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Water Conservation: Honoring a Sacred Gift

By Terry LePage

Terry LePageWater is life…

And we take it for granted.  Ancient civilizations in the American Southwest were extinguished for lack of water; around the world people still suffer and die for lack of potable water.  Yet we waste hundreds, even thousands, of gallons of high quality drinking water down our drains each month.  And old habits die hard.

Water Justice

I feel so frustrated hearing of commercial farming operations digging 1200-foot-deep wells that suck prehistoric water, leaving shorter wells dry.  Some small Central Valley towns truck in all their water, and smaller farms lacking capital for deep wells are getting abandoned like those ancient Southwestern Pueblos.

Many farmers already conserve, but how can we promote water fairness and responsibility for all?  Can it happen without political action?  Shall we write Jerry Brown a letter?

Embarrassing Emerald Excess

Irvine proudly touts both its emerald green parks and parkways, and its excellent water treatment facilities.  Recycled wastewater (100% safe) from the latter allows copious irrigation of the former.

But this comes at a price.  Wastewater that is recycled neither flushes the Back Bay nor percolates into the ground to recharge the water table.  Have you seen the ghostly white tree skeletons on the south side of Campus Drive between UCI and the airport?  They died because the water table is at least 22 feet lower than it used to be.

And Irvine’s lush parkways set an unrealistic standard.  Watering to excess is expected; homeowners associations may even ticket those who err on the side of dry.  Some political action needed here too?

Those of us with yards can act now.  I am not asking you to landscape with cacti only.  Nor do you need to tear out all your present landscaping.  Rather, tolerate a bit of summer brown, as people do in wetter regions where few lawns are watered.  Dial down your sprinklers and see what happens.  Replace those plants that can’t hack it with plants that work in our climate.  And remember that watering deeply (say, nine minutes in three-minute increments, once every five or seven days) is more water-efficient than watering briefly and frequently.

Gadgets and Capital Investments

Surely there’s a techie fix, right?  The gadget, the app, the capital improvement.  This is not required.  But if you are replacing a washing machine or dishwasher anyway, make water savings part of your shopping list.

The one ‘appliance’ worth replacing outright is your toilet.  If that porcelain bowl is used frequently and is not marked “1.6 GPF” (gallons per flush) or lower, replacing it will bring big savings.  (If you want ‘good flush’, I highly recommend Kohler Classic 1.28 GPF toilets, for around $200.) Water Pic low-flow shower heads give great showers for little water too.

Does your kitchen sink run forever till the water gets hot?  Do you use it many times a day?  You may want to install a small under-sink electric water heater.  I love mine, and have not noticed an increase in my electric bill.

Sprinkler systems offer astounding arrays of gadgetry.  Understanding yours, setting it to minimum usage, and keeping it in good repair is the best water saving you can do.  Educate yourself about hydro-zoning and consider MP Rotator sprinkler heads.  Beware of drip irrigation: while efficient, it is fragile, and plant death is often the first sign of malfunction.

And if tech is not your thing, remember all those simple tricks for water savings like washing full loads of laundry and stoppering the sink!

A Water Prayer

In honor of World Water Day, March 22, are you willing to take up one new habit of water conservation?  Perhaps practice it as a form of prayer: of thanksgiving for the goodness of our blue earth, and of petition, to protect the gift of life that is water.

Online Resources – Practical water saving information (including rebate information) can be found at: www.bewaterwise.com and www.irwd.com/save-water-money . Check out canative garden.blogspot.com – my native garden blog , including: Turf Terminators Beware, Dial it Down, and Summer Dry Natives.


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