"I call it the war on suburbia."
June 14, 2015 1:05 PM   Subscribe

As California's drought worsens, those who live in Rancho Santa Fe — one of the wealthiest communities in the US — seem to agree: "We’re not all equal when it comes to water."
posted by a lungful of dragon (153 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
I say let them water all they want. When the time comes that food starts to run short, everyone just has to go right for the houses with the green lawns. We should thank them for making it so easy.
posted by nevercalm at 1:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [54 favorites]


“California used to be the land of opportunity and freedom,” Barbre said. “It’s slowly becoming the land of one group telling everybody else how they think everybody should live their lives.”

The irony of this man's quote is stunning.
posted by spoobnooble II: electric bugaboo at 1:10 PM on June 14, 2015 [107 favorites]


Fucking assholes.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 1:15 PM on June 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


Yuhas, who hosts a conservative talk-radio show, abhors the culture of “drought-shaming”

Good grief.
posted by almostmanda at 1:15 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


“California used to be the land of opportunity and freedom,” Barbre said. “It’s slowly becoming the land of one group telling everybody else how they think everybody should live their lives.”

All these folks need to be stuffed into a Tardis and dropped off into WWII era London.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:16 PM on June 14, 2015 [14 favorites]


“It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture,” Butler said. “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”

Talk about living in a bubble.
posted by rtha at 1:17 PM on June 14, 2015 [83 favorites]


“What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”

Chaparral, motherfucker.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:18 PM on June 14, 2015 [58 favorites]


Lovely people. Their wealth only equaled by the amount of empathy they show their fellow man no doubt.
posted by triage_lazarus at 1:19 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]




When several generations of Americans have been able to assume a little bit of cash gets you water from the tap, food from the grocery store, and fuel from a pump, this is what you get when you cross that with social class isolation and social status seeking.

These stories are also a perfect fit for social media era outrage, so we'll continue to see them constantly.
posted by MillMan at 1:23 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


>>“It angers me because people aren’t looking at the overall picture,” Butler said. “What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”

>Talk about living in a bubble.


There was a story on the fight against affordable housing in Marin County on Marketplace the other day, which included this gem:
Justin Kai is also on the Board of Directors of the Marinwood Community Services District. Kai lives with his wife and infant son in Lucas Valley/Marinwood. His family moved to the neighborhood four years ago.

It was a “financial stretch,” he says, but they loved their home’s big backyard and access to good quality schools.

“I made great sacrifices to be here,” he says. “I think it's selfish to expect that someone else should be able to acquire (it) for little or next to nothing.”
I hadn't realized "I've got mine, so fuck you" had become the state's official motto.
posted by jaguar at 1:25 PM on June 14, 2015 [87 favorites]


It's "Let them eat cake" worthy, and they just keep spewing it.

I keep waiting for things to pop, and they don't pop.
posted by Trochanter at 1:28 PM on June 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


I think drought-shaming is in many cases unjustified. For one, calling out people for washing their cars, watering their gardens, and taking long showers, given residential water use in California accounts for about 3% of all California water whereas agricultural water use accounts for 80%, is just plain foolish.

In the case of Yuhas (for one example), drought-shaming doesn't even figure because that man has no shame.

Even so, forcing his gardens to go dry is symbolic. The fate of this gardens have NOTHING to do with the dire state of drought here in California.

The problem is the wasteful irrigation of California produce. The water is poorly managed and the exports are not priced to account for environmental externalities.

Forcing residents to use less water is class warfare of another type, with the agricultural users at one end and residential users (receiving the blame) at the other.

FUCK THAT NOISE
posted by mistersquid at 1:29 PM on June 14, 2015 [62 favorites]


The biggest hope I have is just mandating separate indoor/outdoor metering (something that's been effective most places it's been tried) and exponentially increasing outdoor water prices.
posted by klangklangston at 1:29 PM on June 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


I take my morning gin and tonics without ice now. What else do they want me to do?
posted by Poldo at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2015 [40 favorites]


I take my morning gin and tonics without ice now. What else do they want me to do?


Please, please. We are still civilized individuals. Cut it back to stirring, which causes less meltoff than shaking.
posted by nevercalm at 1:32 PM on June 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


In his book, Startide Rising, David Brin imagines a race of beings called the "Episiarchs", whose powerful, adamant egos refuse to concede anything at all to reality. Powerful psychics, they literally alter the universe with their minds to suit themselves, through denial and outrage.

They say you write what you know. Dr. Brin lives in the Greater San Diego area.
posted by zarq at 1:32 PM on June 14, 2015 [26 favorites]


All these folks need to be stuffed into a Tardis and dropped off into WWII era London.

Ahahaha, could you imagine any attempt at setting up WWII-style rationing in America today? The all-around blowback would be hilarious, in the "laugh-so-you-don't-start-crying" kind of way.
posted by Itaxpica at 1:33 PM on June 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


To be clear, many of the residents of Rancho Santa Fe featured in the article are loathsome from a water conservation perspective.

Even so, their behavior is not the reason California is in the fix it is in. The political and economic forces who decide to shame such users, now, rather than permanently changing the state's water policy are the real problem.
posted by mistersquid at 1:35 PM on June 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


“When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna.”

Since you're in southern California, [reallyoldknight] you planned... poorly. [/reallyoldknight]
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:36 PM on June 14, 2015 [38 favorites]


I hadn't realized "I've got mine, so fuck you" had become the state's official motto.

Well it's the unofficial official motto of the Republicans and the Tea Party, as well as wealthy libertarians, and is very popular country wide so it's not surprise it's all the rage amongst like minded persons in California. Bullshit spreads easier then truth and apparently large parts of the less than wealthy seem to love the taste of it.

I mean, shit, the real reason for the drought is abortion!
posted by juiceCake at 1:38 PM on June 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


These guys decided to collectively increase their water consumption in response to the drought. I really have no sympathy.

Yes, the drought pits urban users against suburban users in a way that may seem unfair. On the other hand, I live in an apartment in San Francisco. I don't have a lawn to water or a car to wash. I already do my best to take shorter showers and I use a high efficiency washer and dishwasher sparingly. I just don't have a way to conserve much more. Meanwhile the guy on the 4 acre SoCal estate can just shut off his sprinklers and conserve more in a month than I use in years.

And yes, residential conservation is nice and all, but we need to change the way agriculture uses water in this state to make any real difference.
posted by zachlipton at 1:48 PM on June 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


I would be curious to know how many of these people understand that those huge ass ponds next to Larry Ellison and George Lucas's houses are for when the inevitable firestorm from hell comes?
posted by bukvich at 1:50 PM on June 14, 2015


This is one of the things I enjoy about California, how quickly the "WE are tolerant and accepting, unlike those flyover state neanderthals" mask slips.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:52 PM on June 14, 2015 [37 favorites]


(Jumps in Lake Superior)

"I'm rich!, I'm hydrated and it's all mine. I am water independent, I'm going to water Idaho... I may be a gander but I'm greedy gander..."
posted by clavdivs at 1:59 PM on June 14, 2015 [18 favorites]


This was so infuriating. After reading their own defense of their behavior I wouldn't really be opposed to cutting this horrible place off from water entirely. Let their mansions and lawns and property values and sunk wealth just dry up and blow away.
posted by gerryblog at 2:00 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


Hey its like the West Coast equivalent of those "HOW CAN WE LIVE ON 400K A YEAR" New York Times Style section articles. Except WaPo knows these people are terrible where NYT does't seem to realize it.

Yes, rationing residential water use is purely symbolic. It's important symbolism none the less. My fear is that we only do the symbolic things because they are easier than cutting agricultural water use by half or whatever.
posted by Justinian at 2:01 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


This is one of the things I enjoy about California, how quickly the "WE are tolerant and accepting, unlike those flyover state neanderthals" mask slips.

Yeah, the people who live in this part of California aren't wearing that mask.
posted by Huck500 at 2:02 PM on June 14, 2015 [22 favorites]


As much as they seem like (and quite likely are) assholes, they have something that's at least tangential to a point. Making Richy Richy forgo his topiary self portrait isn't much compared to agricultural usage, and nearly meaningless in terms of the overall problem.
posted by codacorolla at 2:05 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


“What are we supposed to do, just have dirt around our house on four acres?”

I personally am loving the xeriscaping I see everywhere in Tucson. It's gotten to the point that a grass lawn seems more trashy than a spare dirt/gravel one. When done right, it's much more aesthetically pleasing than a bunch of grass, with all the different cacti and native plants.

As for grass sports, how often are these guys playing croquet on their lawns? When we want to play soccer or frisbee, we just go down the street to the public park that maintains grassy lawn (using reclaimed water) as a *public* good. My understanding is that Phoenix has better water rights (cheaper water all year round) so more people have grass lawns, but I think Tucson is really doing it right.
posted by permiechickie at 2:06 PM on June 14, 2015 [16 favorites]


"I'm rich!, I'm hydrated and it's all mine. I am water independent, I'm going to water Idaho... I may be a gander but I'm greedy gander..."

OPEN SARSAPARILLA....
OPEN SASKATCHEWAN...
OPEN SCHENECTADY....
posted by zarq at 2:07 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


permiechickie, I remember my first visit to Tucson and how I was enthralled by the xeriscaping, so I'm surprised (naively I guess) that there is so much pushback against it in California. I would be so into it!

And I do understand it is symbolic, but pretty disgusting that people can't even give up relatively trivial things symbolically. They don't actually seem to realize the magnitude of the crisis. It's kind of scary that the whole thing (all of California's water management that is) is such a clusterf*ck even as the situation continues to get worse.
posted by maggiemaggie at 2:15 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


These people are awful, but it seems like the real problem is the suicide cult that is California agribusiness, and the politicians they've bought.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 2:18 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]




Flying into Palm Springs, I couldn't believe how many lawns and swimming pools there are.

I'm sorry, but if you live in a f*cking desert, you shouldn't have a lawn and a swimming pool.

I live in Marin, so I see plenty of privilege here, but that article is something else. We don't feel the drought here nearly as much, but I expect water rationing to hit here eventually. And there will probably be similar temper tantrums. I can't wait.
posted by guster4lovers at 2:20 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


[...] she defends the amount of water she and her neighbors need for their vast estates.

“You could put 20 houses on my property, and they’d have families of at least four. In my house, there is only two of us,” Butler said. So “they’d be using a hell of a lot more water than we’re using.”
Clearly, the solution is to exterminate the poors.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:20 PM on June 14, 2015 [13 favorites]


On the List of Horrendous Things Wealthy Californians Do, "Wasting Water" is barely in the Top 10... it is rising with a bullet, but is unlikely to ever make the Top 3, no matter how long The Great Droughtpression lasts.

On the bright side, there are some local agricultural pros who are doing some impressively good stuff (and remember, the majority of water going into cattle production is from growing the grain they eat - also the share of agriculture income in SLO County from cattle has been dropping steadily since before the drought, except for one year that was boosted by a few ranchers quitting the business and selling their entire herds, so my ag neighbors are relatively good folks)
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:24 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Ahahaha, could you imagine any attempt at setting up WWII-style rationing in America today? The all-around blowback would be hilarious, in the "laugh-so-you-don't-start-crying" kind of way.

It's nothing new. Remember what happened when Jimmy Carter suggested that maybe, just maybe, the next time you get cold you might consider putting on a sweater instead of cranking up the thermostat?
posted by Faint of Butt at 2:32 PM on June 14, 2015 [50 favorites]


My poor little 10×12 lawn deserves less water? Bastards!!
posted by Andrew Thewes at 2:42 PM on June 14, 2015


If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water.

Yeah, if you can pay for it. Water bills need to be progressive. Get essentially free water to cover the minimum water needs for your family (drinking, cooking, bathing, and flushing water for the number of residents in your home). Then raise the rate steeply. During a drought, it should cost you about a million dollars to fill a pool.
posted by pracowity at 2:44 PM on June 14, 2015 [67 favorites]


In my little burb outside Dallas, where we've had drought for a really long time, there are separate meters for internal and external systems. Thus, the irrigation system is charged at a much higher rate than washing dishes, and if you water on verboten days, the fines are scary...thousands of dollars scary. So, while our foundations are sliding and cracking, we can't water, but the golf course uses 180% more water every day than the entire residential population, and pays interior water rates.

Point being, eat the rich.
posted by dejah420 at 2:44 PM on June 14, 2015 [29 favorites]


It's nothing new. Remember what happened when Jimmy Carter suggested that maybe, just maybe, the next time you get cold you might consider putting on a sweater instead of cranking up the thermostat?
Yes, because we're still living with the backlash.
posted by NoxAeternum at 2:44 PM on June 14, 2015 [11 favorites]


With systems that have interior and exterior water meters, couldn't a homeowner just get around that by running a hose from an interior tap to the outdoors, and water to his heart's content?
posted by theorique at 2:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


With systems that have interior and exterior water meters, couldn't a homeowner just get around that by running a hose from an interior tap to the outdoors, and water to his heart's content?

If it's anything like some areas with water restrictions when your interior water usage doubles overnight you'll certainly be asked to explain.
posted by Talez at 2:58 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I hadn't realized "I've got mine, so fuck you" had become the state's official motto.

It's been California's motto for some time now. Especially as far as water's concerned.
posted by blucevalo at 3:07 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Point being, eat the rich.

For one thing, they are just all around juicier, what with all the hydration.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [46 favorites]


Cry me a river.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 3:20 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


> Yes, because we're still living with the backlash.

Yeah we're past the backlash. Now we're just living with the consequences.
posted by Poldo at 3:23 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


> In a place where the median income is $189,000, where PGA legend Phil Mickelson once requested a separate water meter for his chipping greens, where financier Ralph Whitworth last month paid the Rolling Stones $2 million to play at a local bar...

The only way I can read this without having a rage aneurism is to read it in the movie trailer "IN A WORLD..." voice.
posted by The Card Cheat at 3:25 PM on June 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


This is one of the things I enjoy about California, how quickly the "WE are tolerant and accepting, unlike those flyover state neanderthals" mask slips.

California has more Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives than 47 other states. California is large. It contains multitudes.
posted by Etrigan at 3:27 PM on June 14, 2015 [24 favorites]


This is one of the things I enjoy about California, how quickly the "WE are tolerant and accepting, unlike those flyover state neanderthals" mask slips.

Steve Yuhas, the source of these quotes in the article, is actually a decently prolific conservative radio personality in SoCal. Not exactly the most tolerant and accepting of people -- how he manages to contort himself into being against gay marriage while also being gay is beyond me.

Either way -- drown the rich.
posted by un petit cadeau at 3:33 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


Yeah, if you can pay for it. Water bills need to be progressive. Get essentially free water to cover the minimum water needs for your family (drinking, cooking, bathing, and flushing water for the number of residents in your home). Then raise the rate steeply. During a drought, it should cost you about a million dollars to fill a pool.

The California Supreme Court just ruled that unconstitutional. We apparently have a proposition that prevents utilities from charging more than it costs them for supplying things. The local water agencies seem to think that fines for excessive use are still ok, but tiered water rates are not.
posted by jaguar at 3:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [5 favorites]


There's no limit to what they will pay to have others fight to the last for their values.
posted by Jessica Savitch's Coke Spoon at 4:04 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


(Jumps in Lake Superior)

"I'm rich!, I'm hydrated and it's all mine. I am water independent


Living in metro Buffalo, I feel that way about Lake Erie a lot of the time. But I still ain't jumpin' in.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:05 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I've always read a lot of dystopian and post-apocalyptic fiction. Now I feel like I'm living in it.
posted by theora55 at 4:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


In the last great drought we experienced in southern Australia, we had to take fairly extreme measures. Only watering once per week, at night, for a limited time. After a while that was topped too and there was no watering allowed at all. People went to extraordinary lengths to preserve their gardens, from the simple (keeping a bucket in the shower that you could catch water in as you washed), to the obvious (using bore water rather than tap), to the really dedicated (using grey water on the garden).

The point was, everyone did it. Everyone was focused on water conservation, we all bought into the need for conservation, and that built the political will to take more useful measures in the agricultural areas.

It's important that everyone is seen to be sharing the inconvenience, so that broad support for improvements to water usage can be enacted.

Also, as rule of thumb, if you're fortunate enough to be very wealthy don't be a douchebag about it.
posted by awfurby at 4:20 PM on June 14, 2015 [55 favorites]


Keeping lawns and fountains has always been a dominance gesture in California. Always.

I actually did a photography project about this when I was in undergrad in Orange County, oh so many years ago. IME, you're far more likely to see a big, stupid water feature in front of a "hard-charging" business like a bank or an investment firm than, say, in front of a design firm or a medical practice. And you're loads and loads more likely to find fountains used that way in California than you are than you are in, say, the Pacific Northwest, where I currently live. (At least on this side of the Cascades, water isn't power: It's a substance that continually falls on you, and that you hope won't flood your basement.)
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 4:25 PM on June 14, 2015 [22 favorites]


guster4lovers: I live in Marin, so I see plenty of privilege here, but that article is something else. We don't feel the drought here nearly as much, but I expect water rationing to hit here eventually. And there will probably be similar temper tantrums. I can't wait.

Marin's reservoirs are full. Not just above average (which is about 80 percent), but very nearly at capacity. This winter they actually overflowed with rainwater. I mean, the EBMUD and Santa Clara reservoirs are still in bad shape, but nobody has any way (that I'm aware of) to move water around from one reservoir to another. (Hetch Hetchy, where I get my water, is also above-average full.)

I'm not doubting that Southern California is in terrible shape, and the people from the Post story are unimaginable assholes, but I too am a little weary of drought theater.
posted by purpleclover at 4:31 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Should've listened to Immortan Joe: "Do not, my friends, become addicted to water, or it will take hold of you and you will resent its absence!"
posted by Gin and Broadband at 4:32 PM on June 14, 2015 [22 favorites]


I have no problem with this, as long as the rates they are paying are sufficiently high. Why not let rich people pay surtaxes?
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:33 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


A co-worker in the office I'm temping at recently starting talking about the drought. When I made a disparaging comment about all the golf courses in Palm Springs, she started up with some bizarre comment about how "undocumenteds" were actually using all the water.

I guess this is technically correct because a lot of undocumented workers are laborers for agribusiness, but... oh my god.
posted by queensissy at 4:37 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


Huh. I just got a letter from my water district telling me that the State Water Resources Control Board has said they need to reduce usage by 36% from their 2013 numbers.

In 2013, I used almost 85,000 gallons of water. Please note that I did not live alone. Last year I used 75,000 gallons (I lived alone starting in May), and so far this year I've only used 23,000... I estimate that I will use less than 50,000 gallons for the entirety of 2015. I hope they don't expect further reductions next year, because I think that might be as low as I can go...I've already got a not quite legal greywater system in place.

As I've said elsewhere on this site, despite being metered, most of my water bill is based on a flat fee and a charge for capital infrastructure improvements. I get charged 50 cents for every 750 gallons/100 cubic feet of water I use. Fifty cents. There's no incentive to reduce water use at that price, unless you're an environmentally conscious person.

And that's what needs to change. Those fucking assholes down south (and the agribusiness all through the central valley as well--they can either sell their crops at less of a profit [or we can increase government subsidies] or we can pay more at the grocery store for crops that use more water) need to pay a pretty penny for their water use, and that money needs to go to desalinization plants or SOMETHING. We can't keep going like this. The straw is pretty damn close to breaking the camel's back here. And I just keep imagining a reverse Dust Bowl, where the descendants of the people who came here during the 1930s beat a hasty path back to the Midwest.

Dallas has had plenty of rain lately!
posted by elsietheeel at 4:38 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


People here complain about the constant rain and I keep saying, "don't complain, the opposite is much worse."
posted by octothorpe at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Gin and Broadband, I can tell you that this line definitely garnered a lot of cringe-y laughter here in LA theaters.
posted by queensissy at 4:42 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


“In April, after Gov. Jerry Brown (D) called for a 25 percent reduction in water use, consumption in Rancho Santa Fe went up by 9 percent.” [Emphasis in original]
In the words of Charlie Pierce, "These really are the fking mole people."
posted by ob1quixote at 4:52 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I've often had difficulty believing that California actually exists. This does nothing to change that.
posted by jonmc at 5:05 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


Guillotine futures up 10%.
posted by aaronetc at 5:06 PM on June 14, 2015 [10 favorites]


"When we bought, we didn’t plan on getting a place that looks like we’re living in an African savanna."

Indeed, look at this hellscape!

But seriously though, there are all kinds of nasty racial and class sentiment behind that simple sentence.
posted by dhens at 5:10 PM on June 14, 2015 [41 favorites]


I don't understand paying to water something you then pay to mow. Here in westetn CO, unless you're using (irrigation) ditch water, it costs several hundreds of dollars to keep a green lawn.

I'm currently xeriscaping, bexause fuck that.

But mainly this article is another example of Crybaby Conservativism.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:43 PM on June 14, 2015 [15 favorites]


When I made a disparaging comment about all the golf courses in Palm Springs, she started up with some bizarre comment about how "undocumenteds" were actually using all the water.

"I don't waste water on my property: that's what I pay my undocumented groundskeepers to do!"
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:46 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


I think drought-shaming is in many cases unjustified. For one, calling out people for washing their cars, watering their gardens, and taking long showers, given residential water use in California accounts for about 3% of all California water whereas agricultural water use accounts for 80%, is just plain foolish.

The article you linked says it's 80% agricultural, 6% industrial/commercial/government, and 14% residential, not 3%. (I assume you read the 14% as being of the 20% non-agricultural usage, hence 20% * 14% = 2.8% to arrive at 3%, but I think the article is giving percentages in terms of all water usage.)

(I don't think this invalidates your argument one bit, I just have an inability to let incorrect figures stand. It's a character flaw, sorry.)
posted by jcreigh at 5:51 PM on June 14, 2015 [7 favorites]


"If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water."

Awesome, fully internalize the costs and I am on board. If instead you are taking advantage of subsidies (including in the form of infrastructure or senior water rights), fuck off.

"It’s now more of a ‘This is the amount of water you get within this billing period. And if you go over that, there will be high penalties.’ ”"

THAT IS CALLED A MARKET.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:03 PM on June 14, 2015 [8 favorites]


30 years ago I was shouting from the rooftops for all who were listening, which, in pre-Internet days was a pretty small audience, that gas shortages, pollution, etc. wasn't the issue that was going to be the big one, it was water. I admit, I hadn't predicted climate change, but even then, our use of water was ridiculous, as were what we charged for it.

It's not a problem that has been remedied. Climate change, and droughts, whether in California, the Midwest, etc. just bring the pain more to the front.

It's what we are made of, and we treat it like shit...
posted by Windopaene at 6:35 PM on June 14, 2015 [6 favorites]


jcreigh, you're right about the incorrect figure I present and how I arrived at that figure. From where I'm standing, your not letting incorrect figures stand is a character strength not flaw! Thank you for calling it out.

14% is quite a bit more substantial than 3%, and I do think it affects the intensity of the environmental scapegoating of residential users. That is, residential users do have a greater share of the need to conserve water. But (as you acknowledge) the greatest contributor to the problem is agribusiness.

I'm not against agricultural uses. I do think, however, that industrial and commercial usage should be priced more aggressively and crop irrigation should be more efficient.

Also, after what awfurby said, I can see the importance of enforcing symbolic water restrictions on residential users. That is, by cultivating awareness and enforcing conservation, symbolic restrictions can strengthen the political resolve to craft a more sensible water policy.
posted by mistersquid at 6:41 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


When I made a disparaging comment about all the golf courses in Palm Springs, she started up with some bizarre comment about how "undocumenteds" were actually using all the water.

A couple of my in-laws were visiting this week. They live in CA, and are in their late 70's. In conversation with them, they started with bitching about the water conservation rules being imposed on then. Then, they jumped right into "the illegals" pouring across the wide-open border. It must be something in the (rationed) water.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:47 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


I spent my teens in LA, and then back again for my mid/late 20s. Never had much in the way of landscaping, but I always wondered why we didn't see much in the way of nice desert-y rock & cactus gardens.

Granted, I spent the first half of my childhood in Phoenix, so my sensibilities might be a bit different...
posted by scaryblackdeath at 6:49 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


To be clear, I never intended to say "given the low percentage of total water used by residential users, they should not have to conserve water." Rather I was saying "blaming the current water crisis on residential users and shaming them ignores the fact that this crisis was generated by bad public policy with regard to agricultural users."

Water is a limited resource and it should always be used as efficiently as possible.
posted by mistersquid at 6:52 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Time for a Stillsuit MeFi Project?
posted by juiceCake at 6:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


If it's anything like some areas with water restrictions when your interior water usage doubles overnight you'll certainly be asked to explain.

"I got killer diarrhea ... I'm flushing the toilet like fifty times a day. You don't even want to know ..."

But on a more serious note, that would probably raise some red flags.
posted by theorique at 7:22 PM on June 14, 2015


People with money should stop watering their lawns, not because it's a significant waste of water, but instead because watering your lawn in the middle of a drought is extraordinarily fucking tacky.
posted by You Can't Tip a Buick at 7:39 PM on June 14, 2015 [12 favorites]


The biggest hope I have is just mandating separate indoor/outdoor metering (something that's been effective most places it's been tried) and exponentially increasing outdoor water prices.

Oddly, it's been the opposite: the utility charges rates for water use, and then seperately charges rates for the sewer, using the assumption that you put 95% of your water down the drain (the "wastewater flow factor"). My understanding is that if you have a big garden, you can actually petition to have that reduced to 90%, on the grounds that more of your water is not going down the sewer. Indeed, the sewer charges are actually somewhat larger than the water charges, so reporting that you used more water in the yard actually gets you a small discount on your bill.
posted by alexei at 7:44 PM on June 14, 2015 [2 favorites]


Why isn't drip irrigation used more? It's a very good way to conserve water for agricultural use.
We are in a drought area of Washington State and irrigation pipe to our building broke. Mr. Roquette and I have had to water manually with a cart and bottles of tap water..
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:46 PM on June 14, 2015


Thank God we did not plant more!
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:47 PM on June 14, 2015


Windopaene: 30 years ago I was shouting from the rooftops for all who were listening,

You and the Cadillac Desert guy (1986), the Nor any Drop to Drink guy (1982)... etc etc. I think it's even longer that people have been saying "If we keep on the way we're using water, there's going to be a reckoning. If we're not willing to change the way we use water because Politics, we surely need to plan for a future where water shortages and/or much higher prices are going to be the norm." But would they listen?
posted by sneebler at 7:53 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


I spent my teens in LA, and then back again for my mid/late 20s. Never had much in the way of landscaping, but I always wondered why we didn't see much in the way of nice desert-y rock & cactus gardens.

Succulent plants are drought tolerant. Tolerant. They don't actually do that well in drought conditions. Amongst cactus and succulent collectors and growers there is a saying "Just because it can survive a drought doesn't mean it should".
posted by srboisvert at 8:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


Man killed for watering lawn 💧
posted by unliteral at 8:10 PM on June 14, 2015


" can actually petition to have that reduced to 90%, on the grounds that more of your water is not going down the sewer."

We live in a water-rich area of the Midwest and this is true here. We don't generally petition for the lower bill (we have an excellent raingarden as well as water barrels on the gutters) because the sewer needs our money and it comes to $10/month, which is not much.

But really just adding clover to our nice grass lawn has basically rendered it drought resistant. And lawn-company resistant.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:10 PM on June 14, 2015 [4 favorites]


My water company shows my usage compared to the same period a year ago, which was before I lived here. The graphs have consistently shown that the previous owners used three times as much water per month as we do now.

The thing to understand is that water is dirt-cheap here. We don't do anything in particular to conserve water. We don't take long showers, but we do have five people who take showers every day. We wash clothes and run the dishwasher almost every day, too.

My guess is that they must have watered their lawn, whereas we don't water our lawn at all. We have plenty of rain to take care of that. But three times as much water as a large family? I really don't know how they pulled that off.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:44 PM on June 14, 2015


I just checked my water account online. Apparently they fixed the bug that was showing me other people's water use. I saw it as a feature.

alexei: "Oddly, it's been the opposite: the utility charges rates for water use, and then seperately charges rates for the sewer, using the assumption that you put 95% of your water down the drain..."

Out of my $53.16 water bill this month, $22.45 was for water and $30.71 was for sewer.
posted by double block and bleed at 8:56 PM on June 14, 2015


Fucking rich people fighting for the privilege of watering their lawns.
posted by hal_c_on at 9:04 PM on June 14, 2015


Fucking rich people fighting for the privilege of watering their lawns... at the potential expense of other people have water for drinking, bathing, and cooking.
posted by jaguar at 9:09 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


Back when I lived in the Valley (late '90's) , I remember talking to a couple of my son's friends about water conservation after school. I started by mentioning, "Well despite what we see around us, we actually live in a desert..." and a nearby mom snorted, I mean made a noise of contempt that could be heard a block away. I wonder about her from time to time, if she's still snorting or she's come to pay some attention to her local geography in any meaningful way.
posted by biddeford at 9:11 PM on June 14, 2015 [9 favorites]


The recent California court ruling referenced above is interesting. It basically boils down to municipalities (and water districts, etc) can't charge for a service or good more than it costs them to provide to the resident. Doing so is imposing a tax, which they don't have the authority to do. So while a scaling rate for water could help reduce use, it has to be authorized at the state level.
posted by Horselover Fat at 9:18 PM on June 14, 2015 [1 favorite]


I used to work for a firm that designed houses in Rancho Santa Fe.

RSF, if you couldn't tell from the articles, is basically a gigantic gated community without the gates. There's a big distinction between living in the general RSF area, and actually living within the Ranch itself, which is actually known as The Covenant. The Covenant is probably one of the strictest HOAs you'll ever see, controlling land use, building design and siting, and what materials you can use. Their guidelines are a literal book. But, if you're pointing out the distinction between residential and agricultural water use, here's the kicker: RSF guidelines mandate that lots above a certain size use a certain percentage of the land for agricultural purposes. I worked on a 19-acre property that had a citrus grove taking up half of it.
posted by LionIndex at 9:22 PM on June 14, 2015


I spent my teens in LA, and then back again for my mid/late 20s. Never had much in the way of landscaping, but I always wondered why we didn't see much in the way of nice desert-y rock & cactus gardens.


There are also a lot of great native plants in California that are other options for lawns and large properties-- chaparral plants, coastal scrub, it's all pretty cool and way better adapted for life here. Having an apartment means this is an abstract concern for right now, but I thought this editorial brought up some interesting points about gravel/artificial turf and how to integrate planning into landscaping.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:51 PM on June 14, 2015 [3 favorites]


"Please, please. We are still civilized individuals. Cut it back to stirring, which causes less meltoff than shaking."

What kinda asshole shakes tonic water?

"Then raise the rate steeply. During a drought, it should cost you about a million dollars to fill a pool."

One of the unintuitive things I've learned during the drought is that a pool takes less water than a lawn. People putting in pools is good if they're taking out turf.

"With systems that have interior and exterior water meters, couldn't a homeowner just get around that by running a hose from an interior tap to the outdoors, and water to his heart's content?"

You're not maintaining a whole personal golf course with a hose from your kitchen. By the time it gets to numbers that matter, that some people could game the system isn't outweighed by the hassle of gaming the system.

"Not exactly the most tolerant and accepting of people -- how he manages to contort himself into being against gay marriage while also being gay is beyond me."

At a certain point, people get rich enough to eschew marriage if they can.

"Oddly, it's been the opposite: the utility charges rates for water use, and then seperately charges rates for the sewer, using the assumption that you put 95% of your water down the drain (the "wastewater flow factor"). My understanding is that if you have a big garden, you can actually petition to have that reduced to 90%, on the grounds that more of your water is not going down the sewer. Indeed, the sewer charges are actually somewhat larger than the water charges, so reporting that you used more water in the yard actually gets you a small discount on your bill."

Huh. Dual metering with increased costs for outdoor water is the top recommendation of a lot of papers specifically studying California's drought, and it's worked in Arizona counties that have implemented it as a conservation measure. Got more data on how the sewer fee and water rate slopes connect?
posted by klangklangston at 12:07 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I started by mentioning, "Well despite what we see around us, we actually live in a desert..." and a nearby mom snorted, I mean made a noise of contempt that could be heard a block away. I wonder about her from time to time, if she's still snorting or she's come to pay some attention to her local geography in any meaningful way.

Maybe she was snorting because she was tired of people falsely claiming it was a desert? Maybe climate change will turn it into a desert but it sure isn't a desert now.
posted by Justinian at 12:14 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'll just leave this here and you can fight over what it means to your argument, though frankly I would think Prolonged Drought is cause for treating the climate like a desert.

Climate of L. A.
posted by evilDoug at 12:49 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Geography says it is a desert in Southern California but it is green because of water that has been imported from other states. Other parts of California have failed to plan for the inevitable drought cycles. Some parts have an overabundance of water such as the HetcHetchy. The world depends on California agriculture so poor planning results in a finger of blame on agricultural activities. What really needs to happen is prior planning and preperation for these cyclical events instead of creating a rich vs poor war.
posted by OhSusannah at 1:01 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah, for as much traction as people are getting out of that I'm starting to feel that the question of whether it's a desert is much like the question of whether Pluto is a planet: a molehill of human labeling that hides the mountain of the underlying nature.

Half of California's Central Valley has a climate in the Köppen group B, some type of arid. The technical definition of whether a part of it is in one of the climate groups that get the "desert" label or not is really just down to a semi-arbitary numerical line in the sand: find the Central Valley on this map—it's all some shade of red; PET exceeds precipitation there. When that shade gets dark enough Köppen calls it officially a desert. That's it.

At this point saying the Valley isn't really a desert is like saying Antarctica is. Technically correct, but interesting precisely because it challenges perceptions of the climate.
posted by traveler_ at 1:15 AM on June 15, 2015 [9 favorites]


As for grass sports, how often are these guys playing croquet on their lawns?

You might be surprised.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:02 AM on June 15, 2015


Not to defend egregious wasting of water during a drought, nor croquet. I was reminded of my wealthy cousin who has a multi acre lawn. Rich people sometimes have odd and anachronistic hobbies. Because they can.
posted by krinklyfig at 2:05 AM on June 15, 2015


I hadn't realized "I've got mine, so fuck you" had become the state's official motto.

Have you visited Palm Springs?
posted by krinklyfig at 2:07 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I mean, shit, the real reason for the drought is abortion!

Luckily we can look to the British to a solution for California's water woes.
posted by sebastienbailard at 2:45 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


30 years ago I was shouting from the rooftops for all who were listening, which, in pre-Internet days was a pretty small audience, that gas shortages, pollution, etc. wasn't the issue that was going to be the big one, it was water. I admit, I hadn't predicted climate change, but even then, our use of water was ridiculous, as were what we charged for it.

It's not a problem that has been remedied. Climate change, and droughts, whether in California, the Midwest, etc. just bring the pain more to the front.


Windopaene, keep shouting! It's not just in California or the US, but in most of the world.
The biggest issue in the Middle East: water!
Most important problem in China: water!
Afghanistan: water!
Sao Paulo: Water Crisis
Etc. (I didn't link to any African or Australian cases, because they are so obvious).

We humans can live almost without fossil fuel, but we can not live without water. Yet we are acting as if water is a given.
posted by mumimor at 4:02 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]


Jurgen Gramckow, a sod farmer north of Los Angeles in Ventura County, agrees. He likens the freedom to buy water to the freedom to buy gasoline.

“Some people have a Prius; others have a Suburban,” Gramckow said. “Once the water goes through the meter, it’s yours.”
This analogy works pretty well if you modify it to make it clear that there's a limited amount of gasoline in your area, and once it's gone, you can't get any more. Oh, and as well as being used for cars, it's also being used to run generators for the life support machines at the children's hospital.

So yeah, technically once you've you've bought it, then you own it. But, a system that lets you buy it up to the detriment of those who need it more is a broken system, and if you're buying it all up 'because that's my right' or whatever, then you're a massive dick.
posted by Ned G at 4:29 AM on June 15, 2015 [8 favorites]


So it rained at least 2" here last night (and it's still coming down) and I'm starting to feel more than a little guilty that the downspouts from both our roofs drain right into the septic sewer system. The garage has a 2000 Sq Foot roof and a quick calculation of 2" x 2000 ft^2 equals almost 2500 gallons of water that is just going straight to the sewage plant. I really need to figure out a cistern system to collect some of that.
posted by octothorpe at 4:48 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yeah it's called a water tank. Fairly basic technology.

In southern Australia, which has a similar climate to California, all new house have to have a rainwater tank to flush toilets, and single flush toilets went out twenty years ago. The target for residential consumption in the last drought was 150 litres (30 gallons) per day per person.
posted by wilful at 6:08 AM on June 15, 2015 [3 favorites]




Welcome to the 22nd century...

If you can pay for it, he argues, you should get your water.
posted by any major dude at 6:18 AM on June 15, 2015


Obviously a water tank (or two) is needed but the engineering will take some thought as the drain pipes are internal six inch cast iron stacks so we have to figure out how to tap into those and then get the pipes out through the half-foot brick walls of the garage. Also the tanks will have to be inside as the won't be allowed to be visible from the street due to historic facade rules.
posted by octothorpe at 6:18 AM on June 15, 2015


So it rained at least 2" here last night [...] I really need to figure out a cistern system to collect some of that.

From what I read, that may not be legal in certain places. Make sure you don't get into trouble for drinking rainwater collected off your own damned roof.
posted by pracowity at 7:00 AM on June 15, 2015


Some problems for homeowners; not just the obstreperous ones, is the increasing prevalence of home owner's associations with fine-able mandates for not maintaining a certain look and feel. For example, as I've said, we live in a drought area that used to be the Blackland Prairie.

There is good reason to return the home areas to prairie type environments; plant native grasses, leave the wildflowers and weeds, the wild carrots and pecans...and I tell you what, our neighbors went insane when we tried it. Insane. We don't even live in an HOA, (we sold the hoa house because of crazy restrictions), but our next door neighbor calls code enforcement every single week to complain that we have high grass or whatever. On most weeks, it's just easier to make the front look like a golf course, and leave the back wild than it is to deal with our crazy neighbor.

In Texas, HOAs have the power to take homes away from homeowners if they disobey the archaic rules of the association and rack up as little as $800 in fines. Not even kidding. (Example: at our old house, we were once fined $250 for having "too many dog toys in the back yard for 3 days." They continued to fuck with us until we finally agreed to sell the house and move out of the neighborhood if they would leave us alone. They didn't much care for our type, it turns out. )

HOAs have taken over most new developments, everywhere in the country. And as long as HOAs mandate that yards look like golf courses, and have the power to take people's homes if they don't comply, then homeowners will continue to waste water in areas where other landscapes would be more conducive to natural water use.

And until we have some sort of grass-roots (ha!) education policies, from maybe the local ag extension, that can teach people what sort of landscape is actually natural to their locale, and how to create, maintain, and nurture that landscape; we're going to continue wasting precious resources trying to keep green carpets next to our sidewalks.
posted by dejah420 at 7:20 AM on June 15, 2015 [10 favorites]


From what I read, that may not be legal in certain places. Make sure you don't get into trouble for drinking rainwater collected off your own damned roof.

Your own link says it is legal everywhere except Colorado and Nevada under certain circumstances.
there is currently, no state government law in the U.S. that considers rainwater harvesting by individuals (homeowners) in a direct manor and bluntly, “against the law” for anyone and everyone [sic]
The issue isn't a homeowner with a couple of rain barrels. It's people like this nitwit.
A judge said Monday that Gary Harrington, 65, has been flouting the law in his attempts to keep storing runoff that state law allocates to the Medford Water Commission.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:20 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm most disappointed with ELF. Why have they not started dumping bleach on these people's lawns? Seriously. If they can't be bothered to acknowledge that they are part of a society and bear responsibility for doing their part to maintain the viability of that society... then we should help them out by removing these personal vanities that they feel compelled to waste OUR water on.

They're right there asking for our help and yet, nothing. I decry the lazy state of today's eco-activists.
posted by ghostiger at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


pracowity: "So it rained at least 2" here last night [...] I really need to figure out a cistern system to collect some of that.

From what I read, that may not be legal in certain places. Make sure you don't get into trouble for drinking rainwater collected off your own damned roof.
"

No, they'll actually give you grant money to do that here. They're under an EPA consent decree to reduce runoff and and are doing everything they can to not have to rebuild all of the underground sewers.
posted by octothorpe at 7:45 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


One of the unintuitive things I've learned during the drought is that a pool takes less water than a lawn. People putting in pools is good if they're taking out turf.

Ah, I see you have bought into the recent propaganda put out by the pool construction lobby. The idea they put out is that you have to water turf about one inch per week and if you cover a pool, you lose less than that. However, that is only true if you never use your pool and keep it covered all the time. In reality, a pool in a hot, dry area will typically lose about 2 inches of water per week. Even under optimal conditions for a covered pool, if a pool were to use slightly less water than turf, it would take years to make up for the enormous initial filling of the pool.

Saying that a pool is no worse than the worse possible practice of heavily watered turf is not really a point in its favor.
posted by JackFlash at 7:46 AM on June 15, 2015 [7 favorites]


The problem is the wasteful irrigation of California produce.

I will grant you this; about ten years ago I was on a road trip up Pacific West 1, and was driving through a pretty heavy rainstorm somewhere outside Santa Cruz and nearly ran off the road in confusion when I saw a farm of some kind that had its sprinklers going while it was raining.

Even so, this is just rude as fuck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:24 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Luckily we can look to the British to a solution for California's water woes.

The Wicker Man?
posted by a lungful of dragon at 8:51 AM on June 15, 2015 [5 favorites]


"War on suburbia"? GOOD. Fuck suburbia. Suburbia and sprawl are significantly responsible for Americans' outscale resource use per capita compared to most other developed countries. And fuck these entitled assholes who seem to think that having a lot of money should allow them to have golf courses and lush green lawns in the middle of a region that averages ten inches of rain in a good year that's currently experiencing an historic drought.
posted by Pseudonymous Cognomen at 8:54 AM on June 15, 2015 [12 favorites]


I had read (maybe on the Blue?) that Californians could 'solve' the drought by eating 25% less meat and dairy. Anyone seen a figure like this thrown about?
posted by j_curiouser at 10:24 AM on June 15, 2015



"War on suburbia"? GOOD. Fuck suburbia. Suburbia and sprawl are significantly responsible for Americans' outscale resource use per capita compared to most other developed countries.


And it's also a major reason so much water in SoCal washes right off to sea instead of being stored and used.
posted by ocschwar at 10:37 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I had read (maybe on the Blue?) that Californians could 'solve' the drought by eating 25% less meat and dairy.

That has a small kernel of truth. Everyone has heard that 80% of California's water is used for agriculture, but the more important number is that 50% of agricultural water is used as irrigation for growing alfalfa for cattle, essentially a giant lawn.

There are much more suitable locations for raising cattle than water-starved California. That would leave plenty of water for high value crops like fruits, vegetables and nuts. Growing grass with limited water is foolish. It is done only because water is free.
posted by JackFlash at 10:56 AM on June 15, 2015 [6 favorites]


Marin's reservoirs are full. Not just above average (which is about 80 percent), but very nearly at capacity.

I'm confused by this statement. So 'above average' for Californian reservoirs is ~80% full? Does anyone know what the average is, or the overall percentage of 'fullness'? cause above average being 80% doesn't seem that bad to me, having lived through the so called Millennium Drought here in Australia which ran from about 1995 till late 2009, though in some areas of the country the drought wasn't declared over till 2012 or had started earlier. Of course, some part of Australia will pretty much always be in drought conditions, but during this one major cities (Sydney and Melbourne particularly) were at risk of running out of water, and some regional towns and rural centres actually did.

So some advice from the antipodes, specifically from Melbourne where our water reservoirs were down to just over 25% of capacity in mid 2009, and not all of that was usable due to sediments being disturbed due to such low levels and some smaller catchment areas being contaminated by the massive bush fires of February earlier that year:

Build a massive desal plant. Like stupidly big huge. In Victoria for example the government spent some $AU 3 billion or so. Of course, roughly a year or so before the thing was due to be put into operation the drought started to ease, and the desal plant has never actually been needed since. So basically threaten to cut the rain gods out the loop and they'll panic. Yes you'll probably go from extreme drought to widespread flooding as we did down here, but if they step out of line again the desal plant is just sitting there just threatening to make them obsolete.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:10 AM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


Oh, I meant to add regarding the above average being ~80% that Melbourne's catchments are currently under 70% of capacity and have been going down over the last couple of years. We've just had a dry autumn, and so far not much in the way of sustained winter rains.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 11:17 AM on June 15, 2015




The reservoirs (and the water in them) in Marin are owned by the Marin Municipal Water District.

If you want a larger picture of California's main reservoirs that are managed by the Department of Water Resources and supply the state at large, check DWR's Major Reservoir Current Conditions.

Spoiler: The news isn't good.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:48 AM on June 15, 2015


It's okay, elsietheeel, Marin has theirs, so there's no problem.
posted by entropicamericana at 11:53 AM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Isn't the problem with desalination that you have to do something with the salt, and it negatively affects the ecosystem wherever you put it (even back in the ocean)?

Maybe we should just float an iceberg down to California and use that. It's going to melt anyway, and if we used it on land, then it wouldn't raise sea levels. this is sarcasm
posted by desjardins at 1:41 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


The Salton Sea is a prime candidate to be used in a desalination scheme. The Bureau of Reclamation is currently running an experiment there to prove out a renewable energy based desalination system.
posted by feloniousmonk at 1:49 PM on June 15, 2015 [2 favorites]


In more cheerful news, the longstanding, severe drought in Texas is being greatly reduced by the masses of rain they've been getting.
posted by theora55 at 3:12 PM on June 15, 2015


I don't know about the reservoirs in Marin, but Hetch Hetchy fills up completely multiple times in a "normal" year. This year it's expected to fill up no more than once.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 4:01 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm curious to know what the failure mode of this situation is - what actually happens?

Do people just turn on the tap and ... nothing comes out?

Can people respond with distributed solutions such as internal water tanks and storage systems? (This would be the same way that people respond to unreliable power grids with personal diesel or nat-gas generators.) Or is water consumption just too great to buffer with on-site storage?

How would different municipalities respond to the situation? Water trucks? New pipelines from adjacent municipalities or even different states?

It would probably be difficult to sell an otherwise luxurious house in a subdivision that was off the water grid indefinitely. So a permanent drought would probably destabilize housing prices significantly (with the associated disruptions of the social and economic fabric). Maybe it would cause migrations away from the affected areas.
posted by theorique at 4:47 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Thanks elsitheeel for the link. Some of those percentage of capacity numbers are a little worrying, though it's hard for someone used to measuring liquid in units such as gigalitres to understand how much water a 'thousand acre-feet' actually represents. You crazy kids and your units of measurement!

Anyway I was being a bit facetious regarding desal plants, as the one that was built down here in the state of Victoria hasn't actually been called upon, and there's a large number of numpties here castigating the former government that built it for wasting money, as if Australia doesn't have relatively regular droughts, and the 'millennium drought' wasn't the worse on record demanding a substantial response. Oh and public support for action on climate change has taken quite a hit since it ended as well (though part of that was likely also your average punter realising that action on climate change would cost them money through higher electricity costs etc.)

Anyway part the second: Hope the situation improves soon, but it is a good opportunity to push for improved water management, particularly things like covered and lined irrigation channels, domestic rainwater storage, etc, so the next time a historic drought rolls around its impact is more manageable.
posted by Hello, I'm David McGahan at 4:51 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


alexei: "the utility charges rates for water use, and then seperately charges rates for the sewer, using the assumption that you put 95% of your water down the drain (the "wastewater flow factor"). My understanding is that if you have a big garden, you can actually petition to have that reduced to 90%, on the grounds that more of your water is not going down the sewer. Indeed, the sewer charges are actually somewhat larger than the water charges, so reporting that you used more water in the yard actually gets you a small discount on your bill."

Just because it comes up later in the thread, this is because typically the water system and the sewer system are separate entities (or even if owned by the same company NOW, accounting is done separately). If they're both municipally owned, they're levied separately; if they're privately owned, the sewer company almost certainly gets more tax support dollars.

The sewer company uses the water metering to estimate sewer usage because they have to use SOMETHING to meter it. They give you the discount because your garden prevents lawn runoff into the storm sewers (and lets more water soak into the aquifer). It barely reduces the sewer company's costs at all, but they want to encourage homeowners to reduce runoff. My local sewer is also more expensive than my local water, because our sewer system here is 100 and in some cases 150 years old, and we are under an EPA order to reduce sewer overflows into the river, and that will take close to a billion dollars to comply with. It is not actually a coordinated campaign between the water and sewer utilities; it is the sewer company unilaterally pursuing its own interests.

In some places the sewer reduction is only available if you follow specific local guidelines in your garden that help reduce runoff, which in California would probably include drought-resistant landscaping. Almost any other kind of landscaping causes less runoff than lawn, though.

Absolutely dual metering reduces outdoor use of water for landscaping and car washing. Whether it has any effect on sewer use is a totally separate issue.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:28 PM on June 15, 2015


purpleclover: Marin's reservoirs are full. Not just above average (which is about 80 percent), but very nearly at capacity.

Hello, I'm David McGahan: I'm confused by this statement. So 'above average' for Californian reservoirs is ~80% full? Does anyone know what the average is, or the overall percentage of 'fullness'? cause above average being 80% doesn't seem that bad to me,


It is great! But you have to live in Marin (a wealthy county north of the Golden Gate Bridge) to have access to it. Likewise, if you live in San Francisco or San Mateo County (also both high SES areas), there doesn't seem to be much of a drought, frankly. At the same time, as elsietheheel pointed out, a lot of really big reservoirs in the middle of the state are not in good shape. We used to subscribe to a meat CSA based in Shasta County that went drought-bust because their relatively recently established water allotment dried up. But as someone said upthread, California contains multitudes. It's huge and has lots of different climates. My point is that I'm not crazy about the drought-fighting efforts in places that are, essentially, not having a drought.

JackFlash: Everyone has heard that 80% of California's water is used for agriculture, but the more important number is that 50% of agricultural water is used as irrigation for growing alfalfa for cattle, essentially a giant lawn....There are much more suitable locations for raising cattle than water-starved California. That would leave plenty of water for high value crops like fruits, vegetables and nuts. Growing grass with limited water is foolish. It is done only because water is free.

This! This is a thing I could get behind! This is so much more sensible than drastically curtailing outdoor watering in places where the reservoirs are full. (I'm concerned about how mature trees will fare this summer. It's a bummer to lose 50-60-70-year old tree canopy because people in places with full reservoirs need to conserve on behalf of other people who have no practical access to the water anyway. Marin can't just give Santa Clara its water; there's no pipe there. Whether it would be a good idea for the metro Bay Area to break down these the strange, feudal systems with tightly guarded tiny governments for each town and unconnected utility providers and public services is another question for another day. I also think tree canopy is a public good.)
posted by purpleclover at 5:30 PM on June 15, 2015


Do people just turn on the tap and ... nothing comes out?

It's slightly more complicated than that because of wells and groundwater, but basically yes that can happen. The State, Tulare County and community groups have put together some makeshift systems of tanks and free bottled water to provide for basic necessities in East Porterville, but it's pretty pathetic.

Now the immediate solution to a problem like that is to dig new deeper wells (and with some state and federal money, they are looking to do just that), because there's still some groundwater down there if you go deep enough. That's what people who can afford it are doing. But we're drawing down that groundwater far faster than it can possibly be replaced, so that's not a real strategy for very long.
posted by zachlipton at 5:50 PM on June 15, 2015


I drove up I5 a couple weeks ago. It's a forest of nut trees for hundreds of miles. That and cattle is where the water is going.
posted by persona au gratin at 6:00 PM on June 15, 2015


"Ah, I see you have bought into the recent propaganda put out by the pool construction lobby. The idea they put out is that you have to water turf about one inch per week and if you cover a pool, you lose less than that. However, that is only true if you never use your pool and keep it covered all the time. In reality, a pool in a hot, dry area will typically lose about 2 inches of water per week. Even under optimal conditions for a covered pool, if a pool were to use slightly less water than turf, it would take years to make up for the enormous initial filling of the pool."

No, not really. The Pacific Institute, which is one of the premier sustainable water policy institutes, agrees that pools use less water than sod. With no pool covers, LA would lose roughly 2,000 acre feet per year to evaporation, of the roughly 600,000 acre feet of water use in the LA basin.

I know it's unintuitive, but you're wrong and California water policy could use fewer myths.
posted by klangklangston at 6:25 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


matildatakesovertheworld: I don't know about the reservoirs in Marin, but Hetch Hetchy fills up completely multiple times in a "normal" year. This year it's expected to fill up no more than once.

This is an extremely good point, and one I'd missed upthread.
posted by purpleclover at 6:41 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


I'm curious to know what the failure mode of this situation is - what actually happens?

Do people just turn on the tap and ... nothing comes out?


Yup. That happened to some rural parts of my home state here, Victoria. People got tanks of water delivered, or moved away for the duration. If things had gotten much worse I presume that the city areas would have started reducing water pressure and drawing on lower-quality sources, but ultimately: if there is no water there is no water.
posted by Joe in Australia at 7:01 PM on June 15, 2015


The Pacific Institute, which is one of the premier sustainable water policy institutes, agrees that pools use less water than sod.

Sorry, Klangklangston, but did you even read the very article you linked to? Nowhere do they say that a pool uses less water than the turf it replaces. It simply says that over all, pools use less water than turf in LA because pools represent so little of the area in LA. There is a lot more turf area than pool area. Because of that they say that pools are a relatively small part of the problem. They did not say that pools are better than turf.
posted by JackFlash at 7:11 PM on June 15, 2015


Can people respond with distributed solutions such as internal water tanks and storage systems? (This would be the same way that people respond to unreliable power grids with personal diesel or nat-gas generators.) Or is water consumption just too great to buffer with on-site storage?

They are called cisterns. Here in Colorado, you may not get water rights when you buy a piece of land, and even if you do get water rights, there might not be potable water no matter how deep you drill. Still, a nice piece of land in the middle of nowhere appeals to some people, so they get a cistern system set up, and arrange weekly/monthly water deliveries. With propane and solar, they are pretty much entirely off grid. Anyway, point is, there are whole subdivisions around here that the HOA contacts with some company to keep the cisterns filled.

If TEOTWAWKI were to occur, they would be well and truly fucked. On the plus side, when you get water trucked in, you're less inclined to waste it on dandelions and Kentucky blue grass.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:12 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


You think California is conservative? Sheeeeeeeeeeit, do you know how many electoral votes we get, and who we vote for? We fuckin anchor the Democrats, and they don't even have to campaign here. Yes, we made a mistake on Prop 8, but the prop system was already one massive mistake from the word go.
posted by Brocktoon at 9:39 PM on June 15, 2015


"Sorry, Klangklangston, but did you even read the very article you linked to? Nowhere do they say that a pool uses less water than the turf it replaces. It simply says that over all, pools use less water than turf in LA because pools represent so little of the area in LA. There is a lot more turf area than pool area. Because of that they say that pools are a relatively small part of the problem. They did not say that pools are better than turf.

It does if you drill down through it. But OK.

PPIC report on lawn water use discusses "reference evapotranspiration" for California climates, or the base rate per square foot of irrigated cold-weather turf.

The California Urban Water Conservation Evaluation of Potential Best Management Practices compares typical installations, including non-porous area (e.g. tiles) and finds significant water savings.

There are studies that found increased water usage, e.g. the one referenced in this 1994 bulletin, but studies on actual consumption ("Splash or Sprinkler"), found no significant difference, and the most recent Outdoor Water Savings Research Initiative's key findings include that while homes with swimming pools tend to use more water, that difference is based on relative affluence rather than an underlying evapotranspiration difference. The "Splash or Sprinkler" did not control for relative affluence.
posted by klangklangston at 10:29 PM on June 15, 2015 [1 favorite]


Here is your original statement:
"One of the unintuitive things I've learned during the drought is that a pool takes less water than a lawn. People putting in pools is good if they're taking out turf."

Then using your own links above, the study shows that homes with pools use 29% more water, not less water, than turf. But if you compare the worst possible case, a home that installs a wasteful automatic watering system for turf, then the pool and turf are about even. In any case, the pool does not come out ahead of turf. If you have turf without automatic watering, you save water compared to a pool.

As I said originally, saying that a pool is no worse than the worse possible practice of heavily watered turf is not really a point in its favor.

Hey, just because something is unintuitive, it doesn't automatically make it right, unless you are a fan of Freakonomics BS -- in which case you would be just wrong. In this case one's intuition is just fine -- pools are wasteful.
posted by JackFlash at 11:09 PM on June 15, 2015


Yuhas, who hosts a conservative talk-radio show

Stopped reading there. That explains his attitude.
posted by prepmonkey at 7:04 AM on June 16, 2015 [1 favorite]


Note: The water in Hetch Hetchy (which should be restored to its original state as a valley and not a reservoir) goes to the Bay Area. It's on federal land but it's leased to the City and County of San Francisco. It's not a part of the State Water Project or the Central Valley Project.

Look, the issue of water in California is hugely complex and it's easy to throw out ideas or wonder why Marin County has water, but a town a hundred and fifty miles to the north is running dry.

But there are thousands of reservoirs and lakes in California, many of which are owned and/or managed by the California Department of Water Resources, the Federal Bureau of Reclamation, and the Army Corps of Engineers, and the water in them gets moved throughout the state through the aforementioned State Water Project (a massive aqueduct that sends all of our water to SoCal) and the Central Valley Project (a collection of aqueducts and canals that provide irrigation to all of those nut trees and cattle). And, to be fair, provides a lot of electricity from all of those hydroelectric dams.

This list of dams and reservoirs in California actually includes the owner of the reservoir/water and it's pretty interesting if you're curious about the whole who gets what water and why thing.

And here's a whole Wiki page on the issue of water in California.



Oh and finally, while California may currently be controlled by the Dems, it hasn't always been that way, and I wouldn't be so sure it's going to stay that way forever.
posted by elsietheeel at 8:53 AM on June 16, 2015 [2 favorites]


"Then using your own links above, the study shows that homes with pools use 29% more water, not less water, than turf. But if you compare the worst possible case, a home that installs a wasteful automatic watering system for turf, then the pool and turf are about even. In any case, the pool does not come out ahead of turf. If you have turf without automatic watering, you save water compared to a pool."

No. The most recent study on water usage ("Splash or Sprinkler") shows no difference based on square footage of pool versus lawn. The Outdoor Water Savings Research Initiative reports of increased water usage correlate it with affluence, not area — people with pools tend to be more affluent; the pool is not a causal link. I highlighted that in describing the link — were you confused?

Looking at typical installations, the water use by area is significantly lower. This starts with a pretty basic calculation that you didn't understand from the first link. An uncovered pan evapotranspiration, which is the best model for open pools, loses roughly 10% more through pure evapotranspiration, essentially the amount of water lost through evaporation, than turf. However, there are three factors that change that water usage number: First, pools lose far less water to runoff and ground loss. The point of a pool is to hold water in; grass does not hold water. Second, a pool cover decreases the evapotranspiration level by 20 to 30% of the pan evapotranspiration level. If you do the math, you realize that EV0 (reference or turf evapotranspiration) x 1.1 (pan evapotranspiration level) x .8 (covered, worst case) = .88 EV0, a decrease of 12% from the turf level. Third, a typical pool installation includes surrounding non-porous areas (tile, concrete sidewalk, etc.) that further decreases the water loss, as explained in the Evaluation of Best Management Practices.

So, where are we? You're wrong about the causal link between pools and water use, because (again) that water use is predicted by affluence that correlates with pools rather than pools themselves. You're wrong about needing a worst-case scenario — the numbers given for timed irrigation systems are significantly worse than pools, but typical use cases still show a benefit to pool installation. And you're wrong about pools being wasteful.

I hope I have explained things simply enough that you can understand why you're wrong; I had hoped that just linking to the documents and leading you through them would be sufficient, but it seems like too many facts actually just confused you. Do you have any more questions?
posted by klangklangston at 11:14 AM on June 16, 2015


It's nothing new. Remember what happened when Jimmy Carter suggested that maybe, just maybe, the next time you get cold you might consider putting on a sweater instead of cranking up the thermostat?

And turning off unnecessary appliances?
posted by Melismata at 12:23 PM on June 16, 2015


I take my morning gin and tonics without ice now.

Ice ruins the G&T by diluting it. The best way to do it is to put the gin and the glass in the freezer and to chill your tonic in the fridge. By the way, always buy individual bottles of tonic, but canned tonic might do in a pinch. NEVER EVER buy tonic in a big liter or two liter bottle, it'll go flat too soon.
posted by FJT at 11:49 AM on June 17, 2015


You can also buy the tonic syrup and just use carbonated water, which you can either make yourself or buy and use in a lot more things than tonic.

(I don't mind diluting my G&Ts because I make 'em strong with the knowledge that they're going with ice anyway.)
posted by klangklangston at 3:19 PM on June 17, 2015


Note: The water in Hetch Hetchy (which should be restored to its original state as a valley and not a reservoir) goes to the Bay Area.

I assume you plan to restore it to a valley when you wrest it from the cold, dead hands of Dianne Feinstein and whoever the current mayor of San Francisco happens to be? As well as over the objections of the city residents themselves?

If I could go back 100 years and help prevent it from becoming a reservoir, I might. But I don't think we can go back from here.
posted by purpleclover at 3:19 PM on June 17, 2015




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