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The most straightforward definition of drought is the simple mismatch between the amounts of water nature provides and the amounts of water that humans and the environment demand. This mismatch causes California to be in perpetual drought.

Even when we receive a lot of rain in California, nature’s bounty of water is no longer enough to satisfy all the state’s demands, recharge overdrafted groundwater basins or overcome the massive deficits suffered by California’s ecosystems and endangered fisheries. 

In addition, it takes a lot of energy to move water. Not to mention storage costs, chemical costs to treat water and labor costs to deliver it. 

Water conservation offers the quickest, most reliable and cheapest way to stretch our water supply. In fact, water conservation should be a part of everyday life—drought or no drought. 

With over 50% of residential water use dedicated to landscape irrigation, it is the obvious choice to focus conservation efforts on landscapes. 

Lawns in our area use up to 60 inches of water per year to keep them green and lush. Our area receives 13-15 inches of rain on average. 

That is why the Water Resources Association San Benito County (WRASBC) encourages residents to use plants that are “climate appropriate.” Try to use plants that can thrive on our local rainfall or only need a small amount of additional water. There is nothing wrong with lawns, especially if you have children, pets or like to entertain. But if the only time you are on your lawn is when you are mowing it, you really don’t need all that grass. Not only will you save water and money by planting climate appropriate plants, but maintenance will be less once a drought tolerant garden is established. 

The WRASBC has programs and information to assist you—for example, a Turf Removal Program that rebates you $2 per square foot of turf removed (up to 1,000 square feet), and lists of low water use and native plants that do well in San Benito County. We also have free Water-Wise landscape plans in three different designs. And we can assist you by setting your irrigation controller and inspecting your irrigation system to make sure it is operating efficiently. 

May is Water Awareness Month and we urge all citizens, businesses, industries, institutions and public agencies to review their water use and water systems for water use efficiency and to contact the Water Resources Association of San Benito County (WRASBC) to have their irrigation systems checked before summer when temperatures increase, and water use intensifies. Visit www.wrasbc.org or call them at 831.637.4378. 

Shawn O. Novack is Water Conservation Programs Manager for the Water Resources Association of San Benito County, and the San Benito County Water District. 

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