We’re all tired of hearing about the drought; tired of trying to squeeze a little more savings out of our gardens and indoor water use; tired of processing bad news about dying fisheries, drying wells, suffering farmers and dead trees.
We’re all tired of hearing about drought. But we live in a region where our economy, our community and future generations depend on smart water management.
California is not like it was in the 1960s when most of our state’s water infrastructure was put in place. We have more than twice the population in California now, with no more water. In 1960 there were approximately 16 million people living in California. Our state’s current population is approximately 39 million people. The population is projected to be 60 million by the year 2050. Throw in the fact that the planet’s climate is changing, which will have severe impacts on water availability, and we have a major problem.
Even in an average rainfall year, demand outstrips supply by several million acre-feet. The problem isn’t that we’re in a temporary drought: the problem is that we live in a world where water is in short supply.
The good news is that the fifth year of drought offers the chance to reinvest in effective water solutions by expanding our efforts to remove inappropriate outdoor landscaping, build water recovery and reuse facilities, improve agricultural irrigation practices, and get rid of those old, inefficient toilets, showerheads and washing machines.
Water conservation isn’t new to our community. Over the last 10 years we have replaced over 10,000 high-consumption toilets with newer, low-flow models. Many residents have changed their landscapes to be more water efficient. Thousands have called upon this agency to help them to locate and repair leaks. On the state level the governor signed major water conservation legislation and new, updated building codes have been adopted that embrace water conservation.
Consequently, the Hollister Urban Area has seen per capita water use go from 212 gallons per person per day in the late 1990s to 105 gallons per person per day in 2015.
Agriculture has improved their efficiency as well. Back in the 1990s many growers were still using furrow or flood irrigation. Now most use drip or micro sprayers, which are much more efficient. The San Benito County Water District is delivering recycled water to growers along Wright Road from the city’s reclamation facility. Using water more than once is highly efficient and productive.
We need to step back and give ourselves a congratulatory pat on the back. However, there is still work to be done. Individually we need to make sure we have replaced our older toilets with low-flow models, fix leaks and choose climate appropriate landscape. Agriculture needs to continue to make strides in using water as efficiently as possible. Our water managers need to keep looking for ways to improve our water supply and water quality.
It’s a struggle that will live on past our lifetimes, but we have shown we can adapt, improve and make progress in using water as efficiently as possible. Water conservation is no longer a choice in California; it’s a lifestyle we can all rally around.
The first thing our local residents can do is call the Water Resources Association for a free leak check. While we’re there we can talk about our many programs to assist you in using water efficiently. Call (831) 637-4378.