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.
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.
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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