Thirsty State

June 3, 2014

We all know that calendar year 2013 was the driest year in recorded history for many areas of California, and current conditions suggest no change in sight for 2014. Despite recent and expected rainfall, the predicted amounts of rainfall in the next few months won’t be enough to save us. It was in all the headlines last month that Governor Brown declared a drought state of emergency and directed state officials to take all necessary actions in response. He has called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water usage by 20 percent. The last time such restrictions were in effect was during the drought years of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

The State has taken serious steps. For the first time in its 54-year history, the State Water Project, a backbone of California’s water system, will provide no water to urban residents or farmers this year because of the severe drought, state officials.

We will all feel the economic impact of drought. For example, the San Mateo County Farm Bureau was quoted pointing out the chain reaction since cattleman are reliant on winter grass when the drought means less winter grass, they having to buy grass and feed which obviously increases the price we pay in the supermarket.

Strange sights abound – long-abandoned cars found in now-dry lakebeds, once-drowned ghost towns peaking above the waters, Yosemite peaks empty of snow, and soon water intake pipes will be hanging high above the surface of reservoirs.

Animals in our environment are being impacted as well, with land animals having to travel further for water and with already-threatened steelhead and other fish in danger of massive die-offs from low water levels in streams and rivers.

Although the Peninsula hasn’t yet been hit with mandatory water restrictions, it could definitely happen and meanwhile responsible COWs are already conserving water. What is our COWncil doing to address this all important issue? While inconvenient, these restrictions don’t have to become too onerous if we plan intelligently. That’s why it was a little surprising to hear COWncil members Peter Mason and Dave Tanner grouse recently about new state building codes implementing water-efficient appliances. As COWncil member Ron Romines said, “It’s not like they’re making new water.”

Other cities have taken steps to educate and encourage. The City of San M has required drought resistant planting since 1089. City of San Mateo Municipal Code §27.71.130 DROUGHT TOLERANT PLANTINGS requires that ninety percent (90%) of all plant materials, except for allowable turf grass and annuals, to be drought tolerant, as listed by the California Department of Water Resources in Bulletin 209 (1979 Ed. or later) entitled, Plants for California Landscapes (A Catalogue of Drought Tolerant Plants), The East Bay Municipal Utility District, Water Conserving Plants and Landscapes for the Bay Area, or other plant material which has been documented as being drought tolerant.

The question for those of us COWs who already have been water wise is how to cut our usage even more. First of all you may want a way to calculate your water usage. Check out this on line calculator. . Landscaping will be the way that most COWs can have a meaningful impact on water use. Drought resistant landscaping can be very beautiful.

You might want to look here or here.

You can find tips for involving our kids about conservation here.

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