Will we ever see the rain?

May 30, 2015

It’s hard to think about these dying of thirst.

If you don’t live here, California drought is just a headline, a TV news story, someone else’s problem.  But here in California, it’s serious stuff, being called “unprecedented.”  Lifestyles must change.

We’re facing a 30 percent mandatory cut in our water use (over the average use in our city) to help combat one of the most severe droughts on record. But for us, that means 45 percent of our usage, first, because we irrigate a larger yard than most but also because our personal water consumption is shockingly high.

When I moved to California in 1984 we were facing drought, too. That’s when I learned not to let the tap run while I brushed my teeth and other important water conservation ideas that became habits over time.  In some parts of California, people only flushed twice a day. Water conservation was top of mind and it is again now, with our water agencies stepping in. It’s that serious. We have to cut back.

Almost 45 percent. Because our water use was already higher than average, for some reason.  That’s a lot of water to cut back. What does that mean?

It means we’re turning the irrigation off on our flower gardens.

pail shower3It means we put a six- gallon bin in our shower to catch water we run because it takes a while to warm water. We’re using that water to keep our gardens alive.  A smaller basin is in our kitchen sink.

Not everyone can afford an artful xeriscape.

Not everyone can afford an artful xeriscape like this one.

It means we can only water our lawns twice a week on our assigned days. In the heat of a California summer, it means some lawns will dry up. Some look parched already.  We can’t water curb grass at all.

IMG_0414Some of our neighbors removed their median grass and replaced it with river rocks or mulch. Or paved it.

IMG_0412Others have xeriscaped their front lawns.

IMG_0413Some look awful, but this is our new normal. Lawns in southern California are disappearing and that’s probably our fate, too.

Other things have changed, too. Cocktail hour conversation the other night included a discussion about whether replacing curb grass with river rock is a trip-and-fall risk for visitors parking on the street. I am not thrilled to see yellow patches on our grass, Mother Nature’s reminders that we have squandered our resources.

Our new kitchen faucet doesn’t gush water like the old one.

It means when we turned on our new kitchen faucet and told the contractor the flow was low, he explained the new low flow faucets were that way.  We adjusted to that new normal, too.

 We wash produce in a pan of water instead of under the tap.

 We turn the water off while we lather our hands and then rinse.

 We take shorter showers. I just learned to turn off the water while I wash my hair: it could save up to 150 gallons per shower.

Far fewer loads of fun in California.No more small laundry loads if I can help it. My washer matches water level to the load, but still.

Whether you live in California or not, these are good tips to conserve our resources. Really good tips. We can no longer take our lifestyles for granted, that much is clear.

What I haven’t said is the obvious: we don’t get rain.  It didn’t happen in our “rainy season” and it’s just not happening now. When I really think about it, I get worried. There are so many signs of climate crisis that it seems obvious that life as we know it is over, at least for our generation and maybe for generations to come.  Perhaps one day, to future generations, this song by Creedence Clearwater Revival will have a different meaning.


15 comments on “Will we ever see the rain?
  1. ryder ziebarth says:

    I have always been taught to conserve water and i am not sure why. We had a well on our farm deeper that hades, but i think my parents were just conservative people ( a scottish mother,a German father, and they both grew up during a world wars and a depression). I feel for you out there, Carol. Because I am a gardener, and nothing makes me happier that a good rain, which we, in the Northeast have not been getting for weeks now ( in MAY!) either. I am starting to believe my gardens will on day be sand and succulents. I mostly feel terrible about how we have let this pollution we give off destroy our planet. It’s just devastatingly sad.

  2. Carol Graham says:

    Here in the Northwest, our weather patterns are changing dramatically. Everyone is now saying we have ‘California’ weather – the way it used to be. We love it but….is it a sign of what’s coming? Drought?

    Thank you for explaining the conservation methods you have had to incorporate into your daily lives – never thought about it before. It is good to start conserving NOW.

  3. My sister-in-law lives in LA and they had a company come and offer to pay them if they would let them swap their lawn for a more desert type of landscape. It makes sense. We’ve had less rain than normal for most of NJ, but a little ways up the road got about 4″ in a couple of hours the other day. There are no normals anymore. I only wish the deniers would give it up and face facts.

  4. If only we in Colorado (plus Texas and Oklahoma) could send you all our excess. Good luck. And kudos for making a difference with your reductions.

  5. I live in the Texas Hill Country, where we’ve gotten the brunt of the rains. In two weeks, I’ve gotten 26 inches of rain. That’s over two feet!! I have a lake and a river I never had before and two leaks in my roof. The rattlesnake dens are flooded, so they’ve all sought higher ground… my house. Killed my first rattlesnake last weekend with one shot. Lightening struck my gate, and I was trapped, plus the road to my house was washed out. I’m one of the lucky ones.
    Brenda Coffee

  6. I like the others appreciate what you are doing Carol. I know you “have” to, but your graciousness about it, instead of complaining about it, shines through. We have no control over nature, but we do have control over how we handle what happens to us. Good luck with it.

  7. Alana says:

    My manager’s daughter lives near California wine country and keeps her Mom updated about the drought and how it is affecting everyone. I know it is many times worse than news reports from her stories. There is so much terrible “new normal” out there. I just hope, when your drought finally breaks, that it doesn’t break the way it did in Texas.

  8. I live in California too. These are great tips for conserving water. Thanks for sharing!

  9. ww visited California last summer, and it really was a different way of living. It made us think of how we really take advantage of our resources. Great article!

  10. Laurel Regan says:

    The situation in California is incredibly alarming, and then when you hear about flooding in other parts of the country… well, it really does seem like we’ve messed with the balance in nature. I haven’t had to think much about water conservation, but you’ve given me some food for thought – just because we aren’t experiencing a drought here, doesn’t mean we can’t learn to be gentler on the environment. Thank you for the reminder.

  11. Dove says:

    Such good tips! Here in NYC we do not have as many issues with drought, however the city is installing new water meters that now count what goes IN to the house as much as out of it. So every little bit we save will help on costs. Thanks for sharing this info!

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