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Drought in the American West
August 27, 2014 3:20 PM   Subscribe

The drought in California and the American West is bad. Really bad. And it could get worse. The rich have their own plans.
posted by gwint (84 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite

 
(Previously.)

Thanks for posting this - bookmarked to read later.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:22 PM on August 27


Didn't Burning Man get rained out? Isn't the drought over, then?
posted by Nevin at 3:24 PM on August 27


hahaha WE'RE SO FUCKED.

(also, eat the rich)
posted by entropicamericana at 3:26 PM on August 27 [13 favorites]


Don't worry, this is nothing a few hashtags can't solve!
posted by smidgen at 3:27 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Yes, Burning Man is the entirety of California. At least it feels that way.
posted by 2bucksplus at 3:29 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


(I somehow missed kliuless' post from last week-- if this FPP is deemed redundant, feel free to delete)
posted by gwint at 3:30 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Instead of spending umpteen kilos of cash on bringing in a few truckloads of water, why aren't these rich folks funding the construction of desalination plants along the coast? The tax breaks alone would pay for themselves, and the publicity could only work for them.

Power supply? Well, on the coast - so windmills or tidal generators come to mind.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 3:31 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Haha...they're rich people, not good people.
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:31 PM on August 27 [24 favorites]


It's a huge problem for Californians and worrying - I don't think we can have too many posts about it, FWIW.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:32 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Is this article true about San Francisco being exempted from some of the restrictions? "California is a tale of two cities. If you added all the agrarian counties of California together in terms of registered voters, that’s not even enough to offset either San Francisco or Los Angeles. There are not enough votes."

The cities with the population will always have the political power to extract what they need from the less-populated surrounding areas, whether that's water or .... maybe food someday?
posted by resurrexit at 3:32 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


...Bob Hazard, a retired hotel CEO who writes a news column for the Montecito Journal, says he would not be surprised if some of the town's wealthiest are "paying as much as $15,000 a month for trucked-in water."

You could buy a really, really nice yacht with an on-board desalinator for a few months of that. And then you'd actually be making fresh water, instead of just taking it from somewhere else.

Apparently some folks in California are thinking in that direction, even if it ain't the rich.
posted by mstokes650 at 3:34 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


With a desalinization plant, California would have enough salt to last forever!
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 3:37 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


hahaha WE'RE SO FUCKED.

Yeah, the bit from the last link about all the people / businesses wasting water to keep their lawns green is pretty much all the proof you need that we are way too stupid to save us from ourselves.
posted by junco at 3:42 PM on August 27 [20 favorites]


Just line the Pacific coast with big desalination plants. That way, you can supply clean water while at the same time fighting the rising ocean level from the melting polar ice cap. Win-win!
posted by Thorzdad at 3:44 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


As a Californian, so far I've mostly been putting my head in the sand and ignoring how bad this all really is, because it would freak me the hell out. It's looking harder and harder to do that though. What are the practical daily things I can do to, if not make things slightly better, at least not make them worse?
posted by naju at 3:44 PM on August 27


It's a huge problem for Californians

Not just us - there's a whole lotta food grown here that everyone else is used to eating.

I guess we are living in interesting times.

(There was a story on the news the other night about some woman in the East Bay who'd pulled up her lawn and put in drought-tolerant plants and so on, and of course she got a letter from her HOA, and they are fining her umpteen zillion $$s per day, etc. Sigh.)
posted by rtha at 3:45 PM on August 27 [18 favorites]


Instead of spending umpteen kilos of cash on bringing in a few truckloads of water, why aren't these rich folks funding the construction of desalination plants along the coast? The tax breaks alone would pay for themselves, and the publicity could only work for them.

You're presupposing that the rich care about the non-rich, or favorable publicity from the masses. The only opinions that they care about are those of their rich peers.
posted by T.D. Strange at 3:45 PM on August 27


I'm wondering how much pot growing is influencing the drought. It's a fairly water-intensive crop, and growers often drain water from the environment.
posted by halifix at 3:47 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


PG&E Helps Customers Save Energy By Saving Water
University of Florida - Green Living
Real Simple: 9 Things You Can Do To Save Water (slideshow)

And that's just the beginning!

Personally I've seen a lot of drought landscaping in my area and it's exciting: it's much more interesting than having a blanket of green (much as I like green). Bark seems to have made an incredible resurgence in popularity and this time it's the itty-bitty bark, not the big, chunky bark of the 1970s/80s.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:50 PM on August 27


Is this article true about San Francisco being exempted from some of the restrictions? "California is a tale of two cities. If you added all the agrarian counties of California together in terms of registered voters, that’s not even enough to offset either San Francisco or Los Angeles. There are not enough votes."

I don't know about restrictions or the politics or what, but San Franciscans don't use much water per-capita already. (that doesn't include agriculture which accounts for 80% of the water use in California). So regardless of anything else, there's comparatively little savings to be had in SF.

In fact, though, even across the state, something like 80% of the water is used by agriculture, so even if everyone stopped using any water at all, we still wouldn't have enough. While certainly every bit helps, it seems like any real solution is going to have to primarily focus around agriculture.

(Disclaimer: I live in SF, and don't have a farm, and so am biased)
posted by aubilenon at 3:50 PM on August 27 [9 favorites]


So lawn watering isn't that great, but as the other FPP noted (maybe in the comments) that agricultural usage of water is like 62% of the state's total water consumption with 16% urban and 22% "environmental".

So even if a lawn never got watered again in California, ever, it wouldn't be much more than a drop in the bucket.

As I said in the other thread, the real issue is that California produces like 73% of all US lettuce as well as producing a huge amount of otehr crops like almonds, strawberries, etc.

When California runs out of water the entire nation begins to run out of fruits & vegetables. I hope you like pickled vegetables 10 months of the year.
posted by GuyZero at 3:59 PM on August 27 [10 favorites]


that’s not even enough to offset either San Francisco or Los Angeles

Obligatory
posted by gimonca at 4:02 PM on August 27


The Gizmodo link is basically regurgitating this Politico story, which includes this lovely well-fuck-that-guy anecdote:
According to public documents, the biggest residential user for 2012-13 was Pat Nesbitt—CEO of Windsor Capital, majority owner of Embassy Suites—who has long sought to convince local officials that his polo field, which is part of his 20 acre estate, is entitled to a discounted agricultural water rate.
Well fuck that guy.

It's worth flipping to page 2 of the story which discusses agricultural use -- 85% of surface water, and at discounted rates -- and the business of "water piracy".
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 4:03 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


Who needs lettuce, really? You can make a better salad with a heartier leaf, like spinach or arugula. Lettuce isn't really adding much to you sandwich or burger. You buy a head of lettuce knowing the last third is probably going in the compost.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:04 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


When I run for office I'm proposing we start giving discounted ag water rates to every rich person's polo field, oh and also that's because now the only thing the city's gonna pump to your estate from now on is greywater, dickhead.
posted by crayz at 4:07 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]



Yes, Burning Man is the entirety of California. At least it feels that way.


Burning Man is in Nevada, north east of Reno. I don't know where the rain came from but it didn't pass through California.
posted by doctor_negative at 4:08 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Yes, Burning Man is the entirety of California. At least it feels that way.

Point taken, but: Actually in Nevada.
posted by trip and a half at 4:10 PM on August 27


That'll teach me to light a cigarette before hitting "Post".
posted by trip and a half at 4:11 PM on August 27


agricultural usage of water is like 62% of the state's total water consumption with 16% urban and 22% "environmental"

Oops, I should have looked it up before pulling 80 out of my foggy memory. I also should have proof-read before saying it twice. Sorry for the wrong facts!
posted by aubilenon at 4:14 PM on August 27


Thorzdad: "Just line the Pacific coast with big desalination plants. That way, you can supply clean water while at the same time fighting the rising ocean level from the melting polar ice cap. Win-win!"

Why do that as a public good when the rich can just buy their "Pure Glacial Water" and let the plebes die of thirst.
posted by symbioid at 4:16 PM on August 27


Ant Invasion.
(I have passed this on to two people, one in NoCal and one is SoCal, so it may be of general Cal interest).
If you are in a drought area and your house is being invaded by ants, you may take this bit of advice:

My sister lived in Mill Valley, CA in the 1960s. She was plagued by tiny ants. She realized that they were just looking for water. Also, standing water is a deadly surface-tension trap for an ant.

So she dropped a rag on the ground outside where the ants could find it, and each day poured some water on the rag. Ants could get water from the wet rag without danger to themselves. And so they stopped their massive kitchen invasions.

It converts a nuisance into millions of new pets!
posted by hexatron at 4:20 PM on August 27 [31 favorites]


What's crazy is that there are many places in California that still don't have water metering. They just charge a flat rate.

As far as what people can do: we're currently in the process of getting rid of our front lawn and replacing it with a drought resistant garden with CA native plants. LADWP has a program for this. We have ~900 sqft and they're giving us up to $2,400 of rebates for the project which is not bad if you can do most of the work yourself. I know it's a drop in the empty bucket in terms of water consumption but it's better than nothing.
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:23 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


Higher ag water prices won't pull fruits and vegetables off people's plates. It should mostly hit cheap feed crops like hay and alfalfa. That will in turn raise dairy and meat prices I guess. But subsidizing animal feed while imposing restrictions and punitive fines on domestic water usage is bullshit.
posted by ryanrs at 4:24 PM on August 27 [5 favorites]


California agriculture accounts for ~80% of the state's water usage (stat based on CA gov website: "In average year California agriculture irrigates 9.6 million acres using roughly 34 million acre-feet of water of the 43 million acre-feet diverted from surface waters or pumped from groundwater." ) ; almond farming alone accounts for ~10% of the state's water usage.

1.1 gallons of water needed for each almond , 4.9 for each walnut
posted by Bwithh at 4:24 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Man, who even likes walnuts?
posted by ryanrs at 4:26 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


We need to change our agricultural practices, sure. But keep in mind when you see those numbers for almonds and walnuts than the number is an order of magnitude higher for one slice of cheese and two orders of magnitude higher for beef.

So if you're boycotting nuts but eating cheese and meat you're treating the hangnail while ignoring the sucking chest wound.
posted by Justinian at 4:28 PM on August 27 [7 favorites]


YOU SHUT YOUR FILTHY MOUTH WALNUTS ARE THE BEST NUTS
posted by Hairy Lobster at 4:29 PM on August 27 [11 favorites]


Everything will be okay, God will provide, this is just another one of those trials or tests of faith that He sends to non-rich people day in and day out. Privatization of water is definitely the answer to this somehow. Long live Jesus and the great state of Californey, may the Red Hot Chilli Peppers continue to write songs about it all the time.
posted by turbid dahlia at 4:35 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


for London readers, yes, Californian state and local restrictions on household water usage during the current extreme drought, where applied, are weaker and more lightly enforced (it's mostly voluntary; with smallish fines/temporary metering possible in big wastage cases) than London hosepipe bans during UK "heat waves"
posted by Bwithh at 4:40 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


I just ate like 50 gallons worth of walnuts.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:40 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Oh California. Your long, proud history of growing crops in what would otherwise be arid scrub.

Every time I go down the 5 I swear the farmers get a little more violent in their rhetoric over water rights. Fuck them. I'm done with the water of this state being held to ransom by so few.

Back home in Perth we ended up going desal. We do 150 billion liters a year with desal, about half of the supply needed for the city (which holds a good 90% of the population of the state). We power the two plants by solar and wind energy. It was a project by the government funded and owned Water Corporation. It was completed on time, on budget by said government owned corporation and should be a poster child on how to run public utilities.

But desal isn't the end of it. We also replenish deep groundwater sources using recycled treated sewage as well as using the higher quality greywater for watering uses on council parks and grounds.

It's required a metric fuckton of money but the surface water inflow to damns is down to 1/3 of what it was 50 years ago and shows no signs of ever rebounding. At this point we have to aggressively conserve, recycle and trade off energy for fresh water or the city will run dry. Thanks to the work of incredibly smart and wise people who are working towards water security instead of next quarter's profit, the city will be secure in its water needs for at least the next half a century.
posted by Talez at 4:46 PM on August 27 [54 favorites]


So if you're boycotting nuts but eating cheese and meat you're treating the hangnail while ignoring the sucking chest wound.

Oh no! Apparently it takes like 600 gallons of water to make a pound of cheese! But a pound of cheese is one of my favorite foods!

I guess only eating aged cheese from less dry years wouldn't really do much good, would it? Maybe I can only eat cheese from places with plenty of water like Oregon or Vermont.
posted by aubilenon at 4:49 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


It's okay, I just eat everything and assume we're all going to die.
posted by Justinian at 4:53 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


I've often thought that areas with especially high value real estate/high income residents should have some kind of requirement written into the residential building code so that these super expensive homes are also required to be the greenest.

So, you can have your $20 million mansion but it's going to have solar panels all over it, geothermal heat pumps, wind generators, an on-site desalinization plant, and every other damn green technology that might make some sense. I don't install these things because I can't afford and I it will take too long for it to pay off so Oprah can install 20 normal houses worth of them instead.

As long as these rich people are trucking water in from places that have more than they need (IE they aren't exacerbating a drought somewhere else) I guess it's not the worst thing in the world. I seems like an easier solution would be to scale the rates up progressively with use. Make it get REALLY steep for the rich folks to keep their lawns greens and they'll either cut back or you can use the funds to build more desalinization plants.
posted by VTX at 5:02 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


Oh wow. I was punching some hopefully-correct numbers, and actually marijuana is around .3 gallons per gram, and is much less water-intensive than walnuts and almonds (4.4 and 3.7 gallons per gram respectively). However, it's more than than the non-nuts on that link. I still think it should be marijuana should be legalized, though. It really needs some oversight.

I wonder if we can get the trucking of water to require an impact review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
posted by halifix at 5:14 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


Desalinization plants use great amounts of energy, which is very expensive in California. I'd bet that this is one major reason we don't see them all up and down the coast.
posted by Mr. Six at 5:24 PM on August 27


was punching some hopefully-correct numbers, and actually marijuana is around .3 gallons per gram, and is much less water-intensive than walnuts and almonds

But its being taken illegally from small creeks which frequently dries them up completely and kills all the juvenile salmon and trout. Yes there are salmon and trout in those isolated pools in tiny creeks in places like Redding and Montecito. People call them "minnows" but they're mostly salmonids.

Or there were till someone pumped the creek dry for a couple days.
posted by fshgrl at 5:33 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


The first world is gonna ride its freedom all the way down, just like Major Kong riding the bomb.
posted by No-sword at 5:34 PM on August 27 [8 favorites]


Mr. Six:
"Desalinization plants use great amounts of energy, which is very expensive in California. I'd bet that this is one major reason we don't see them all up and down the coast."
From SFGate
"Within about five years, WaterFX company co-founder Aaron Mandell hopes to be processing 10 times that amount throughout the San Joaquin Valley. And here's the part that gets the farmers who buy his water most excited: His solar desalination plant produces water that costs about a quarter of what more conventionally desalinated water costs: $450 an acre-foot versus $2,000 an acre-foot."
posted by Hairy Lobster at 5:35 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


If I were dictator, I'd ban grass lawns altogether. Have a gravel-n-rock lawn, or Astroturf if you're so inclined.

The southwest is really screwed. I have long wanted to move to that area, but the water situation is going to keep me away, unless it gets better. And it only seems it will get worse.
posted by zardoz at 5:54 PM on August 27 [4 favorites]


The drought is so bad it's caused the entire Western US to rise:
Investigating ground positioning data from GPS stations throughout the west, Scripps researchers Adrian Borsa, Duncan Agnew, and Dan Cayan found that the water shortage is causing an "uplift" effect up to 15 millimeters (more than half an inch) in California's mountains and on average four millimeters (0.15 of an inch) across the west.
...
Agnew, a Scripps Oceanography geophysics professor who specializes in studying earthquakes and their impact on shaping Earth's crust, says the GPS data can only be explained by rapid uplift of the tectonic plate upon which the western U.S. rests ...
posted by jamjam at 6:04 PM on August 27


Desalinization plants use great amounts of energy, which is very expensive in California. I'd bet that this is one major reason we don't see them all up and down the coast.

Electricity in Western Australia is 50% more expensive than electricity in CA and they're paying for wind and solar energy to boot. It's political willpower and capital.
posted by Talez at 6:05 PM on August 27 [6 favorites]


What is interesting is that Santa Barbara has a desal plant already. It hasn't been used in years but they're taking out out of mothballs to start using it again.

I live near the Carlsbad desal plant currently under construction. Detractors say it is too expensive. It is more expensive than the water we buy from DWP or get from the Colorado River Over time that water will be more expensive but the desal water will cost the same.
posted by birdherder at 6:06 PM on August 27


$450 an acre-foot versus $2,000 an acre-foot."

(Aside: 1 acre-foot is volume of water covering 1 acre to the depth of a foot, which works out to just shy of 326,000 gallons or 1.2 million liters)

Before the drought, water was running under $150 an acre-foot in the Central Valley, and $250 in the Western Canal Water District. So, $450/ac-ft is pretty much a no-go.

Now, water is around $1000-1800/ac-ft in the south and $500 in the north. So, right now that looks good, but if you invest the money to make many acre-feet of water, you need those prices to stay around or over $450. If they drop below 2012 prices, you've lost badly.

Which is why these things are still in pilot phase levels. Nobody wants to drop millions of dollars on a $450/ac-ft plant when one wet winter would drop natural water prices to $150 or less.
posted by eriko at 6:30 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


A couple of days ago, the LA Times had a front page article showing a farm owner standing in his rice field. Rice requires huge amounts of water, fields need to be flooded. This guy is getting rich selling his rice to China! Couple weeks before that, they ran an article about another farmer getting rich selling alfalfa, which needs almost as much water as rice to, wait for it, China. I recall reading that 40 percent of California's agricultural water goes to raising alfalfa. So we are, in essence sending our water to China. These articles, by the way, were not critical of the practice.

I heard that last winter was the warmest in Alaska history. So I've got this great business plan - we make ice here in California and sell it to the Eskimos. That's about how much sense these agribusiness practices make.
posted by charlesminus at 6:39 PM on August 27 [3 favorites]


Some communities in California are responding to the need to reduce water consumption. Ten years ago our home in a small California central coastal community had the only drought tolerant California native plants landscape. Now the majority of yards in the neighborhood are some sort of drought adapted landscaping. People are recognizing the need to restrict water use, except for some obstinate jackasses. City counsel was giving a rebate of $1.00/sq.ft for removing lawn. Recently the incentive was doubled.
posted by X4ster at 7:11 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


During Drought, Pop-Up Wetlands Give Birds a Break.

There are all kinds of consequences from the drought, and from policy decisions to cut federal water allotments, and the human residents of California (and everyone else who eats stuff grown here) aren't the only ones to feel the effects.
posted by rtha at 7:12 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


This guy is getting rich selling his rice to China!

This is how water allotments work. This guy gets his water and he gets to do what he wants with it. When there's a transparent state-wide market for water he'd have some incentive to do otherwise. Until then, who knows? If he's on the delta then the water is all right there and he gets his allotment.

On the plus side rice paddies are apparently really good for migrating water fowl as replacement wetlands. (oh wait that's the same info rtha linked to above, ha)
posted by GuyZero at 7:36 PM on August 27


China, in fact, has a water crisis worse than California's, although it's currently not really acute because they haven't gotten hit with a drought like this one. They have similar issues with groundwater depletion actually being exacerbated by more efficient irrigation. They also, AFAIK, don't have a mature system for resource allocation, and nobody really has the authority to husband natural resources or protect the environment on a large scale (i.e. there's nothing to be done about upstream polluters).

The central government is in fact working on the "South-To-North Water Transfer Project" which basically involves redirecting rivers all around the country in order to bring water to the populous-but-arid north (where a lot of food is grown); it's an engineering project of ludicrous scale and dubious utility, which is funny because a ton of high-level Communist officials nowadays are engineers. There's also the problem that the headwaters of the Yangtze are in territory disputed with India who also desperately needs water for agriculture to feed an enormous population.

So yes, we are sending our water to China. They need it probably more than we do and they are willing to pay. It's also been suggested that this is why China bought Smithfield last year.

What's horrifying is this might be the new normal.
posted by vogon_poet at 8:13 PM on August 27 [2 favorites]


Eastern Colorado
posted by j_curiouser at 8:15 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


It seems intuitive that the California drought is connected to global climate change. Is it? Or is it a thing that can happen, and just sucks?
posted by theora55 at 8:35 PM on August 27


Maybe both? I think there's evidence of cyclical drought in California but this one is especially bad.
posted by GuyZero at 9:40 PM on August 27


The stuff being sold to China is interesting because it's practically free to ship stuff (mostly alfalfa) there-- they're shipping empty containers back anyway.
posted by NoraReed at 10:02 PM on August 27 [1 favorite]


The problem is that California has a history of repeated droughts- IIRC, one bankrupted the Spanish landowners, and sped the transition of California to the U.S. Fears of drought were one of the justifications for the Peripheral Canal. So it's hard to say whatever a given drought is influenced by global climate change.

That aside, I remember with nostalgia they proposals to haul icebergs up to SoCal to solve the water crisis. I think the only thing that came of that proposal were a couple science fiction novels.
posted by happyroach at 1:04 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Oh yay. The San Jose Mercury News (my hometown, mostly ignored paper) has an article on megadroughts, dry periods that have lasted centuries.

I think I'm going to switch from water to coping juice
posted by happyroach at 1:06 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


for London readers, yes, Californian state and local restrictions on household water usage during the current extreme drought, where applied, are weaker and more lightly enforced (it's mostly voluntary; with smallish fines/temporary metering possible in big wastage cases) than London hosepipe bans during UK "heat waves"

Yep. Both the Met Office in the UK and Met Éireann in Ireland define 'absolute drought' - the highest possible level - as 15 days or more of no rain. Here in Ireland the water system is set up for more or less constant rain - almost half of all water is lost through leakage before it gets to the tap, although this varies widely by area.
posted by kersplunk at 4:08 AM on August 28


so, question, does anybody know this:

In the 1970s in Oregon, my family ate horse meat until my mom got pregnant again and the smell made her ill. Another friend remembers the days of horse meat and told me recently that it was because of the drought in Cali in the 1970s. Does anybody remember the days of horse meat and why the fuck some of us were eating horses? Was it drought or OPEC related?

(sorry horsies i was just a kid eatin' what was on my plate)
posted by angrycat at 4:31 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the bit from the last link about all the people / businesses wasting water to keep their lawns green is pretty much all the proof you need that we are way too stupid to save us from ourselves.

Yup.

California Couple Tries To Conserve Water, Ends Up Facing $500 Fine For Brown Lawn
posted by malocchio at 6:26 AM on August 28


Angrycat: apparently it was a plot point on "All in the Family"? Interesting. I also found a mention on some kind of NRA board about horse meat roadside stands popping up in Seattle.
posted by Lardmitten at 6:55 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


S.F. poised to require water rationing
San Francisco water users would be forced to reduce outdoor watering by 10 percent - or face penalties - under a proposal by utility officials who are poised to add the city to a growing number of California communities that are rationing water amid one the worst droughts in decades.

But the move by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, which has struggled to achieve voluntary reductions, is a half-step of sorts.

It would apply primarily to large customers who use the bulk of their water outdoors, like schools, golf courses, shopping centers and condo complexes.
poised!?!?! ten percent! only large users?

Santa Clara county? "Retail water agencies, local municipalities and the county of Santa Clara are recommended to implement mandatory measures as needed to achieve the 20 percent water use reduction target." Recommended? Arg!

On the other hand, when the rich do do xeriscaping, it can be beaut-i-ful. Cacti are slow growing, but a big investment in some big, old ones pays off. We need some more of that on HGTV.

Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA)'s drought map with descriptions of the various agencies' responses so far, to the third year of drought.
posted by morganw at 8:30 AM on August 28


An article on thinkprogress linked from the brown lawn ones malocchio posted cries "On Tuesday the State Water Resources Control Board in California is expected to institute statewide mandatory water restrictions for the first time." Those restrictions? When you wash your car, you have to have a shut-off nozzle on your hose and
The application of potable water to outdoor landscapes in a manner that causes runoff such that water flows onto adjacent property, non-irrigated areas, private and public walkways, roadways, parking lots, or structures;
You can still have that green lawn, just don't water it so much that the water cascades down the street. Those of you with sandy soil? Yeah, water away!
posted by morganw at 8:41 AM on August 28


Does anybody remember the days of horse meat and why the fuck some of us were eating horses? Was it drought or OPEC related?

Yeah, I remember that. There was a huge nationwide decline in the availability of (primarily) beef back around 1973. There are several events that combined to cause it. One of the main causes often mentioned is Nixon's freezing of beef prices in the early 70's, in an attempt to get a hold on inflation (I believe there was also a wage freeze included). With the selling price capped and production costs continuing to rise, manufacturers simply closed-down operations, reducing the beef supply. I've read that there was also a shortage of corn feed, as well, adding to the cost of production. I don't think you can pin it all on a California drought.

It's surprisingly hard to find adequate information about this event.

There was a popular poster in the stores at this time featuring a man spooning the contents of an Alpo dog food can onto his plate, while his dog looked on in sadness.
posted by Thorzdad at 8:49 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


I lived through all of this as a little kid and have no memory of any of it, especially how thorough it was, but there were tons of price controls imposed by Nixon starting in 1971, and he announced across-the-board food price freezes in June 1973. The beef price freezes weren't lifted till September 1973. The California beef shortages were in the headlines almost every day that summer.
posted by blucevalo at 9:30 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


poised!?!?! ten percent! only large users?

Yeah. Why the outrage? San Francisco residents use 98 gal/per capita, compared to Sacramento's 279 and Palm Springs' 736 (!!!! - those golf course are wicked thirsty). Even closer to home is Hillsborough, where they use 334 gal/cap! I mean, sneer at SF all you want, but even we reduced usage by 50% that would not be a drop ha ha in the bucket compared to places like Sacto where half the homes don't even have meters. As to only large users - again, yeah. Golf courses and parks use a gigantic amount of water compared to even a profligate home, and have to-the-drop ways of tracking it.
posted by rtha at 10:50 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Yeah. Why the outrage? San Francisco residents use 98 gal/per capita,

This just in: People who don't have yards use 50% less water than those who don't. People in SF by and large don't have yards or if they do they have extremely small yards.

That doesn't mean you get to waste water on inefficient toilets that use 7 gallons per flush vs 1.6, shower heads that spray out 5.5 gallons of water every minute vs 2.2 or washing machines that use 45 gallons per load instead of 15.

Agriculture is by far the biggest water waster in California. But that doesn't mean the populace gets a break on blatantly wasting water on old and inefficient appliances.
posted by Talez at 11:34 AM on August 28 [1 favorite]


Yards. And cars.

There have been no public service announcements where I live about the drought. None. And certainly none in Spanish. People wash their cars with hoses running and wash down their sidewalks all the time.
posted by small_ruminant at 12:23 PM on August 28


That doesn't mean you get to waste water on inefficient

Agreed. But making people think they're so much worse than they actually are can backfire (and it's irritating). People in Hillsborough are flushing 7/gal a flush and flooding their enormous acreages that pass as lawns down here, and nobody in this thread at least gets all wooly about that. It's annoying. (We keep a bucket in our shower, fwiw, to catch the warm-up water that we then use the flush. We have a tiny back garden on drip irrigation. I take my car to a car wash that recycles its grey water. Etc.)
posted by rtha at 12:40 PM on August 28


Agreed. But making people think they're so much worse than they actually are can backfire (and it's irritating). People in Hillsborough are flushing 7/gal a flush and flooding their enormous acreages that pass as lawns down here, and nobody in this thread at least gets all wooly about that. It's annoying. (We keep a bucket in our shower, fwiw, to catch the warm-up water that we then use the flush. We have a tiny back garden on drip irrigation. I take my car to a car wash that recycles its grey water. Etc.)

It's the 21st century. Extreme water-saving technology is cheap and widely available. Make them pay out the asshole for anything over 100 gal/day per person. Meanwhile the rest of us will keep saving the best we can.
posted by Talez at 2:08 PM on August 28


> Yeah. Why the outrage? San Francisco residents use 98 gal/per capita,

Sorry, yeah, I do agree with you. I used to live in Santa Cruz which already had pretty low water use and they were pushing for more reduction (1992) which seemed nuts, like auditing the poor. I only mentioned SF because when I tried to find out what restrictions were already in effect*, that came up first. The ACWA map is better than flailing at Google. The point that we're still at the "consideration" and "voluntary" stage in many areas after three years of drought, stands.

* I live in the state, but was not aware that the wimpy restrictions (nozzle on car washing hose, etc.) with the $500 penalty were already in effect. Sure, there are "conserve water" messages on the highway signs, but I rent and my landlord pays the water bill, so gets the inserts in the bill.
posted by morganw at 9:40 PM on August 28


Irreversible Damage Seen From Climate Change in UN Leak

also btw Bill McKibben's been guest blogging on The Dish:
-Burning Earth
-News Of The World
-Hair–And World–On Fire
-Let Them Build Seawalls
-Why Oil Companies Are Rogue Actors
-An Actual Exit from Climate Hell
-Climate Trial-Ballooning
-Gas Attack? (David Brin writes...)

oh and from the comments...
"In the past year alone, there are promising signs of collaboration beyond California's borders: the Golden State has formed a series of important partnerships including linkage with Quebec, a non-binding agreement with Oregon, Washington state and British Columbia to establish a regional climate plan, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with China which launched seven of its own pilot trading programs last year, and a MOU with Australia to guide collaboration in addressing climate change."

proposals to haul icebergs up to SoCal to solve the water crisis. I think the only thing that came of that proposal were a couple science fiction novels

Brewster's Millions! :P
posted by kliuless at 10:44 PM on August 29 [2 favorites]


How much water do you use? What can you do to make it less? Play with this Water Footprint Calculator. Note that many of us live in the US, and that [mumble-mumble] percent of the food we eat is directly connected to California in some way. If you are eating a quarter pound hamburger in New York City, you are directly draining that much water from California.

More and more, the answer becomes "Stop eating beef."
"Your individual water footprint is equal to the water required to produce the goods and services consumed by you. Please take your time and feel free to use the extended water footprint calculator to assess your own unique water footprint. The calculations are based on the water requirements per unit of product as in your country of residence."
"Stop eating beef" is at the top of the list as something you personally can do to help save our atmosphere.

And if you can't do that "eat less beef" is a good start.
posted by Monkey0nCrack at 7:37 AM on August 31


Southwest U.S. at Risk of Megadrought
posted by the man of twists and turns at 3:13 PM on September 4


Hustle and Flow: Here's Who Really Controls California's Water
posted by homunculus at 8:12 PM on September 5


The Severity Of California's Drought Captured In Disturbing New Photos
posted by homunculus at 5:52 PM on September 8


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