3 Options To Reduce Water Consumption During The Worst Drought In State’s History

Delta Watershed courtesy of Redford Center A drought is an opportunity to change habits.

Amid California’s driest year on record, Gov. Jerry Brown on Friday officially declared a drought emergency in the state.  He asked all Californians to reduce at least 20% of their water use.  He also explained at this point all the conservation efforts would be voluntary.  However, it’s really up to local cities and local water agencies to decide what measures to take to battle the drought.  Some might decide to ban outdoor watering all together, some might allow it certain days per week and others might allow you to manage your landscape water responsibly. 


The carrot

Provide additional or increase incentives to property owners to install water saving technology on their property. Especially in the last five years we have seen tremendous focus and improvement in landscape water technology to reduce water consumption.  Many water agencies have provided incentives in the form of rebates to make improvement to your irrigation system.  Recently Metropolitan Water District took a giant step forward announcing their Water Savings Incentive Program which dramatically broadened the actions you could take to receive rebates for water reducing technology.  They moved past the standard dollar rebate for a rotating nozzles or smart controllers and offer incentives to make changes effecting water use for many years. 

The result has been positive.  More and more water users in California are applying for and receiving rebates.  More efficient landscape irrigation methods are being employed and we are making a difference in water use that will effect water consumption for years to come.

The stick

Another proposed solution is to limit the amount of days someone can water their landscape.  Watering on additional days or not on your specific day will reduce in fines or potentially the shutting off of your landscape water.  Water cops will be hired to patrol and fine water abusers.

The problem with the stick is it encourages water waste and penalizes property owners who were proactive installing water savings technology.  Property owners in anticipation of water restrictions will apply as much water as they can to combat the restrictions.  They may (nozzle up) increase the amount of water their system can water in a day.  What happens is the soil can’t accept the amount of water needed to be applied in the period you have to apply it and runoff increases and more water is wasted. 

I have also read a lot of books telling me the stick is not a good way to make long term behavioral changes.  Most experts agree positive motivation works better than negative.  Empowering property owners to make intelligent decisions about water may be the best way to stimulate long term changes in water use.

Middle ground to solve drought

Often times the best solution is one in which both sides give up something as well as win something.  In the case of the drought and water in California we can expect to see some agencies limiting water use and providing exemptions to those property owners who have or are investing in water savings technology like smart controllers, converting overhead irrigation to drip, and rotating nozzles. 

Droughts are a lot like slumps in hitting a baseball.  You are either going into one or getting out of one.  This drought certainly is going to give Californians the opportunity to make long term decisions on the amount of water they consume.  It also provides an opportunity to make wise choices to reduce their consumption for the future when the supply of water is less per person due to population increases.  
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Richard Restuccia

Richard Restuccia is a water management evangelist. He believes passionately in water efficiency and sees the financial and social benefits far too often to keep a secret. As the Director for Water Management Solutions at ValleyCrest, Richard is our spokesperson at industry events and on the Hill to provide direction and insight on landscape water management best practices. Richard puts his words into action through service on various boards and committees. Currently he serves on the Irrigation Association’s Board of Directors. As a board member, Richard serves in a variety of capacities, including government/public affairs. He is the liaison between the board and its marketing committee on the best ways to promote water efficiency and educate industry professionals on new technologies, products and services. Richard is also a regular contributor to Lawn & Landscape Magazine.


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  1. Tuesday, 10:58 Alan Harris

    Unless there are significant changes in precipitation in the next few months I believe people will learn more than they ever wanted to know about the Water, Energy, Food Nexus. The food part of the equation will reach far beyond the state border.

  2. Tuesday, 12:00 Ginny

    I’ve responded to a couple of the blogs, but the CAPTCHA code ate my gems of thought. Reading your blog still gives me inspiration and education…both necessary in my life. What thoughts do you have about creating materials that can be used by construction classes in high schools? We have an infrastructure magnet school as part of our school and I’d love to hook them on featuring this blog in their classes and thinking.
    All are well in NC…missing Phoenix…but loving little Fiona Rose…and Sam.

  3. [...] scientists believe the California drought is being caused by a huge high pressure zone off the coast of California.  The zone of high [...]

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