The persistent droughts that have plagued California in recent years are only getting worse, and water shortages are cropping up in many other areas of the western United States. Governments are announcing unprecedented water saving measures, including a declaration by California Gov. Jerry Brown to reduce water usage rates by 25 percent. What do these emergency scenarios mean for consumers, and what can you do to help?
Conditions Expected to Persist
This is the fourth straight year of drought in California, where the water shortage has been the most acute. But other states like Washington, Nevada, Texas and Oregon are feeling the heat as well. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, about 40 percent of the country is currently experiencing a water shortage, and consistently high temperatures since the turn of the century suggest that ongoing droughts might be the new normal in the United States.
“California has gotten the attention, and rightly so,” Roger Pulwarty, director of the National Integrated Drought Information System at the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, said to Bloomberg. “Across most of the West, dry conditions are expected to persist.”
Making it Mandatory
California is also implementing the most stringent water-saving measures, calling on farmers and homeowners alike to cut back. Previously, the governor had set a voluntary 20 percent savings benchmark, but when the state only reduced its consumption by 8.8 percent, he came back with the 25 percent mandate.
Among the methods the state and municipalities are using to cut back:
- Limiting lawn watering to no more than two times per week
- Requiring new homes to use drip irrigation systems, not sprinklers
- Forcing cutbacks in water use from golf courses, cemeteries and public areas
- Providing rebates for people to replace their appliances with more efficient models
- Stepping up enforcement against violators
Some environmentalists are calling for even stricter rules, such as:
- Limiting indoor water use as well as outdoor use
- Raising the price on municipal water bills
- Hiking rates even higher for high-volume users
- Disclosing house-by-house water use in residential bills to create more social pressure to conserve
You Can Make a Difference
You may already practice water conservation as a good environmental citizen and savvy spender, but when a drought hits, it's time to take water savings to the next level. Follow these tips to ensure you aren't a drain on your municipal water supply:
- Implement xeriscaping in your yard to keep your irrigation requirements to a minimum
- Replace your old plumbing fixtures with new, water efficient models
- Purchase an Energy Star-certified dishwasher and washing machine
- Fix dripping faucets immediately
- Make sure you and your children turn off the faucets while washing the dishes and brushing your teeth
- Limit the amount of time you're in the shower, and use a bucket to catch excess water which you can later use to flush the toilet or water the garden
If you need any help installing water-saving equipment, or want more tips about how to conserve, call your local Benjamin Franklin today.