Monday, August 10, 2009

Sacramento - Excessive Water Use Nothing New

It turns out the Sacramento Bee's story about the unsustainable use of water by the city was simply a confirmation of long known problems, driven in large part to the city's legacy of un-metered water use, among other things. A previous story from March of this year highlighted the challenges the city faces in reducing its Bigfoot like water footprint of 280 gallons a day per person.

In a workshop on water conservation, a majority of the Sacramento City Council said aggressive new policies are needed to save water. This may include stronger enforcement of water waste, new landscaping rules, accelerated water-meter installation – perhaps even requiring a retrofit of homes with low-impact appliances before they're resold.

"I think it's absolutely critical for this city and this region to be at the forefront … of responsible water use," said Councilman Rob Fong.

The council directed staff to draft proposed ordinances. These could be enacted as early as June to prepare for a hot summer in the third year of a drought gripping the state.

It marks a dramatic shift from the past, when the city actively opposed basic water conservation programs now common throughout California.

For instance, Sacramento fought – and ultimately failed – to avoid state policies requiring water meter installation. And it has also fallen far behind on a number of conservation promises made in 2000.

By last June, Sacramento had achieved none of 16 conservation goals it promised to meet by 2006 as a member of the Sacramento Water Forum.

With a new mayor and a city council that's making the right noises on this issue, maybe Sacramento will be able to change its ways. Maybe. But proposals to require retrofitting houses with water wise appliances upon sale won't accomplish as much as simply requiring retrofit of dumb irrigation controllers with smart ones. Think about it, 60% or more of household water use is directed to our landscapes. If you want to have the biggest possible impact on water use, you need to start with the biggest user of water. It's common sense folks, go for the low hanging fruit first.

It's year three of the drought, and when this one ends, there will be another around the corner. There always is. Meanwhile the effects of climate change, while unpredictable, are unlikely to favor California's water situation. Add to that an ever growing population and sooner or later we're all going to have to pitch in. If Marin County can average 100 gallons a day per person, why can't Sacramento?

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

last few days our class held a similar talk on this topic and you illustrate something we have not covered yet, appreciate that.

- Kris

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