Welcome to the real Hotel California where endless water use is a mirage

Leave the water running while you brushed your teeth this morning?

If you didn’t open the faucet all the way and brushed your teeth thoroughly perhaps you sent a cup or so of water down the drain while you got the job done.

No big deal, right? It is only a cup of water.

But if every one of the 88,000 people in Manteca did the same you’re talking about 5,500 gallons a day. It happens to be the per capita water use in one day for about 140 people.

Why bother to adjust errant sprinklers? It’s just a “small” stream of water going down the gutter.

It’s a pain to adjust irrigation system timers, right?

Who cares if watering from midnight to 5 a.m. when it’s the optimum time for vegetation to absorb water and evaporation is at the lowest?

Water is cheap.

Besides, if you pay for it no one should tell you how to use it.

You might want to check the cavalier attitude about water at the door.

Your stay in the Hotel California is about to change.

On Tuesday the state essentially ordered all non-essential turf — except for the green eye candy many of us fertilize, overwater, and then cut way too often and then way too low requiring even more water to protect it from being burned in the brutal California sun — to be completely weaned from the engineered water works of the Golden State and be allowed to die.

If the state’s move enrages you, it is clearly misdirected rage.

The real governing crime here is the foot dragging that prevented what needed to be done from taking place sooner.

California is making a course adjustment. If we don’t not only will we be up the creek without a paddle but the creek won’t  have any water left in it.

The most troublesome news story Tuesday wasn’t the state pulling the plug on most non-essential turf as of June 10.

It was as story explaining why some large cities in the West such as Los Angeles that divert water from the Colorado River basin have sufficient water supplies. Readers of the piece dubbed “Explainer” were told it is because LA et al had developed other water sources.

Water use in California hasn’t been in a vacuum for more than a century. It is grossly misleading to frame it otherwise.

LA is also draining the Owens Valley of life to import snowmelt that nature never intended to come within 150 miles of the Pacific Ocean. The City of Angels and its neighbors are also tapping in the State Water Project to hijack snowmelt from the slopes of the western Sierra to deprive it from being used by natural in basin water users.

Both regions are in a throes of a drought made worse by water exports to Southern California’s coastal basins.

And as reprehensive as that may seem to those still viewing the water wars as a north-south feud or even a coastal-interior California struggle, that isn’t what is most troublesome.

The Los Angeles Basin — for the most part — has done a Herculean job of reducing per capita water use dating back to the 1975-76 drought. Manteca, Lathrop, and Ripon — as well as do most Central Valley communities — now exceed per capita water use of typical LA Basin cities.

It’s a 180-degree different reality than 42 years ago.

Per capita water use has shrunk here as well. The big difference is density and the size of the average housing parcel.

Ninety percent of the LA Basin isn’t tract homes with average overall lot sizes of 7,000 plus square feet. We keep building more of them with another 7,000 or so out of nearly 11,000 housing units in the yet-to-be-built approval pipeline on the same category.

That said, LA and places like Las Vegas are literally living on borrowed — make that the procurement — of water from out of basin.

Water in the Owens Valley watershed was never intended to make its way  any further south as Owens Lake that is now a quasi-puddle and dusty version of the vibrant massive lake teeming with wildlife as it was before LA got its clutches on it a century ago.

The same goes for the water that is pumped repeatedly to flow uphill and into the LA Basin that would have normally drained into the San Francisco Bay from the far northern and southern reaches on the western slopes of the Sierra.

This is not a lecture about un-ringing a bell that can’t be un-rung.

Rather it is a wakeup call that makes us all realize in many ways much of California whether it is Manteca or Lathrop — or Los Angeles and San Diego — are living on water beyond our natural means even with the elaborate plumbing, storage and water conveyance systems we’ve created.

The water conservation measures that picked up steam after the 1975-76 wakeup drought have brought California extra time.

The current drought though has clearly pushed us into the danger zone.

The state mandate issued Tuesday regarding non-essential and non-residential turf is unprecedented.

It may not be until later this year or next or even the next string of drought years in the ongoing megadrought, that the edict going into effect today will become as routine and universal accepted as low-flow shower heads to stretch water supplies.

Tuesday’s directive is the tip of the iceberg that is melting. Rest assured there are more water cuts and water prohibitions on the way.

And as likely as it is to fall on deaf ears, here goes nothing: It is time for Manteca to outlaw the use of turf in all new residential front yards

Outdoor water use easily accounts for more than 50 percent of the water used in this city with turf irrigation by far the biggest water hog.

Front yard lawns are essentially eye candy. There are other forms of landscaping — shrubs, clusters of trees and such — that use less water and can even reduce heat generation that can in turn cut electricity use needed to cool homes.

The idea that Midwest — or even Southern or East Coast — lawns could have been sustainable in the climate of California, Arizona, and Nevada where the rainfall is less than half for as much as they have — is laughable at best and tragic at worse.

Welcome to the real Hotel California where endless water use is a deadly mirage.

 

This column is the opinion of editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinions of The Bulletin or 209 Multimedia. He can be reached at d[email protected]

 

 

 

 

 

  • Partner links