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.
It 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 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.
Some of our neighbors removed their median grass and replaced it with river rocks or mulch. Or paved it.
Others have xeriscaped their front lawns.
Some 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.
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.