done too much to institute any serious water-savings efforts. Sure, there are rebates to encourage people to buy low-flow toilets (our latest home-improvement project was replacing a leaky toilet with a fancy dual-flush model), water-efficient appliances (you’ve read about my lovely new dishwasher). We also replaced the clothes washer that came with the house with a front-loader that uses significantly less water.
There’s talk about putting in a water collection bin to get the rain runoff. But considering how it only rains here during the rainy season, when no one is using their sprinklers, I think it would only save us a small part of our summer water usage.
But we still have a long, long way to go toward being good water consumers. I still take a hot bath in my huge tub at least three times a week. And Eric takes entirely too long in his morning shower. And when summer comes, I will still be using the sprinklers to keep my garden going.
I take small comfort in knowing that compared to others, we are still doing far more to reduce the amount of water we use. Rebates and incentives are nice for people who are already in the market for a new dishwasher. But what about all those homes where their old dishwasher is still chugging away? How can we get them to stop using so much water?
I heard a rumor that the state is considering a bill to change existing laws that ban gray-water systems, and instead will encourage them in new developments. That’s the level of improvement I’m looking for. And, for that matter, a requirement that all new developments (commercial, industrial, residential, and agricultural) be approved by a water management oversight agency, whose primary interest is in the sustainability of California’s water supply, rather than the financial interests of the developers.
We cannot sustain the same level of development and population growth at our current water usage levels. We will all need to be more efficient. Especially with climate change making wet winters more infrequent and unpredictable.
But, equally important, is to protect existing water supplies. And that means paying special attention to agriculture and commercial developments that encroach on rivers and streams that feed into drinking water supplies. Hill top developments that cause greater runoff of industrial chemicals into streams that make their way into rivers that supply our water cannot be allowed to go forward without input from everyone downstream.
The final piece is that we, as a society, need to pay attention to how our water gets to us. We need to be sure that the county budget has enough allocated for maintaining and improving water mains to ensure they continue to carry the water to our taps.
It’s all connected.