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on Jul 30, 2014
This is fine. I mean, in an extreme drought. I'm okay with my grass being brown as long as it needs to be, apart from the fact the decision makers are still ignoring the real bulk of the problem (wasteful agriculture and evaporation).
Maybe the actual slogan should be "brown in the front, green in the back."
I'm sure we'll see occasional shaming of a middle class offender. What I wonder about is: how brown the bureaucrat lawns will be, or Mark Zuckerberg's lawn. I've never wondered about Mark Zuckerberg's lawn until just now. Crazy times we live in.
The water that comes out of our tap and hoses has been collected, purified, chlorinated, chloramined and fluoridated...all so people can drink it. But what happens to the vast majority? It goes on our darned lawns! The rest is showers, washing machines, etc.. At MOST, people drink a gallon/day from their tap.
Am I the only one who sees how ridiculous this is?
That's a different issue apart from water conservation.
"That's a different issue apart from water conservation. "
Oh, then if it is not for drinking, then why conserve water at all? Or is that your point? Residential users should be able to piss it all away on their non-native, water-thirsty plants, but farms that produce food should be highly restricted?
Don't you think your logic is backwards? Preference should be given to food & water consumption and not to discretionary (ornamental) purposes. Whether that is through enforcement (fines) or higher rates.
Can you argue with data or do you just enjoy arguing? My logic follows the data. I've already posted the data on water consumption in California a couple times in other threads. It's a Google search away, go enlighten yourself.
But here's the salient point, AGAIN: 80% of the state's water supply is used for agriculture, and of that irrigated water, half is lost to evaporation and evapotranspiration (evaporation from cropped soil). It's grossly inefficient. ~10-15% is urban use. ~5% is industry.
So yes, water purification is not the issue. Press pause on your rhetoric and go study the data.
Dylan, it's great that you post "facts", but have you thought them through or are only interested in having a NIMBY attitude?
You said: "half is lost to evaporation and evapotranspiration "
So, 1/2 of the water designated for agriculture is "lost"--does not make it to food and consumable plant products.
What percentage of urban products make it to food and consumable plant products? 5%? 1%? That's 99% "lost" water!
So yeah...the fact that you feel your LAWN should be given preferential treatment for drinking water over crops that feed people is a more relevant interpretation of your "data."
Don't you live on or near a Superfund site? Rather than worrying about keeping your lawn green, perhaps you should be more concerned about the carcinogens you, your family and neighbors are taking in every day.
I hope you are better educated now.
If anyone is better educated after reading your post, I would be astounded.
Its clear he is saying look to where the most waste occurs first. Clear to most anyway.
Some people don't want to have constructive conversation and/or can't read. I was fine with a brown lawn years before I mentioned it at the start of this thread.
Anyway, here's a relevant article about the status of agricultural water use in the middle of this drought:
It's close to the end of the month, and I haven't seen any news yet whether these districts have turned in water plans yet.
Is anyone doing, or does anyone know about resources for setting up, a greywater system? (water from the house excluding toilet and possibly kitchen and bathroom sinks).
I unhooked my washing machine hose, it's now hanging outside the garage window and is directed to my backyard trees. I'd like to redirect the water from taking showers as well, but that requires getting a plumber and going under the house (to cut into the shower pipe but not the toilet and sink).
I'd be interested in sharing ideas and tips for accessing greywater.
Let's please keep the conversation constructive and positive.
I live in a large complex with shared water. I have a deck with a few potted plants. But, more than half of the water I use is waiting for the hot water to get hot, and the cold water to get cold. Granted, during summer I don't mind washing my hands in tepid water, but I need warm water to do my dishes. And, the filtration necessary to render our horrible tap water drinkable are ruined by water above 25degC, so I need cold water to get drinking or cooking water.
That means that there is a lot of wasted fresh water. We fill a 10 gallon bucket in 1 day at 1 tap. I can't use all that water on my deck, so a lot of it is wasted.
I have informed our management company of the problem repeatedly, but they have done nothing about it other than telling us we can't wash our cars. I could wash my car with 10 gallons of recycled water...
I'm not sure if you want to vent your wash cycle water into your landscaping, the detergents may not be a great thing for that, depending on what you use. But the rinse water can be recycled safely, I think.
There are other manifold things that can be done to conserve water.
* front-loading washers use a lot less water, and less energy
* water conserving showerheads. take shorter showers. shut the flow off if you don't need it running.
* dishwashers use less water than hand-washing (1/6th on average) and less soap
* drip irrigation for gardens
* fix toilets that are running, leaky faucets
* use a toilet that conserves water. they are down to .8 gallons per flush now, half of the 1992 standard for water efficiency.
And that's all fine. But for all that work, it's still not moving the needle much. A small improvement in efficiency out of agriculture's usage of water would easily match anything we can do in urban areas (and have been doing).
Then there's also the old sailboat / RV water conservation mantra, if you want to go that far with it: "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."
Sorry Dylan that you were unable to understand what was written. It just seems that you prefer to have your green lawn over farmers producing food. Sure there is more water used for agriculture than residential/urban. From a percentage standpoint, the waste is not in ag.
If you really want to stop "wasting" water, then you should dam up all the rivers and divert 100% of the water flowing out into the ocean. That would be 10,000x what is used in agriculture. Instead of beating up on farmers, why not go after the environmentalists?
"If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down." That was a popular saying during the drought in the '70s, I think it was. I still practice it today and have for a couple of years. I manage to flush no more than three or four times a day, so probably save ten gallons a day. It's not much, but if a million people did that - boy, oh boy.
Nobody's mentioned golf courses yet. Thoughts?
USGA has a page on golf course water usage:
They've put some thought into that. But sure, golf courses take a lot of water. I'm no golfer, but in drought-prone areas many courses should probably adapt to Scottish-style links as a water conservation measure.
Here's a question that perhaps someone can answer. What would it take to pipe waste water (showers, dishes, washing machine, sinks) through a pump and into the toilet bowl? Then the toilet water could run directly into the sewer line.
Any thoughts from anyone or from a plumber or mechanical engineer?
Yes, I'd like to hear how the golf courses will be letting their turf turn brown. The citizens are being asked to reserve. OK, fine. They are, as Dylan pointed out, a minority user of water in this state.
Now that the citizenry has been asked and seems on board, lets focus on what will have the biggest impact...that would be the farmers and industry.
I wanted to share this thought for those in an apartment complex who want to do their part for water conservation.
If you save the cold water while waiting for hot water and it's more than you know what to do with, you might use it to flush your toilet. You might even flush the toilet with water you save from rinsing your dishes or hand washing delicate clothing.
Adding a little Pine-Sol to the toilet bowl helps with odors as you let your yellow mellow.
I think industrial consumption of water is fully metered. Their usage is around 5% of total. But definitely, focus on the biggest share of the water, and areas of least accountability -- which in both cases is agriculture.
Aside: To ask for accountability and more efficiency with agriculture is not anti-agriculture. Interesting how some people conflate the two. My family is originally farming migrants from Sweden and Norway. My parents grew up on the farm in the early part of their lives.
But if the state's going to ask everyone to tighten their belts, then it should be everyone, farmers especially, given their 80% share of the water.
There are also under sink water heaters (with tanks that are usually around 3-4 gallons) for kitchens. That's zero waste. You can run them in-line with the existing hot water line, or by themselves. They're made to be switched on and off.
Here's one example at Home Depot, $169: Web Link
You'll also find electric boilers on the walls in showers in many homes when you travel to other parts of the world, but they're pretty much unheard of in the US. You switch them on before you get in, wait a few minutes, then go. They get extremely hot so a few gallons goes a long way.
Shower boiler: Web Link
Lawns and landscaping takes a lot of our clean water, but it's worth it. Our systems wouldn't be the size they are today to deliver water if we hadn't been doing this through the years. There are a lot racoons, opposums, and birds that depend on the lawns being watered for their food source. When you put water on your lawn it descends back into the undergroudn aquifer if you water right and don't do run-off. This is a renewable resource. The Santa Clara Valley water district has percolation ponds and they purposely import water and dump it right down into the acquifer. It's not all black and white.
Since when does a 20% cut back result in dead brown lawns? There are questions of degree here.
I agree with Water Use. Our water consumption is down overall but we are still able to manage a green lawn. Its not lush, we have cut back on the timed watering(20% less) but its a solid green. The rest of the yard looks good too. We're water wise everywhere so it all works out. We're currently using 30% less water than last year; mostly due to in house changes.
Great title, I for one love the play on an old racist maxim.
@Dylan, yes i use a laundry detergent that is formulated for greywater gardening, and do most of the other water-conservation tips you mentioned.
Today at 3pm some city workers had huge sprinklers going on the ball fields of McKelvey Park. Watering early or late in the day, to minimize evaporation, seems like such a no brainer!
Re: Golf Courses
I think I should mention that many golf courses in our area (we are a coastal state, after all), use run-off water that is on its way to the sea/bay/ocean; which is inherently a form of conservation.
Note that our very own Shoreline Golf Links is right in the path of creeks which are dumping to the bay.
Dylan, you seem to do a lot of research, yet you missed the fact that farmers are indeed doing their part to conserve water.
So your AG point is mute.
I don't know about you, but i like the foods that farmers produce, and i'm sure other countries enjoy them too. Nothing wrong with that.
1) If man can build a pipeline for gas stretching the entire state of Alaska, why not build a water pipeline from areas were water is abundant?
2) At the mouth of some major rivers where they flow into the ocean, why not divert some of that water inland.
3) Build more dams. Yes, i know some people get their britches up over this, but it would be another long term solution.
4) Stop building more and more structures that will use more and more water.
5) We can ignore the problem all together and just build more structures and of course we need to build the highspeed rail boondoggle and water tunnel to take more of our precious water.
Things to think on.
Don't put words into my mouth. I didn't miss that, nor did I claim they weren't doing anything. But it is a fact that agriculture is the least accountable part of the water consumption and the (80%) majority of it, and the least efficient of it. Half of it is lost to evaporation. That's not even debatable.
So no, it's not "mute"; there's lots more that could be done to make sure the state's farms are using the right amount of water, using it efficiently and that we are not growing stuff that is inappropriately water consumptive in the middle of a historic drought.
There's nothing wrong with farming, but they have to be accountable as much as anybody else with consumption. There have to be some rules and guidelines. Unchecked consumption because of some antiquated/romantic ideas about farming and how that directly relates to the food on your table is not appropriate.
They're profitable businesses, and also in many cases also taxpayer subsidized; they are not charities. They can do better than let 40% of the states water just evaporate.
Lawns definitely waste water, but it doesn't make sense to let millions of lawns (and the surrounding landscape) die all over California this summer. Logistically, it would be a landscaping nightmare.
While lawns are wasteful, there are plenty of ways to cut back on watering by 30-40% without killing them completely, if you are not ready to totally re-landscape. And many established evergreen trees and perennials need no more water than replanting dead plants.
If you have the time and finances to create a waterwise landscape this fall, let your lawn die. If not, you can cut back on watering for the next few months and let your lawn go golden/green. You can cut back on landscaping water 20-50% by cutting back on irrigation, re-using shower water and sink water, hand watering/soaker watering deeply and
"If you have the time and finances to create a waterwise landscape this fall, let your lawn die... "
Creating a water wise landscape is easy and cheap. Just stop watering! You don't need to drop 20k on a landscaper...although that is quite popular around here.
We live in a desert. Stop watering and pick up some desert plants and succulents. Easy.
Technically, we live in a Mediterranean climate, which is dry-summer subtropical. Much of the state is under this official classification.
The desert, actually, is in places like the Baja peninsula, Imperial Valley, etc. -- where there is no precipitation runoff, and they are drinking the Colorado River dry for crops.
Most of Southern California would not have any runoff water supply of its own to speak of, the water supply there comes from NorCal.
Last time I checked a grey water system is against code. I'm glad @incognito is doing something to make a difference, but if a city inspector were to show up he/she would be in big trouble.
If you are renovating or building a new home, your construction project would fail inspection if you attempted to install a grey water system.
I wonder how you can get a city bureaucrat to approve a grey water system in the time of drought?
Grey Water is legal in some easy cases. See Web Link "greywateraction.org/content/requirements-no-permit-systems-california"
Regarding graywater systems, the Santa Clara Valley Water District offers a #200 rebate for properly connecting a clothes washer to a graywater irrigation system.
For those considering removing their lawn and replacing it with a low-water landscape, you may be eligible for a rebate of $2 per square foot.
Both programs are described here:
Kinda of funny how people gripe about farmers using water which is being put to good use.
Suburban Landscaping is another, miles of lawns, flowers, non native plants. If gray water is being used that is fine, plants that can thrive without much water perfect.
Most homes have 2 front lawns in different yards. Reduce some of the lawn.
I second Dylan's comments on this thread.
I want to point out that I water my plants to serve the environment. All different kids of bees feast in my yard as well as birds and other animals. My plants are water sippers except the new ones I have in for this year which I water generously. I have instant hot water, water saving appliances, toilets, and showers. If someone wants to look at my gorgeous yard and complain about my usage they should consider getting a life.
You're turning a discussion point into something it's not. Once again, don't conflate a call for agriculture to be accountable and more efficient in their water usage with some anti-agriculture position.
Simple facts. Urban usage is 10%, 40% evaporates in agricultural irrigation. Just think, if that water to farms was piped, you might be able to get back 30% or more of the state's consumption, right there. Which would be order of magnitudes better than anything we could possibly do to conserve in urban areas.
But please, go ahead and think that I'm opposed to people growing food, if that's what makes you feel better.
If anything, if we could see massive irrigation efficiency gains, it would allow us to grow more food, not less.
But I can't really continue arguing with people who don't look at data, and are incredibly short-sighted.
According to the latest numbers from the U.S. Drought Monitor, as of Tuesday 58.41 percent of the state is currently in an exceptional drought status known as D-4, the highest possible.That is up about 22 percent from just one week ago. 81.89 percent of the state is in at least a D-3 status known as extreme drought, which includes most of San Diego County.
This time last year, none of California had reached D-3.
Anybody who thinks we're going to squeeze the urban areas to deal with this drought is honestly, mental. Even assuming the water consumption numbers are +/- 10% error margin, it still doesn't change the real discussion. Agriculture is drinking the state dry, and there's almost no accountability there.
I agree with Dylan. We should give pain to others and do absolutely nothing that affects ourselves.
We need to get rid of our police department. More crimes happen in Oakland than in Mountain View, so we should stop enforcing laws. See? I show data just like Dylan so that makes me right.
Isn't our old flood filled friend El Nino making the rounds again this year? In the Bay Area, it seems like it's feast or famine with water. Too much, and houses are sliding off their foundations. Too little, and it's brown lawns and minute showers.
Questions - if I let my lawn go brown, then won't it have to replaced with new sod? What about the shrubs and trees? That's thousands of dollars of lawn and plants at stake for many people around here. How does one collect shower water in a stall shower? What about swimming pools? Any limits on those, or do we all have to sacrifice our green things for golf courses and pools?
@Water use, that is hogwash. You are going through some huge mental gyrations to justify your unacceptable behavior.
While I have stopped watering my lawn and plants (except the tomatoes and cucumbers!), it is hard to maintain this when I see the TONS of water wasted by the two school districts (Bubb sprinklers on all the time in plain sight of a school board members house. Great oversight...) and the city. Not a brown blade to be found out in North Bayshore- guess that would upset..someone out there.
Barry Groves, Craig Goldman, City Hall, set an example
This place is too troll infested to have a real conversation.
Peace, it was nice knowing ya.
I was driving on highway 5 today, near Bakersfield. At 2:00 in the afternoon, there were sprinklers going in all directions in a young tree orchard. Also, there were fields of cotton completely flooded.
Nothing hits the spot when you are hungry like a nice bowl of Cotton!
I am the Santa Clara Valley Water District Director representing Mountain View and some other cities in Santa Clara County (I'm also a Mt View resident).
I thought it might help if I responded to some questions people have posted.
First though I would encourage everyone to visit save20gallons.org for water conservation tips, including money-saving ideas, free home water audits and rebates on the costs of water saving actions. If I haven't answered your questions below, feel free to email me (schmidtb98(at)yahoo.com) or call my cell phone at 415.994.7403.
Incognito asked about graywater reuse systems. Our Water District is one of the first in California to offer rebates on "laundry to landscape" systems to take graywater from your washing machine to your outdoor plants. Dylan is correct that the wrong detergents could harm plants, but safe detergents are readily available. The simplest laundry-to-landscape systems don't require a building permit and cost $500-$800, and we offer a $200 rebate. As with all our rebates, you have to check with the District in advance to get approval - otherwise you will not receive a rebate.
Tryingtorecycle mentioned using buckets of water from the shower to water plants. If you have more water than plants, you can also fill up the toilet tank (this avoids the "splash back" risk for flushing the toilet bowl with the bucket). Just add the water to the tank right after you've flushed, as it's refilling. The Water District is distributing a free bucket to any residence that requests it.
Whiskers asked about golf courses, and they have big water challenges. I believe a combination of using less water, more innovative layouts, and most especially switching their water source to non-potable recycled water (the "purple pipe" you see) is the best solution.
Commenter "Water Use" mentioned that landscaping water goes back into the aquifer. In most of the populated flatland area of our County, including Mountain View, that water only reaches the "shallow aquifer" which is separated by clay layers from the "deep aquifer" we use for water supply. The District's percolation ponds are located further away from the Bay where the clay layers don't exist. Also important to know that much of that landscaping water evaporates or is used by water-hungry lawns.
"Green lawn" has cut back 20% on lawn water use and that's great. Those who choose can cut back even more. Watering once a week or so will keep your lawn alive even if it's brown. Anyone wants to can get a free "Brown Is the New Green" yard sign to display proudly on your brownery!
Again on graywater, it isn't against California building code. You aren't allowed to have unfiltered graywater residing for more than 24 hours in your graywater system, so you can either filter it or make sure it gets used quickly. Again, simple laundry-to-landscape systems are allowed and don't require permits. The web link provided by Marty Grimes is very helpful.
Yes, El Nino might return, but even the strongest El Nino isn't a complete guarantee of wet weather, and we don't know for sure if we'll have an El Nino or how strong it will be.
Apologies for the long post. Please save water!
Good riddance, asta lavista, don't let the door hit you out on the way out. You Troll with an alias.
I've seen a lot of orchards already putting in drip system type water distribution systems all over. Not everywhere, but they are trying to do their part. I guess Dylan wants to get the whip out and have them work harder.
There was an article in the Sac Bee not to long ago on what the farmers are doing to conserve, so they are doing their part. We must do ours.
When farmers are MANDATED to reduce by a certain percentage, we will ALL be better off. After all, we all have to do our part. If mandates are put on residential cutbacks, but not on ag, that would be unfair and that would equate with the farmers not doing their part, even though it is agreed, we ALL must do our part.
I look forward to the farmers standing on their own two feet without the hand extended to gov't subsidies. One day the rugged individual farmer will emerge again and these "Gimme gimme gimme" takers from the gov't will go away.
I think its great that some farmers are becoming water wise and changing the way they've always done things. It shows they are doing their part. It also shines a brighter light on the farmers who do not do the same, those who refuse to change the way they look at farming and irrigation. Like the residential user who hoses off his driveway, the farmer who does not follow the lead of the farmers in the Sac Bee article should definitely be frowned upon and have fines levied against.
"What would it take to pipe waste water (showers, dishes, washing machine, sinks) through a pump and into the toilet bowl? Then the toilet water could run directly into the sewer line."
The water would need to be filtered, treated and pumped. You don't want to use dish-washing water. The system would cost upwards of $1000, and would save you perhaps $3/month.
@ Brian Schmidt
Why isn't the price of water increased during a drought? There is little incentive for people to reduce usage.
In Los Angeles they have been paying people to rip out landscaping or add water conservation devices. We need to take a page out of their playbook.
Ugh, would you like your children (or grandchildren) to have to play in your yard on dried brown dirt? Lawns are more than just landscaping, they are play areas. They are safer for all types of play, they are less likely to cause injury if someone falls, they keep cooler than dirt and cause less dust than dry dirt. There are good reasons to keep a lawn green apart from looks.
Now who is going to come around to my home and sell me some gray water to irrigate my lawn?
The only good lawn is a dead lawn?
Is the Voice a news channel or a popaganda channel for social revolution?
The campaign, which will cost the district around $460,000, will run promotional ads on radio, on television, on billboards and online, as well as on banners at San Jose Giants and San Jose Earthquakes games.
So this is why our water bills must go up.....I thought it was because we have invited three times the number of people to use our infrastructure as it was designed for....
Another graywater issue: there are bathroom sinks invented in Japan and now starting to be used here, where the sink is atop the toilet tank, and the water from the sink flows directly into the tank.
Steve - I've heard that suggestion before of raising rates during the drought. You could call the fines for violation of water waste rules (or violations of mandatory restrictions where they exist) to be a type of water rate increase. A general increase may make some economic sense, but there's a public resistance that may not make it feasible.
I can tell you that water rates are projected to increase though - our Water District is looking at 9% annual increases over the next decade, and SFPUC/Hetch Hetchy will likely be worse. Whether your household water rates go up a similar amount depends on a lot of other factors as well. It's unfortunate on an economic level, but it's still a fairly small amount of household income.
Garrett - our Water District also offers rebates for removing lawns and using water-conserving irrigation systems. Our lawn replacement rebate is $2/square foot. Palo Alto matches that to make a total of $4/foot, the highest in the state, maybe the highest rebate in the country.
PA resident - one idea I've heard is to only water half of your lawn. And replacing lawn isn't usually done with bare dirt - you can mulch and have lots of interesting plants, butterflies, and bugs for kids to watch.
@Please tell us how to live
What's your solution?
" A general increase may make some economic sense, but there's a public resistance that may not make it feasible."
People that are using more than 200/gallons per day will be more than happy to pay a few more dollars to keep there lawns green. If you think the public resistance for increased cost at higher tiers will be tough, think about the public resistance to running out of water.
I'm getting the picture that the drought issue is just about not dipping into other water sources. Not that there is any real danger of running out.
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