Wasting Water Laws NOT just about Drinking Water

Not a Perfect World

I’m wasting water, and I get away with it!

earth_3I wash my Jeep in the driveway, instead of parking it on the lawn so the water is providing multiple benefits. I could not care less. The hose doesn’t have a spigot on it either, and the water just flows freely down the driveway. In fact, it takes me over two hours to wash the beast because I’m such a perfectionist. I really don’t care about using less water and keeping it from running down the driveway. I never put any thought to it, actually.

Speaking of lawns, I have a beautiful one. It’s lush and green, and because I water it everyday, I have to it mow it sometimes twice a week! It’s crazy, but I don’t care, because I love taking long showers afterwards; at least 30 minutes. Showers are a highlight of my day, and sometimes I take two. I have to stay clean, because I’m a bit of a germaphoebe, but it’s all good. The long soaking bath I take makes me feel better. I brush my teeth often, too…at least 5 times a day. Because I’m such a freak about germs, I flush the toilet every time I walk by mine, which is kinda weird, but it helps keep it clean, longer.

This is my little perfect world. Plenty of water, and the freedom to do whatever I want with it. Yes, I waste water, but it’s not a concept I understand, for it’s all mine and the supply is endless. The only problem with my little perfect water world, is that I have no one to share it with. No one to enjoy a long soak, or share a cool drink, or splash in a creek with. I’m all alone. On the flip side, not having to share my water is nice. I don’t have to worry about using too much, or polluting downstream users, or ruining the top soil by allowing storm water to run off freely…kind of a double edged sword.

Unfortunately, my perfect world died in the Garden of Eden, and not that a perfect world is void of people, having enough water for everyone is. We are narcissistic by nature, and just a brief encounter with children will confirm the notion that we are born thinking the world resolves around ME. I’ll skip trying to become too philosophical and writing about the benefits of human encounter, but we must face the fact, and learn it early, that in order to get along in the world we MUST learn to play well with others.

Reallocating Resources

When is wasting, really wasting?

The act of wasting water is purely subjective, and depending on who it affects, or what the results are, when it happens, or where you do it totally determines on whether we are indeed wasting water, or simply reallocating resources.

California Governor Brown recently reestablished certain aspects of what wasting water might look like in his proclamation last month (read my article, titled Water Conservation: A California Lifestyle). This, keep in mind, is all in the name of conserving drinking water.

Consider these points, for instance, and ask yourself is it really wasting water, or merely reallocating resources.

Water Conservation requires common sense

DRIVEWAY CLEANING ~ California now considers that hosing your driveway or other hardscapes with potable (drinking) water is wasteful. Is this really wasting water when I’m the one who paid for it? Perhaps I’m paying for city water for just this very purpose, and plus, it’s mine…I bought it! For drinking purposes, I collect rainwater, and filter it using micro-screens and ultraviolet light. You’ve never tasted better drinking water! I would never consider using my collected rainwater for hosing off my driveway, but the city’s chlorinated water? Heck ya!

Okay, not everyone does that and I certainly understand the perceived intent, but what about using rainwater, or utilizing a high pressure mechanized system that is highly water efficient? How about splashing the driveway with city water and sweeping it? Is that okay? The argument will then be, “well, we don’t like pollutants from your driveway entering the storm drain system and eventually depositing the oil and chemicals into the ocean.” AH, and this is when the conversation turns to what is becoming the eventuality of land development. Even within private residential development, new or existing, storm water will not be allowed to leave your property. This is primarily for the sake of the rivers, streams, oceans, and all downstream users, and the all important aquifer. Also, the need to recharge the groundwater and protect top soil erosion is critical in sustaining our ecosystem.

Photo of a toilet where 30% of indoor water is used.

TOILET FLUSHING ~ California now considers that using more than 1.6 gallons to flush a toilet is wasting water. Oh boy! Have you ever used one of those ultra-high efficient 1.28 gpf jobs? What happens is that you end up flushing twice, or more. We are now going to end up utilizing MORE water until technology catches up with what legislators believe is a good idea. Secondly, our antiquated infrastructure, and building codes, are not designed to utilize LESS water. Minimum slope requirements have been established to consider the fact that water is needed to help move waste (particularly solids) down a certain size pipe. In this new scenario, less is more…less wasting water, more build-up.

If water is reduced due to the ever increasing use of these low flow toilets, we are going to have to do one of two things, or both. We can increase pipe sizes, which allows for more solids to build up before traveling down the pipe, or increase the minimum slope requirement, which helps move solids with less water. This equates to added costs, either way, and maintaining a sewer system that receives no water will be nearly impossible. Perhaps, with the implementation of zero storm water leaving private property (see above), we will need to connect our driveways to the sewer system and encourage driveway cleaning to offset these low flow toilets just to keep the sewers flowing.

Room additionLAWN WATERING ~ California now considers that watering your lawn within 2 days after a rain event, and allowing the runoff to leave your property wasting water. I won’t go too far with this one, for we’ve all seen it; sprinklers going off while it was raining. However, I’ve seen more PUBLIC spaces being watered during a rainstorm, like freeway embankments, medians, and parks, than I’ve seen private lawns being watered when it rains, let alone two days afterward. There actually is written verbiage into the Executive Order that deals with this very topic of over watering medians.

Keep in mind, the true intent here, as mentioned above regarding driveway cleaning, is to reduce runoff, recharge the aquifer and reduce pollution. But, if buying water for the purpose of having a green lawn, or growing roses, or maintaining your own food supply, is now considered wasting water if we use it less than two days after Mother Nature provided it for free, than our California legislators are working too hard. Again, costly changes to the way we develop property in order to retain storm water on private property is being implemented. Within some jurisdictions, this is true for even existing sites and enforced when property owners initiate something as simple as a room addition.

car-being-washedAUTOMOBILE WASHING ~ California now considers the washing of your automobile without an attached shut-off nozzle is wasting water. No more letting the hose run wild, unless you’re hooked up to that new sewer system with ultra-high efficient toilets. For real though, here’s a great way to solve two issues with one hose. A dirty car, and a thirsty lawn…park the hot rod on your turf, and wash away. Nozzle, or no nozzle. Even within two days of a rain storm, we might even get away with it! How could this be anything close to wasting water? There is, of course, the issue of runoff, as mentioned above. Oh yea, you’re in a new subdivision where water never leaves your site!

We are adapting, and finding better ways to live on this planet, and this is a good thing. Sure, there will always be bumps in the road and those changes won’t come easy, or necessarily be the right ones, but we’ll figure it out. Be willing to try new things and think about how your actions affect others, for to make this world a better place, we all need to play well with others.

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Water Conservation: A California Lifestyle

Finally, water conservation will no longer be something we talk about only when it doesn’t rain.

California State CongressIn his most recent Executive Order (click here), Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr., signed a directive to the Department of Water Resources (The Department), the State Water Resources Control Board (The Board), and the Public Utility Commission (PUC). This latest directive has come on the heels of multiple drought proclamations (a joke) by many a California State Governor, where temporary measures have been put in place, and often times too late to do any good. Granted, Californians have learned to conserve this precious resource over the years, but unlike many of our other natural resources, like our forests, our air and our beautiful beaches, little respect is given to our water.

Water Conservation

Executive Order B-37-16 permanently extends all prior orders. This means things like watering lawns by way of sprinklers in new home subdivisions are prohibited. Like, when have you seen that recently, right? For the specific text of Executive Order B-29-15, signed April 1, 2015, click here.

Here’s a breakdown of the 13 items in the latest executive order titled, “Making Water Conservation a California Way of Life”, and what it means to you.

  1. The Board shall extend the existing emergency water conservation regulations to be in affect through the end of January 2017, and begin to establish permanent water conservation regulations.
  2. Toilet_Rebate in Home DepotThe Department shall work with The Board to set stricter water conservation standards. Expect the following:
    • Forget the 1.6gpf toilets. These will be replaced with the highly technologically advanced 1.28gpf water closets, and you’ll be seeing more rebates for these, as well. (click here for a listing of municipalities currently offering REBATES) Toilets will be connected in a manner to receive rainwater, and all showers in new homes will be plumbed with a three-way valve for grey-water irrigation. Clothes and Dishwashers will be smarter.
    • Forget sprinklers and vast lawns. Irrigation systems will be smart and programmed to listen to the weather report and connected to satellite data. This has been around for years, but it will soon be standard. Turf replacement rebates will continue, and front yard Food Gardens will be more acceptable, especially where HOA’s once banned non-traditional landscaping.
    • Commercial waste-water recycling will be more economical as the same technology that currently is implemented in new construction will find it’s way into the existing built environment. Outdoor spaces will accommodate edible gardens and restaurants will take advantage of this trend, not only to save water, but to attract customers who are now growing up with a water conservation mentality, and locally grown fruits and veggies.
    • Leaking water pipes will be replaced… more jobs!
  3. Water suppliers must issue monthly reports on how much water is used, what kind of conservation efforts are being implemented and what they are doing to enforce the regulations. Look for additional water conservation rebates, and water-waster watch dogs.

    Water Conservation requires common sense
    Hosing off a driveway is now illegal…drought or no drought!
  4. Speaking of water-wasters, the following practices will be permanently outlawed, and not just during a proclaimed drought.
    • Hosing off driveways and other hardscapes with drinking water
    • Washing automobiles without an attached shut-off nozzle
    • Installing fountains and water features with non-recirculating pumps
    • Watering lawns within 48 hours of a rain event, and allowing water to run-off your property
    • Irrigating ornamental grasses in street medians (municipality’s responsibility)
  5. The Board and The Department will figure out a plan to get our leaky infrastructure fixed. Funds collected by high water users, and money set aside for water quality improvements will be spent on upgrading our antiquated infrastructure. Water saved through repairing leaking underground pipes are now considered a health concern, when some areas are actually without reliable potable water due to groundwater depletion. Rainwater collecting measures will be mandated for this very reason; to recharge our groundwater, and reduce stormwater runoff.
  6. The Board and The Department are tasked with expediting the data collecting and water system management plans that urban and agricultural water suppliers were directed to do last year in prior executive orders. The PUC is to order investor-owned water utilities to get with the program, and fix their leaks.
  7. Here’s an interesting item for all you entrepreneurs and inventors. The California Energy Commission has been assigned to certify innovative technologies that conserve water through loss detection and increase energy efficiency.
  8. The Department needs to develop stricter requirements to water agency’s Water Shortage Contingency Plans in order to serve the public better during these extended periods of drought.
  9. The Department, in developing these stricter requirements, must consult with the public (including local governments and environmental groups) in determining the best approaches in handling resources during severe drought conditions. The draft must be ready to release to the public by January 10, 2017. Here’s a chance to get involved with the writing of the state’s water policy.
  10. Those areas not included in the purview of a required Water Shortage Contingency Plan, The Department will work with you in developing one, like it or not.
  11. The Department will work with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) to update the Agricultural Water Management Plan. Water conservation is the key here, but maintaining the production of a healthy agricultural economy becomes a delicate balancing act.
  12. The Department will now require an Agricultural Water Management Plan for water suppliers with over 10,000 acres. This requirement used to be set for suppliers serving over 25,000 acres.
  13. The Department and CDFA, in developing the required update to the AWMP, must again consult with the public (including local governments and environmental groups). This draft must also be ready to release to the public by January 10, 2017.
The future belongs to our children!
The future belongs to our children!

Overall, this appears to be a good start to implementing measures that will get us all talking about water conservation in everything we do, and become second nature to our children and our grandchildren. Once again, another step toward creating a Lifestyle in Sustainability.

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