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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Should we end the mandatory watering restrictions?

Does Mayor Sanders really think that anyone needs to water more than they have been? Does he think maybe that we should start washing our cars weekly in our driveways, or washing off our sidewalks with drinking water?

There is a time and place for a lawn. I'm not opposed to them outright, despite the a bumper sticker on my car demanding "Kill Your Lawn". However, I saw something sickening today that needs to be addressed. I was in Scripps Ranch helping a friend plant some fruit trees... she's got a landscaping plan to replace her front lawn with fruit trees; a brave family in a sea of green lawn. It was 9AM on a sunny San Diego day, and water was running out of almost every drain from every yard into the storm drain. Was it precipitation from the roofs? I think not! Gallons and gallons of good drinking water that is apparently such a cheap and expendable resource that we can send it right out to the ocean without even using it. You may argue that it was used to water the lawns, keep San Diego green. But, the lawn didn't use it. This was extra. If that was happening here in Scripps Ranch, how many other beautifully manicured communities are doing it? How many thousands of gallons are we paying to pump over mountains, hundreds of miles, only to dump into the ocean?

Now, Mayor Sanders is calling to end the mandatory watering restrictions? He specifically mentions lawns. Now why, after these last two years does anyone need to water more than three days a week? Those who got rid of their lawns did so because they didn't want to pay for water, not because three days a week was too little to keep it green, so they aren't affected by the restrictions. So, I guess it's just those people that can afford to water a green lawn that are affected by the restrictions. But, if their lawns are still green, why do they need to have the option of watering more if they want? This seems like just an excuse to let people be wasteful.

Maybe "mandatory" is a word that we don't want in our world of imagined democracy. But let's rethink our use of this resource and put "guidelines" into place to help us all take better care of our watersheds. I think three days a week is fair. I think fines for gross neglect are fair. Overwater amounts to stealing water from others, although we can justify it because we are paying for it "fairly and squarely", but not really. Water is cheap. I know you may not think so, but at 0.005 cent/gallon, we have cheap water. This means, we don't think much before we waste a gallon here or a gallon there. There is only so much drinkable water in the world, and plenty of people don't get what they need. Thus if we take more than our share, we are stealing from others. I talked to a woman from St. Croix, an island without the luxury of snowpack and hundreds of miles of pipe bringing water from far off rivers. They get what they get out of the sky, and if that runs out, they pay $2-$5/gallon to have water trucked in to fill their reserves. People in remote parts of Africa and India walk miles to fill their jugs of water. We turn on the tap and then complain that water prices keep rising. How else can we force people to take heed of how precious this resource is if not by mandating or at least encouraging strongly a different way of doing things? Mayor Sanders is calling for the elimination of the mandates. But is he calling for any far reaching changes that offer a solution to limited local water supply? Everything is not back to normal now that it rained a little bit more than we hoped for. Extra rain this year doesn't change the circumstances that are causing us to raise our eyebrows at the sources of water we draw from like the Delta, and the judiciary measures reducing our water draw, or the Colorado River and the potential reduction of water there with other cities clambering for their share of the River that we have been using up until now.

Please, let's encourage City Council to refuse Mayor Sander's request. Let's encourage them to come up with a better solution before revoking the "emergency restrictions". Let's all save our rainwater, use greywater, keep stormwater onsite, and reduce our landscaping irrigation needs. This alone could account for reducing our need for outside water sourcing by half!

Did you know: Grass requires about 50 inches of water a year to stay green. We get 10 of that out of the sky. A 500 square foot lawn, therefore requires about 13,000 gallons of municipal water a year to stay green. Check your waterbill. See what 1 HCF (748 gallons) costs you. Figure out how much you could save a year by getting rid of that 13,000 gallons of water use a year. Better yet, sheet mulch that 500 square feet and put in some fruit trees irrigated with greywater. Now, not only are you not using that 13,000 gallons of water a year, you are getting free fruit in your yard (saving you the fuel of going to the store and giving you the peace of mind knowing that there are no pesticides and the fruit didn't come from thousands of miles away), using water you've already used once and which is higher in nutrients now that you've added some nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to it via your detergent.


  1. Dear Brooke:

    I am disturbed by many of the legislative ploys that are being waged against element harvesting at the moment.

    On a recent trip to Wisconsin, I found out the Governor introduced a law to require that wind mills had to be much farther away from a residence making it more difficult to find areas for wind harvesting farms.

    It makes no sense to me that your mayor would open up use to water without offering incentives for harvesting it.

  2. Water is too cheap, what we pay does not have enough in it to rebuild the 100 yr. old system, so we will need bonds (Tax). Why, do we not pay up front? why will we be subject to poor quality water when we could have a better system if the actual cost of the whole task be put to the Meter!. Yes I am qualified to say we have poor water, yes we are in troubled times, no we dont have good leadership in water issues.
    Greg Chick, Water Contractor over 35yrs. neither left nor right. just the facts.