Local

January 24, 2014

Coping with drought; preserving a precious resource

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Robert J. Kaschak
452 AMW Emergency Management technician

A drainage ditch on March Air Reserve Base, Calif., stands void of all but a few puddles of water on January 22, 2014, residue from landscape maintainance and evidence of the severe drought that has hit the state. California governor, Jerry Brown, announced a drought emergency last week, following a rainfall measuring lower than any other in California’s 153-year recorded rainfall history.

While the east coast is mired in record-breaking cold weather, subzero temperatures and snow, California is dealing with its own nemesis, declining water reserves. Like big earthquakes and budget deficits, droughts are a part of California that seem to come back around every decade or so. The sad truth is that California is currently in a brutal dry spell.

Last week, the governor of California called a “drought emergency” following the lowest, annual rainfall in the state’s 153 year history.

The Sierra snowpack is at 83 percent below normal. Reservoir levels have dropped substantially, to less than half of normal, and, amidst the constant 80 degree temperatures, there is no immediate sign of relief. Water in the Los Angeles basin is being rerouted to Northern California as they are in a worse situation there due to agricultural needs.

Wildfires have been exacerbated by the extremely dry land and high winds.

Additionally, the governor has asked residents to cut water usage by 20 percent and directed state agencies to take a range of steps to ease the effects of water shortages on agriculture, communities and wildlife.

The state stands on the precipice of major change if it is to deal with this lack of one of our most valuable resources. To be successful, the adjustment must be made by all Californians, not just from an awareness perspective, but also taking responsible actions to efficiently use and preserve our precious, water resources.

Much of what we discuss in the area of conservation is not new. Yet, for whatever reason, we fail to practice good water usage habits. Below are some suggestions to conserve that you may remember. These are things we all can do to minimize our drought plight.

  • Be vigilant. Look for leaks in sinks, toilets, sprinklers, etc. Fixing them not only reduces water usage but also reduces your utility bill as well. Huge amounts of water are lost every year due to unattended faucet leaks, using outdated appliances, excessive clothes washing, showering, washing cars, gardening and other household activities. One little dripping faucet can make a difference.
  • Save big with little changes. You can save up to 10 gallons of water a day (that’s 10 milk jugs full in one day) by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Don’t leave the water running while brushing.
  • Shorten your shower. Reducing your shower time from 10 minutes to five minutes can save 12.5 gallons of water a day. Energy-efficient shower heads are a great purchase. Again, you will be saving money and fighting this deadly drought.
  • Use water-saving toilets. Replacing your toilet and installing a high-efficiency toilet is a more permanent solution that can save 19 gallons of water a day. You can research dual flush toilets to see the benefits. If a toilet is “running,” some minor maintenance may be needed to stop it. The fix is simple and the savings more than justify the repair.
  • Wash it when it’s full. It’s also important to be efficient when doing things such as the laundry and dishes. Residents are encouraged to wait until the load is full, to maximize the usage of water. Don’t use a full cycle in the washing machine just to launder a dirty T-shirt. Waiting until the dishwater load is full could save up to 15 gallons of water per wash.
  • Be a smart gardener. Homeowners can also save water by cutting back on outdoor water usage. Using your sprinklers for three to five minutes less than normal could save up to five gallons. Typically, lawns require less water during the winter months. Use mulch around trees and plants in your lawn to hold in moisture, which requires less water to keep them healthy. Consider a desert landscape for minimal water usage.
  • Reuse and recycle. Reuse water where you can, such as using bath water to irrigate plants and shrubs. Recycling is always an efficient alternative.
  • Who’ll catch the rain? Acquire collection devices to trap rainwater to use for gardening and washing vehicles.
  • Exercise that broom. Do not hose down driveways and patios. Instead, take advantage of the warm weather we do have and get some exercise by sweeping them clean with a broom.
  • Be a smart consumer. Some restaurants have fallen back into the wasteful habit of pouring glasses of water for diners without asking whether they want it. So, be a smart patron and don’t ask for water unless you’re going to drink it. Remember, every glass of water at a restaurant requires at least two more glasses to wash it.
  • Be proactive. Remind friends and neighbors of the simple things they can do to reduce excessive water use and help battle the drought.
  • Don’t be a fire bug. This one is very important, especially in our local areas. Extra caution is necessary in order to reduce the fire danger. Controlling campfires and cigarette butts can help minimize potential wildfire situations. The smallest of sparks caused by a gust of wind is all it takes to start a devastating fire, as was recently seen in the Glendora, California wildfire.

These are just a few suggestions, but all are relatively easy to implement. On base, we should exhibit the same type of discipline we do at home to the best of our ability whether in our building or another area. Call it to the attention of personnel who can take appropriate action if you see a problem or abuse. If the solution requires a work order, call it in immediately. You do not have to be a building custodian to identify and report water issues.

The March Air Reserve Base water bill is significant, and any way we can reduce usage will yield a corresponding reduction in cost. Discuss with your supervisor ideas you may have for more efficient water utilization.

Lack of water is very real and very serious. It is incumbent on all Californians to take positive steps to use water judiciously. Get involved, however limited that may be. We must do this, not just for the short term but as a way of life. We are a unique state in many ways and, while we enjoy beautiful weather in the winter, it does not come without a price.

I could inundate you with a plethora of facts, but what really is paramount is that you take action to reduce water consumption now. You can research multiple ways to conserve water on the internet or contact your water company or local officials for recommendations. It is a manageable crises if we can develop good usage habits, maintain awareness and realize the answer to scarce resources is for all who live here to understand together that we can manage this shortcoming that is a way of life in California.




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