Questions, We Have Questions about Water

Much of California has a semi-arid (i.e., almost desert) Mediterranean climate in which most annual precipitation falls during late fall, winter, and early spring. The rest of our year is dry. The Sierra snowpack plays a major role in our annual water supply: as it melts, the runoff gets us through the summer. However, this past winter was very dry, the previous winter not so great, and the winter before that was very dry, and there is not much snow in the Sierra Nevada this year. California and most of the Southwest US are into what looks to be a major drought, so voluntary and perhaps mandatory water use restrictions are coming.

Water is a precious commodity. This is not the first drought we have experienced, nor is this our first time facing water use restrictions, so we have already taken several steps to reduce water use:

  • Built a system to capture the grey water from our washing machine and pump it to the back yard to irrigate plants.
  • Installed low-flow faucets, shower heads, and toilets that use extremely little water.
  • Switched to a more efficient dishwasher and washing machine to reduce water use.
  • Removed grey-water system since the high-efficiency washing machine did not use enough water to make the system worthwhile.
  • Reduced lawn area by half to reduce water needs for grass. We could go to zero lawn, but the water on the grass also serves a large shade tree protected by city ordinance.
  • Switched landscaping to plants that need less water.
  • Replaced much of our sprinkler system with drip irrigation to reduce water losses to evaporation.

Like many Livermore residents, we have already made a lot of progress in reducing our water use. Regardless, the call comes loudly and yet again to reduce and conserve, so we have questions:

  • Short of selling our home and moving out of state, or dying, what else can we do to reduce water use? I have one or two practical ideas, but it would be nice if the government would at least give citizens some credit for conservation efforts already in place.
  • What are the city and county doing (e.g., stop irrigating city landscaping) to conserve water?
  • Over the past twenty years or so, California has passed at least three state-wide bond measures to address water resource issues. What has the state done with the money? More specifically, what has the state done to objectively improve water resource quantity and quality? 
  • At what point should water service agencies stop allowing water hook-ups for new homes and apartments because there is not enough water to support an expanding population?

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