JB

With no end in sight to California’s historic drought, Gov. Jerry Brown announced a mandatory 25 percent reduction in water usage on Wednesday. Brown announced the state’s first-ever mandatory water restrictions from a dry patch in the Sierra Nevada, which is normally covered with several feet of snow. The Sierra snowpack measured on Wednesday had the lowest water content on record. What will Gov. Brown’s order mean for residents, cities and the state’s water supply?

Guests:
Craig Miller, editor for KQED Science
Ellen Hanak, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California
Michael Carlin, deputy general manager for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission

  • Rob

    Something tells me the agricultural lobby won the day with Governor Brown. Residents have to use less water to avoid heavy fines, while the agricultural industry, unaffected by the Governor’s order, gets to sell their water to local water districts. They call it business. Sounds like drought profiteering.

    • thucy

      “Sounds like drought profiteering.”

      Actually, it sounds like an almost rational strategy for (finally) pricing a critical resource at its proper value.

      No doubt there are other, more sensible means toward this goal, but the goal per se is no longer optional.

  • Sean Dennehy

    When will our CA government take on the Agriculture water usage? Curbing residential usage will do nothing to solve this drought, yet our government and media pretends it will. Please, let’s start talking about Agriculture and Farming.

    • thucy

      This is actually being addressed, indirectly.

      • Brian

        how?

  • Mark SF

    Please also cover fracking. Both its use of a substantial amount of water to frack and then returning it to aquifers in a contaminated state.

    I was surprised by the Governor’s comments side stepping the issue by saying we all drive cars and that fuel has to come from somewhere. The true cost of fracking both producing and contaminating our aquifers should be taken into account.

    We can live without driving gas fueled cars. We can not live without water.

    • thucy

      Agreed. And we do not “all” drive cars. Many of us are cyclists who steadfastly refuse to pollute the air and water through private car use.

      • G.S. Khalsa

        Right ON Mark!

        I don’t own a car.
        I don’t WANT a car.
        I haven’t owned a car for over six years now.

        I bike, take BART-CalTrain-AMTrack, light rail, or WALK everywhere I go!

        If I ever DID need a car, I’d just rent one. (But it would have to an electric one :^)

        -gs

        G.S. Khalsa
        kulsayogi@gmail.com

    • Paul

      We can live without driving gas fueled cars?? Try telling that to the 5 million commuters in Calif.
      If you can get to work & back, visit grandma, or whatever without using a car….great, go for it.
      Why this whole discussion keeps digressing back to “fracking” is weird. Fracking consumes maybe 0.2% of Calif water at most.

  • trite

    It is most important that the water districts do not effect an across-the-board, one-size-fits-all policy thereby penalizing unfairly those who have already drastically cut back their water use.

    • Kate

      Agreed. Once again if you do the right thing you get the short end. It should be a water usage amount per person in household

  • Gene Keenan

    Where are the mandatory reductions for agriculture and industry? How much water is used in fracking? Here in SF we already are water sippers yet you are asking us to reduce further to 40/gallons per day per resident? Seems grossly unfair.

    • thucy

      Wait – you’re using MORE than 40 gallons a day? How?

      • Gene Keenan

        SF uses around 47 gallons per person per day. The lowest in the state. Ask San Diego how they use 585 gallons per day per person.
        http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/S-F-residents-praised-for-using-least-water-in-5870159.php

        • thucy

          Yeah, San Diego is its own animal, but seriously, how do you, personally, use 40 gallons a day? This isn’t a “gotcha” or a personal attack, I just seriously can’t understand how any ONE person uses 40 gallons a day.
          You wash dishes, clean the house, do a load of laundry, take a hot shower. I’m not at 40 gallons yet.

          • Gene Keenan

            It’s an average so 40/day would be pretty easy to hit when you take into consideration green areas that many residents have including gardens.

          • 54StarryNights

            I’d bet that is per capita water usage in the City so it probably includes not only individual use but also use by business, industry, and government.

  • Aune Notes

    “The faucets are dripping in old New York City,
    The faucets are dripping and oh, what a pity,
    The reservoir’s drying because it’s supplying
    The faucets that drip in New York.” ~ Melvina Reynolds

  • Sanfordia113

    My parents live on a golf course in Palm Desert. The rumor down there is that they are immune to the water crisis, because they have extensive water that is separated (physically) from the rest of California. Is this true? Is there no way to cut off their proliferative watrr wasting in Palm Springs?

    • Paul

      Mostly true. They have their own aquifer, which is moderately used, relative to their consumption. In theory they will need to abide by the emer. declaration too.

  • I’ve seen two interesting/depressing responses in friends since the Governor’s announcement: People saying “I’m glad I didn’t voluntarily conserve before, because now I would have been asked to conserve 25% more,” and people jumping to conclusions about what they’re going to be asked to conserve before any actual plans come out. Seems like this could have been handled better…

    • Sean Dennehy

      People are rightfully afraid that they will be punished for taking the initiative to conserve.

  • Ehkzu

    Almost no one–conservative or liberal–is mentioning the possibility that there are now more people living here than we can provide water for, given the “let the good times roll” eternal water contracts that agribusiness enjoys.

    California has SIX times as many people as it had when I was born here. Last time I checked, they all use water. So I’ll start taking Governor Brown’s “Come to Jesus” rhetoric seriously when the state bans cities and counties from okaying new water connections.

    As for the right wingers’ answer to the problem–I learned their mindset long ago, when one of them told me God gave man “dominion” over the Earth–not stewardship. “Dominion” means man can do whatever he pleases, with zero responsibility to the environment–or even to our own children. They’ve taken the “conserve” out of “conservative.” Maybe we should start calling them something that more accurately reflects their beliefs.

    • Part of Brown’s release yesterday included “Prohibit new homes and developments from irrigating with potable water
      unless water-efficient drip irrigation systems are used, and ban
      watering of ornamental grass on public street medians.” So they’re moving in that direction…

    • Not to mention the tourist industry. Many tourists may not be aware or nor care about our drought crisis. Think of the thousands of hotels in CA where people are accustomed to being pampered, all the water to make it so.

      • Gene Keenan

        You must not stay at hotels much. They already have low flow everything and ask you to re-use your towels and sheets during your stay. Are you proposing that hotels not wash sheets between visitors?

        • I’m not suggesting that at all. Sheets and towels need to be maintained. It’s the pools and toilets, and long showers tourists use, unaware of our crisis. They may not care, people are on vacation and do not want to be bothered with our crisis. It just needs more regulated rules. With our growing population and the millions of tourists that flock to CA, and all the wasted water on fracking and broken water pipes and other major water wasters, etc. CA isn’t going to be so wonderful pretty fast.

          • Gene Keenan

            What is your source of data that says tourists take long showers while staying in a hotel? The toilets are low flow and the pools are a necessary thing for a hotel in a warm climate.

    • Beth Grant DeRoos

      Businesses are one reason we have so many people in California. Look at all the high tech companies flooding San Francisco and the south bay, resulting in the need for more housing? Coming from an 8 generation California family, our family has never lived in a big house much less had a big lawn. We grow a vegetable garden using the Back To Eden Film method which requires little if ANY water. The San Joaquin Valley from Sacramento to Fresno has vast amount of orchards and crop lands where I see NO drip but sprinkler systems which waste a LOT of water.

    • Paul

      Please, “Dominion” does not necessarily mean people can do whatever we please, with zero responsibility to the environment–or even to our own children. It means we have freedom to choose our destiny, freedom of choice; and hopefully with a conscience.

    • 54StarryNights

      Agriculture accounts for roughly 80% of all water usage in California. Agricultural use needs to be more efficient. California should be growing food for itself first, for the rest of the U.S. second, then for the rest of the world only when the state’s water supply allows for that. If California needs to cut back on what it grows during the drought, a good place to start would be cutting out production devoted to food export.

  • Ruskin Hartley

    Time to install smart water meters in all homes so we can get real-time feedback on our use.

  • Sean

    The CSU & UC system consume enormous amounts of water featuring hundreds of acres of unused grasslands, why doesn’t the state start with the low hanging fruit and make modifications on its own lands?

  • Ehkzu

    California needs to spend many billions on developing a separate statewide delivery system for non-potable water, to be used for every purpose but drinking and cooking. Right now we flush our toilets with drinking water. This would save an enormous amount of water.

    But eventually, inevitably, we’re going to have to emulate the astronauts and start drinking water treated from pee and poo. It sounds revolting but we already have the tech needed to do it.

    • thucy

      I’ll go with the first half of your comment, not the second.

    • Bill_Woods

      We already have the system that delivers non-potable water. It gets treated at the urban treatment plants. On the other, yes, we can get potable water out of sewage. (And do really — there isn’t a drop that hasn’t passed through something’s kidneys at some point in the past.)

    • Paul

      X2 on thucy’s reply.

  • Gee Whiz

    I’m hearing others with my question: I currently conserve with limited weekly showers, using low flow shower heads, do not garden, do not wash my car, wash dishes in a water saving dishwasher once a week, do laundry twice a month, etc. Will I still be required to cut my usage 25%? I cannot cut my water usage further.

    • thucy

      Quite possibly.

    • Paul

      Indeed your point is valid. For someone who has been using water very efficiently for years should not need to reduce a full 25%. I think what water districts will do, is to obtain the 25% over their entire customer base, then look for the water users that have especially high consumption. Hopefully you will not need to change anything.

  • rhuberry

    Ridiculous comment that lawns at home serve no purpose but park lands are for recreation. Many people use lawns at their homes for recreation, thereby saving the parklands for those who don’t have their own private spaces. Lawns at home aren’t all for looks. Many civic buildings have lush lawns. Those aren’t parklands and get almost NO human use.

    • thucy

      Sorry, but there has been no justification, EVER, to have a lawn in California.
      And we clearly can no longer afford park lawns.
      This IS the new normal, you’re going to have to adjust.

      • Ehkzu

        You have no children.

        • Plenty of people with no lawns have children.

        • thucy

          How is it that people raised children for literally thousands of years without lawns? Did Lincoln have a lawn growing up? Socrates?
          For the record, neither of my parents, nor either of their children, had a lawn growing up. Two M.D.’s, one Ph.D, we all survived – oy gevalt! – “sans” lawn.

          • Another Mike

            Prairies and meadows (livadi in Greek).

        • thucy

          The funny thing about your endless rants about overpopulation, Ehkzu, is the immediacy with which you jump on people who choose not to bring more children into the world.
          It’s kind of odd, don’t you think?

        • Lilli Keinaenen

          Plenty of non-thirsty lawn alternatives that are just as fun to play on than the “normal” lawns.

      • rhuberry

        So get rid of all parks with lawns??

        • eean

          Well, watering the lawns. In the Bay Area it is foggy and rainy enough that lawns are mostly OK without extra water. We aren’t really a desert here. The issue is that we get our water from the Central Valley. 🙂

      • Jon Latimer

        I think the point was simply that we shouldn’t hold a double standard (calling public lawns “important for recreation and state revenues” while scorning private landscaping as wasteful and pointless). They should be viewed through the same lens, no?

        • thucy

          Indeed, but while there is no longer justification for either, there has always been, and should always remain, a primacy of need for public OVER private use.
          That is, comply with the entirely reasonable mandate to end your lawn. And simultaneously demand that public parks do the same.

        • rhuberry

          Yes, thank you.

  • trite

    The San Francisco representative completely skirted the question of potentially penalizing those who already are conserving water. Please ask him again to talk about that.

  • Jon Latimer

    If your going to put such restrictions of individual water use, you ought to ban fracking immediately, take a hard look at the states agricultural water use through the lens of imminent domain, and place a moratorium on bottling our states water for profit. This is a band-aid on a bullet hole.

    • Paul

      Why just ban fracking & bottling?
      What about banning food processors, county parks, hospitals, industrial processing, almond & rice growers, public gardens, and just about anyone else using water to make a living to cease use too. guab.

      • Jon Latimer

        …Because that would be ridiculous? I’m not sure why you would ask that. Are you trying to make a political point? These are suggestions that would make much more of an immediate and dramatic difference in our State’s water supply than asking or even demanding individuals ration there usage. It’s addressing part of the actual problem, rather than looking the other way. Are you saying the suggestion I’ve made would be bad for business and the economy? (Because that’s pretty short sighted…)

        • Paul

          Sorry. My reply was intended to be (mostly) facetious. Gov. Brown, I think is trying to ask everyone: families & businesses, public agencies & industrial consumers, etc., to all reduce water use.
          Fully “banning” fracking seems arbitrary and capricious for the sole purpose of water conservation. As for agriculture, some districts are already on a 0-5% allocation, that’s 95-100% reduction !

          (and indeed some Ag districts have plenty of water to use or sell…)

  • Gee Whiz

    Let’s drag the calving glaciers to a pipeline system to the farm belt. That will deal with desalination of the oceans and address the farmers’ water shortage!

  • Ehkzu

    52 minutes of program so far on our water crisis and not one word on the air about overpopulation–despite California’s population increasing by a factor of six since I was born here.

    • rhuberry

      Totally agree. I don’t know why overpopulation is such a taboo subject these days. Whatever happened to Zero Population Growth? Why are we approving so many new housing developments and highrises in almost every community in the Bay Area? And these are all raved about in the local media.

    • Gene Keenan

      The US has a very low population growth curve. What do you propose? Turn people back at the borders to stop them from moving here? We did do it once before during the dust bowl years… A shining moment in our history.

      • 54StarryNights

        The simplest answer would be to place a moratorium on all new residential construction at the very least until California’s water source, storage, and distribution issues are resolved (an by that I don’t mean further bleeding Northern California dry).

        Of course, this would have an impact on the construction industry though some of the jobs normally associated with new construction could be picked up with remodeling as well as any jobs constructing water related projects.

    • Paul

      Population is a driver, yes, but ag’s irrigation of former desert land for crops is much much larger. Many farmers, especially those without senior water rights are having to let their fields fallow. There’s a reason why those places were historically deserts. On wet years, sure, grow crops; but dry years: no. This is what is essentially happening now.

  • Another Mike

    How much water simply evaporates from reservoirs and canals every year?

  • FourthPlanet

    Jerry Brown was governor durring the ’77 drought. I was a teenager then. We had an allotment per person per household. That makes more sense than to tell everyone just cut back 25% and punish people who have had 5 gallon buckets in their bathrooms since the 70s

    • thucy

      I was a kid back then. The drought was terrifying, but it did shape my water usage for at least a few decades, and very much shaped my outlook on resources.

  • Ehkzu

    “That’s kind of a myth that overpopulation is driving water use” said one of your guests.

    So we don’t have to give up our lawns and fountains? We don’t have to reduce water use by 25% now? Governor Brown was blowing smoke yesterday?

    That’s a completely irrational statement. Just because we’re using water more efficiently than we did in the ’70s doesn’t mean we can support indefinite population growth from using less and less water for each of more and more people.

    • Bill_Woods

      Currently, agriculture uses about 80% of the water. Cutting that back about 10% would allow about a 50% expansion of non-ag use.

  • Robert Thomas

    My sister lived in Boise for twenty years.

    She was amused during all the time she lived there that the single absurd subject that could exercise Idahoans the most reliably – bar none – to pitchfork-wielding, shotgun and high-powered precision-scope-equipped rifle civic-alert agitation was the prospect of Californians heading overland with their pipes, looking for water.

    Inexplicably, I actually hear people wonder out loud, as I did on this broadcast, why we don’t consider cross country water redistribution, from places “where they have too much”.

    Not even in distant locales where floods are recurrent problems and where no one would consider metering their domestic water does anyone think they have enough for delivery to California.

    • Roy-in-Boise

      Yes, as Mark Twain famously said: “Whiskey is for drinking and water is for fighting” … Woe onto the Los Angeles Water Board and their pipelines.

  • Mark Stebbins

    Here is what needs to be addressed in the drought 1 Major Municipalities water waste 2.Bottled water companies wasting our resources 3 Fracking 4 Residential water use no more watering lawns!!

  • G.S. Khalsa

    What WILL do if we are only at the leading EDGE of a “megadrought” (i.e., decades or years long)???

    In July of 2014, in an L. A. Times article on LAST years episode of our increasingly desperate drought, there was the following sentence, in reference to THIS year’s episode:

    “A drought beyond that would have to be an event that happens [only] once every 200 to 300 years…”

    My question at the top is the one I believe we ought to consider seriously.

    Where will we all move TO ??????

    Respectfully,

    G.S. Khalsa
    San Leandro, CA

  • JJ

    Why don’t the rules apply to farm use? They consume 80% of
    California’s developed water but accounting for only 2% state’s GDP. We need repricing water to collect more money,
    and then use that money to build more storage and then perhaps subsidize farmers
    such that they will have income without growing crops during the worst drought.
    I heard some farmers are making more money selling water than planting their
    fields. This is just wrong.

  • Beth Grant DeRoos

    ALL new homes should be requires to have a grey water system that reuses kitchen, laundry and bathroom sink/shower/bath water, rather than sending the water down the sewer drain!!

    And give apartments and home owners tax breaks for installing grey water systems!! Require homes to also have rain catchments systems that collect rainwater and use that for vegetable gardens, trees etc.

    • Paul

      It makes sense to recycle grey water locally, but let’s not “require” it. It should be done by incentives: discounts, rebates or tax breaks.
      Shower water can be used to flush toilets, laundry water and/or rain catchment for irrigation. BTW, you can get rain collection installation and other appliance rebates from bawsca dot org, search “rain barrel”, etc.

  • Almo Quesada

    Something needs to be done regarding California’s water problem. Without water the human race cannot survive. We need to start somewhere. Gov. Brown is on the right track. California citizens need to preserve our most precious natural resource.

  • Roy-in-Boise

    The forefathers of the Golden State have already wrangled enough water away from the neighbors. No other state is going to give California water.

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