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Thread: Article: Amid drought, Sacramento water use climbed

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Article: Amid drought, Sacramento water use climbed

    http://www.sacbee.com/topstories/v-p...y/2094423.html
    As the state entered a severe drought, many of the city of Sacramento's biggest water users increased their watering dramatically, including some familiar locations: the City Cemetery, Land Park and Curtis Park.

    A Bee investigation of water use in Sacramento, based on an examination of three years of metering records, reveals city government itself as the top water scofflaw.

    Even when Sacramento issued its first-ever "spare the water" alert this summer, forbidding outdoor watering by residents from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., the city's own park and cemetery workers apparently missed the memo.
    Scandalous and all that.

    Discuss.

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    We don't meter our water nor required too until 2015. Enough said.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Cardinal's avatar
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    On th eone hand, it is a major use of water during a shortage. On the other hand, these facilities are for the benefit of the entire public. If individual yards have no green grass, why not a central location available to all of the city's residents?
    Anyone want to adopt a dog?

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    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Cardinal View post
    On th eone hand, it is a major use of water during a shortage. On the other hand, these facilities are for the benefit of the entire public. If individual yards have no green grass, why not a central location available to all of the city's residents?
    I guess that's where a problem lies. People keep water the grass on their designated "non-watering days". Not to mention, if their grass dies, it is a zoning code violation, and thus a resident may be fined because the City deems it a public nuisance

    http://www.sacbee.com/city/story/123...l?storylink=pd

    I understand that the entire region is a water shortage, however due to the lack of meters, no one will take responsibility until their bill shoots through the roof. My folks live in the area and officially got a water meter installed as the City/County go neighborhood by neighborhood to comply with state law. Needless to say, he said he won't change is daily water habits until he sees a bill to force him to change. The "watering police" also had their budgets slashed, so enforcement of the mandatory water rationing does not occur. Habits will change when it hits the pocketbook.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian JimPlans's avatar
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    How can a city not meter it's water? At my last house I had an electronic meter for years that called in water usage to the City water company over the phone line, and this was in Massachusetts where water isn't generally an issue. Whether it was "smart" or not I don't know, but at least the meter reader didn't have to come into the house anymore.

    When I was in Florida, water was such an issue that the local Water Management District was calling for 75% water reclamation from residential and commercial users by 2025. Is Sacramento really watering lawns with potable water? That's just nuts. Also nuts is a per capita water usage of 236 gpd. Even the small towns without reclamation that I worked in had per-person usage of less than 120 gpd.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by JimPlans View post
    How can a city not meter it's water? At my last house I had an electronic meter for years that called in water usage to the City water company over the phone line, and this was in Massachusetts where water isn't generally an issue. Whether it was "smart" or not I don't know, but at least the meter reader didn't have to come into the house anymore.

    When I was in Florida, water was such an issue that the local Water Management District was calling for 75% water reclamation from residential and commercial users by 2025. Is Sacramento really watering lawns with potable water? That's just nuts. Also nuts is a per capita water usage of 236 gpd. Even the small towns without reclamation that I worked in had per-person usage of less than 120 gpd.
    The city does not meter its water. The state is screwy like that. Southern California and the Bay have been required to meter water for quite sometime. The Central Valley and its Farmers have resisted, and won until recently. I guess with two free flowing rivers and the Sierra Nevada snow pack, people around here don't think much about water rationing.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian TexanOkie's avatar
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    The demand for water naturally increases during a drought because there is no natural water replenishing "natural areas", especially in parks, etc. The question here is whether the increased water is more/less efficient and or more/less hazardous than allowing plant life, etc., to die out during the drought.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Most of California is basically desert or not far from it. When I lived on Ft. Irwin, the Federal government (via the army) required us to have a lawn in our small fenced backyard. We were fortunate and our lawn did okay. Our neighbor, whose lawn got more of the noonday sun, had his lawn die something like twice a year. When we moved out, in order to pass the housing inspection, we had to remove all cacti and other succulents we had planted while we lived there.

    I do understand the whole thing about public spaces and so on. But what about biome appropriate plants? What about watering in a manner that helps promote drought resistance by growing longer roots? What about drip methods of watering to use the least amount of water possible some plants (like trees on city streets)? etc. It is not a given that you have to plant New England style landscaping in the middle of a desert or other dry climate.

  9. #9
    NIMBY asshatterer Plus Richmond Jake's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    Most of California is basically desert or not far from it. ......
    Sorry, but I gotta call bullshit. I'll give you everything south of the Tehachapis, the southern San Joaquin Valley, and the northeast in the Mono Basin. But all of coastal California receives an average of least 30 inches of rain per year and some areas over 100 inches per year. Same with the Sacramento Valley. And the Sierra Nevada can hardly be described as "basically desert" because, on average, it receives some of the highest volumes of snowfall in north America.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Until we can have a frank state and/or federal level discussion regarding agricultural water use in California (especially rice/cotton/alfalfa in the Imperial Valley - a true hot desert with less than four inches of rain a year growing three extremely thirsty crops), I think it's ridiculous to ask anyone in Sacramento (or elsewhere) to feel bad about wasting water.

    Calls for residential water conservation lose all meaning the first time that you drive east of San Diego and see rice paddies in 110 degree heat with water diverted directly from the Colorado River via the All American Canal. (and it is all connected - less water from the Colorado for Imperial Valley farmers could mean less water from Northern California for Southern California residential use which could mean more water could stay in Northern California, etc, etc)
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

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    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    Most of California is basically desert or not far from it.
    Quote Originally posted by RichmondJake
    Sorry, but I gotta call bullshit
    I haven't lived in California for about 25 years, but I just visited Sacramento about a month ago and was struck once again by how dry it is out there.

    Just eyeballing a climate map, it looks like the majority of the state easily falls into the semi-arid or less classification (20 or less inches of rainfall/yr - appears as orange, reds, and browns)
    People will miss that it once meant something to be Southern or Midwestern. It doesn't mean much now, except for the climate. The question, “Where are you from?” doesn't lead to anything odd or interesting. They live somewhere near a Gap store, and what else do you need to know? - Garrison Keillor

  12. #12
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    My recollection is that around 2/3s of the state is arid or semi-arid. Two thirds would be "most" of the state. And even at 30 inches of rain, that's relatively dry. The national average is somewhere around 44 inches and parts of the High Desert only get 6 inches annually, which isn't even enough to support the water needs of an "earth ship" house (which takes 10 inches annually, iirc).

    Dry climate or no dry climate, the serious shortage of water in California is a well established and long standing fact. California pipes in water from as far away as the Colorado River. Some lakes in the state have been drained dry. (ex: http://geochange.er.usgs.gov/sw/impacts/geology/owens/). There is also land subsidence of more than 20 feet from aquifer depletion in some areas (http://iahs.info/redbooks/a052/052031.pdf).

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    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    Dry climate or no dry climate, the serious shortage of water in California is a well established and long standing fact.
    Sure, but we're talking entirely about a political problem. There is plenty of water in California, just not for the current uses. There are valid reasons to restrict the amount of water used for any use and there are valid reasons to give preferences to agricultural uses, but there's no reason to run around waving our hands in the air that the water is running out when even a 10% reduction in agricultural use would solve all residential water "shortages" for many decades (and not result in any loss of crops that can be grown best in California). Why are we growing cotton in the desert of California while Louisiana with its ideal climate and abundant rainfall abandons the crop? Questions like this need to be answered.

    Again, it's just hard to get worked up over someone planting the wrong things in their yard or watering at the wrong time when we're using flood irrigation for thousands of acres in 110 degree heat in the desert. The talk of a "crisis" just seems laughably disingenuous.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  14. #14
    Cyburbian The One's avatar
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    YES!

    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    Sure, but we're talking entirely about a political problem. There is plenty of water in California, just not for the current uses. There are valid reasons to restrict the amount of water used for any use and there are valid reasons to give preferences to agricultural uses, but there's no reason to run around waving our hands in the air that the water is running out when even a 10% reduction in agricultural use would solve all residential water "shortages" for many decades (and not result in any loss of crops that can be grown best in California). Why are we growing cotton in the desert of California while Louisiana with its ideal climate and abundant rainfall abandons the crop? Questions like this need to be answered.

    Again, it's just hard to get worked up over someone planting the wrong things in their yard or watering at the wrong time when we're using flood irrigation for thousands of acres in 110 degree heat in the desert. The talk of a "crisis" just seems laughably disingenuous.
    I couldn't agree more with the above statements.....
    Skilled Adoxographer

  15. #15
    Cyburbian Raf's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    Sure, but we're talking entirely about a political problem. There is plenty of water in California, just not for the current uses. There are valid reasons to restrict the amount of water used for any use and there are valid reasons to give preferences to agricultural uses, but there's no reason to run around waving our hands in the air that the water is running out when even a 10% reduction in agricultural use would solve all residential water "shortages" for many decades (and not result in any loss of crops that can be grown best in California). Why are we growing cotton in the desert of California while Louisiana with its ideal climate and abundant rainfall abandons the crop? Questions like this need to be answered.

    Again, it's just hard to get worked up over someone planting the wrong things in their yard or watering at the wrong time when we're using flood irrigation for thousands of acres in 110 degree heat in the desert. The talk of a "crisis" just seems laughably disingenuous.
    Bravo dude. Come around here during the spring and watch the fields be a flooding! Funny how i brought that up in an EIR scooping meeting that water would be more plentiful in the area with the abandonment of some less valuable ag around a community. Almost got lynched, but our EIR consultant backed me up in the EIR.
    Men do dumb $hit... it is what they do to correct the problem that counts.

  16. #16
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CPSURaf View post
    Bravo dude. Come around here during the spring and watch the fields be a flooding! Funny how i brought that up in an EIR scooping meeting that water would be more plentiful in the area with the abandonment of some less valuable ag around a community. Almost got lynched, but our EIR consultant backed me up in the EIR.
    Let us remember our environmental history. The rice paddies used to be wetlands. Waterfowl used the extirpated wetlands to rest on migrations, and now they use the paddies for the same function. That we have replaced seasonal standing water with rice paddies is only one part of the larger issue.

    Second, there is plenty of water if we pipe it around the state in expensive conveyances that disrupt both biota and entire landscapes (Delta, SJ River, IID customers both pre- and post-CO River Compact enforcement). Plus, CA is a Mediterranean climate that, in much of the interior, receives little or no rainfall for almost 6 months necessitating irrigation that requires thought and action to ensure efficient application.

    Metering is a good way to change behavior, esp smart metering. Too many don't want to change their behavior to reduce or eliminate waste. Why this is so gets at one of the central themes of our profession.

  17. #17
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Let us remember our environmental history. The rice paddies used to be wetlands. Waterfowl used the extirpated wetlands to rest on migrations, and now they use the paddies for the same function. That we have replaced seasonal standing water with rice paddies is only one part of the larger issue.

    Second, there is plenty of water if we pipe it around the state in expensive conveyances that disrupt both biota and entire landscapes (Delta, SJ River, IID customers both pre- and post-CO River Compact enforcement). Plus, CA is a Mediterranean climate that, in much of the interior, receives little or no rainfall for almost 6 months necessitating irrigation that requires thought and action to ensure efficient application.

    Metering is a good way to change behavior, esp smart metering. Too many don't want to change their behavior to reduce or eliminate waste. Why this is so gets at one of the central themes of our profession.
    To be clear, when I mentioned rice paddies in my post, I wasn't talking about the areas around the delta (which can be justified to some degree), I'm talking about the areas east of San Diego (which were never wetlands).

    Agreed on Mediterranean climate bit, and that being said there are many, many, many crops that should be grown in California because of that climate (even requiring substantial irrigation). However, the Imperial Valley does not have a Mediterranean climate - it's a desert, plain and simple.

    Metering is great to reduce residential use, and I support that. However, it's kind of like bailing out water from a sinking cargo ship using a pint glass. Until we tackle the issue of agricultural water waste, we're not going to make a dent in overall water waste. Going back to my original post, what I don't support are campaigns to "shame" people into using less water, when so much waste is government-sanctioned.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  18. #18
    Cyburbian ColoGI's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    To be clear, when I mentioned rice paddies in my post, I wasn't talking about the areas around the delta (which can be justified to some degree), I'm talking about the areas east of San Diego (which were never wetlands).

    Agreed on Mediterranean climate bit, and that being said there are many, many, many crops that should be grown in California because of that climate (even requiring substantial irrigation). However, the Imperial Valley does not have a Mediterranean climate - it's a desert, plain and simple.

    Metering is great to reduce residential use, and I support that. However, it's kind of like bailing out water from a sinking cargo ship using a pint glass. Until we tackle the issue of agricultural water waste, we're not going to make a dent in overall water waste. Going back to my original post, what I don't support are campaigns to "shame" people into using less water, when so much waste is government-sanctioned.
    Well, now you are talking about old-school ag policy and subsidies, and echoing the old debates around 2002 when CA had to give up the CO Riv overage and IID/MWD had to scramble. We saw in the last farm bill we are unable to change the old ways, which makes change much harder to come by.

    And let us remember that water is subsidized for a reason - removing water subsidies will certainly force much change in the production of food, and much change in the expansion of food deserts and resultant public health effects of much higher food prices. There will be a greater equity gap with higher food prices.

    This is not to say that water should not be priced properly and efficiencies enacted. I'd certainly stop the cotton and alfalfa/pasture (thus meat) irrigation to have much extra water for food, many high-value crops not being amenable to drip irrigation. And all that Westlands salined soil can grow hemp and flax to replace the other fiber as well - but still more perverse incentives prevent that viable option.

    Lastly, the urban waste is government-sanctioned as well - meters should have been installed years ago to allow people the freedom to waste and the information to make informed decisions about behaviors such as the freedom to choose to change wasteful behavior; as it is now, there is no way to signal.

    Oh, like the avatar.

    Regards,

    C

  19. #19
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    Again, it's just hard to get worked up over someone planting the wrong things in their yard or watering at the wrong time when we're using flood irrigation for thousands of acres in 110 degree heat in the desert. The talk of a "crisis" just seems laughably disingenuous.
    I think it's been a crisis for a long time. I don't see how it's disingenuous just because this has gone on a long time. These problems typically just get worse over time. I have a tendency to focus on the pieces I can do something about. So when I lived in the High Desert, I tried to use desert plants in my yard. I know most folks don't agree with that perspective (of focusing on what's do-able and at hand). Most folks I speak with would rather excuse their "small" contribution to the problem as insignificant compared to some larger one -- while usually also doing nothing about the larger one. If you are actively working on a petition or proposal or some such to try to change ag policy, Props!!!! If not, laughing off the "insignificant" domestic waste that you may be contributing to and which is probably the thing you have the most real power to make a difference with just strikes me as a callous excuse to be irresponsible.

    There is usually a tipping point -- a point at which a relatively small change suddenly has much greater impact. Most folks never bother to find that point because they feel "why bother?" and do nothing. I've found it worthwhile to do what is within my means and grasp, no matter how small. Often persistence with such things does bring me to an unexpected tipping point, and often well before I expected it to. This is one reason I persist in focusing on those small scale efforts that are readily within my power to act on in the here and now rather than belly-aching about the bigger sins of someone else as an excuse for why I should do nothing.

    Though your remarks about water waste in agriculture do remind me of points made in "Diet for a Small Planet" about the amount of water used to produce a single steak and so on. Such facts always make me feel better about eating less meat than your typical American.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    Its not true that there is much water left in SoCAl. I came across a site www.bewaterwise.com which shows the water levels which has dropped significantly.

  21. #21
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by conradjoseph View post
    Its not true that there is much water left in SoCAl. I came across a site www.bewaterwise.com which shows the water levels which has dropped significantly.
    Thank you.


    (I have half-baked plans to vomit this evening, so that's as glib as I'm going to be.)

  22. #22
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by conradjoseph View post
    Its not true that there is much water left in SoCAl. I came across a site www.bewaterwise.com which shows the water levels which has dropped significantly.
    And yet we haven't done a single real thing to look at the biggest water users in the state by far (industrial farms). I'm certainly not arguing that we're not having a "crisis" - however, it's a political crisis, not an actual water crisis.

    MZ - my major problem with this issue is that it's kind of a microcosm of how every issue seems to be handled in this country (and especially California) these days. The worst sides of the right and the left come out. The entire debate ends up being fear (typically from the right) and shame/guilt (typically from the left) instead of having a substantive policy debate on what could and should be changed. Also, the "solutions" end up being some type of scheme to possibly reward those that do well (usually subsidies for something or other), but no real changes in policy nor changes that affect those who do nothing in a negative way.

    Regarding me personally, I would assume that I use less water than at least 98% of Americans, just because I have no yard (about ten potted plants on the roof), have modern low-flow toilets, showerheads, and a high efficiency washer. I also have no dishwasher. I agree with people doing their part to help the situation - I just don't agree with the government using money to shame or guilt people into doing their part when it will have little effect. If we want residential water use to drop in a meaningful way, don't waste money on guilt-tripping people - raise the price. If we want total water use to go down in a meaningful way, we HAVE to discuss agricultural use and have a plan in mind for when the lobbies blanket the media with ads about upcoming food shortages or other scare tactics.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  23. #23
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Sorry about the double post, mods - I couldn't get my last message to re-open for some reason.

    Quote Originally posted by ColoGI View post
    Well, now you are talking about old-school ag policy and subsidies, and echoing the old debates around 2002 when CA had to give up the CO Riv overage and IID/MWD had to scramble. We saw in the last farm bill we are unable to change the old ways, which makes change much harder to come by.
    True, indeed. I'm still hopeful that some change can eventually come. We're continually talking about passing bonds to spend upwards of $10 billion in this state to modernize and expand water delivery and storage systems. Some of this work is needed for other reasons, but some could be easily avoided with some policy changes.

    And let us remember that water is subsidized for a reason - removing water subsidies will certainly force much change in the production of food, and much change in the expansion of food deserts and resultant public health effects of much higher food prices. There will be a greater equity gap with higher food prices.
    Perhaps. I'm not convinced on that. There are so many cases of places in the US dropping certain crops specifically because of subsidies somewhere else. If we'd figure out a way to have a federal-level water use policy instead of each state trying to support their own industry, I don't think price levels would be affected much at all (some crops would cost more, some might cost less). If there's one thing that should qualify for federal intervention, it's the use of the one thing that we ALL need every day. I'm probably being too optimistic here, but that's still my hope.

    This is not to say that water should not be priced properly and efficiencies enacted. I'd certainly stop the cotton and alfalfa/pasture (thus meat) irrigation to have much extra water for food, many high-value crops not being amenable to drip irrigation. And all that Westlands salined soil can grow hemp and flax to replace the other fiber as well - but still more perverse incentives prevent that viable option.
    I think there are plenty of places that could still grow the alfalfa and cotton just fine - we export a LOT of both already.

    Lastly, the urban waste is government-sanctioned as well - meters should have been installed years ago to allow people the freedom to waste and the information to make informed decisions about behaviors such as the freedom to choose to change wasteful behavior; as it is now, there is no way to signal.
    Agreed.

    Oh, like the avatar.
    Thanks
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

  24. #24
    Cyburbian Michele Zone's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by CJC View post
    And yet we haven't done a single real thing to look at the biggest water users in the state by far (industrial farms). I'm certainly not arguing that we're not having a "crisis" - however, it's a political crisis, not an actual water crisis.
    That's probably true of almost any problem you can name. The mental models of "political" or culture clime are often much, much bigger obstacles to real solutions than physics, chemistry or biology. I deal with that every day in talking to other people with health problems.
    MZ - my major problem with this issue is that it's kind of a microcosm of how every issue seems to be handled in this country (and especially California) these days. The worst sides of the right and the left come out. The entire debate ends up being fear (typically from the right) and shame/guilt (typically from the left) instead of having a substantive policy debate on what could and should be changed. Also, the "solutions" end up being some type of scheme to possibly reward those that do well (usually subsidies for something or other), but no real changes in policy nor changes that affect those who do nothing in a negative way.
    I generally have little patience for either of those arguments. I have found that one of the most effective tactics is to avoid getting dragged into a debate about things like that (fear and guilt). It's unwinnable. The minute you let the focus of your remarks get sidetracked by such smoke and mirrors tactics, you've already lost.
    Regarding me personally, I would assume that I use less water than at least 98% of Americans, just because I have no yard (about ten potted plants on the roof), have modern low-flow toilets, showerheads, and a high efficiency washer. I also have no dishwasher. I agree with people doing their part to help the situation - I just don't agree with the government using money to shame or guilt people into doing their part when it will have little effect. If we want residential water use to drop in a meaningful way, don't waste money on guilt-tripping people - raise the price. If we want total water use to go down in a meaningful way, we HAVE to discuss agricultural use and have a plan in mind for when the lobbies blanket the media with ads about upcoming food shortages or other scare tactics.
    And all I'm saying is that since you have apparently thought a good deal about this and feel strongly about it, maybe you should do something about it. It doesn't have to be anything big. It doesn't have to be anything expensive. Ideas are very cheap. Culture is "free" (so to speak). Start planting those seeds of ideas. Work out something that makes sense in your mind. I have tons of respect for the idea that you cannot be bothered to spend time on the small stuff because you are too busy spending time on a bigger issue. And if you don't want to do anything about it, then why bust my chops for trying to encourage discussion? Don't get in the way of someone trying to do some small constructive thing just because it's small. Feel free to work on a larger issue if you feel called to do so. But remember that small things can grow and the process has to start somewhere.

  25. #25
    Cyburbian CJC's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Michele Zone View post
    And if you don't want to do anything about it, then why bust my chops for trying to encourage discussion? Don't get in the way of someone trying to do some small constructive thing just because it's small. Feel free to work on a larger issue if you feel called to do so. But remember that small things can grow and the process has to start somewhere.
    I wasn't trying to bust your chops - I was simply adding to the discussion. I think it's important for people to know the total problem. IMO, most of the problem is that we are looking at the wrong things and ignoring the real problems, including what was mentioned in the article. If you listen to most national news sources, it would probably seem like California's water problems are entirely because of population growth and residential use. Most people that I've met from outside the state have no idea that agriculture is by far the biggest user, and have no idea what types of agriculture we're growing in certain areas. The first time it really sank in for me was during a trip to Southern California several years ago where we drove past miles and miles of cotton growing in 110 degree heat - then later that same day heard a radio PSA in the Riverside area talking about the need to only water at night every other day of the week because of the drought.

    I have done some past work (volunteering and donating) to some of the advocacy groups that are working on this issue, but unfortunately I don't have enough time to do much beyond that. If I ever decide to go into state-level politics, this would be one of my pet issues
    Last edited by CJC; 18 Aug 2009 at 8:45 PM.
    Two wrongs don't necessarily make a right, but three lefts do.

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