Earlier this month, California Governor Jerry Brown announced a 25 percent water reduction to all suppliers sending water to urban areas. Almost immediately, this faced massive backlash. Many claimed this was unfair, stating that urban water use is only approximately 20 percent of all water usage in California while agricultural water use makes up the other 80 percent. This, however, is inaccurate.
In actuality, agricultural water use only makes up approximately 40 percent of California’s overall water usage, with urban use being closer to 10 percent and the other 50 percent being environmental use, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Water that is allocated for environmental purposes, such as water for preserving wetlands and rivers protected under federal and state laws cannot be used for other purposes, and does not affect other water usage.
One main criticism of Governor Brown’s restriction is that it does not include water used for agricultural purposes. However, they are currently receiving no water on a federal level. This has left farmers with no choice but to pay increasingly high costs to buy from water suppliers, who are also losing their water due to the drought.
Along with this, according to a testimony from California farmers, the majority of them have already cut crop production between 25 and 70 percent, trying to maintain as much as they can with the little water they have been able to hunt out.
Those criticizing the continued growth of water hungry plants should remember that the Californian climate is nearly perfect for such nuts to flourish and these are major cash crops. Growing almonds also uses significantly less water than raising dairy cattle does, meaning a glass of almond milk is more water efficient than a glass of cow’s milk.
All of that taken into account, the 25 percent restriction to the water allocated for urban usage does not sound so unreasonable. Between June 2014 and February 2015, the Otay Water District, a water, recycled water and sewer service provider produced 7,888,634,952 gallons of water. That was already a 4 percent decrease compared to the amount of water they produced in 2013.
A 4 percent decrease may seem small, but it is a step in the right direction. It may seem repetitive and redundant but there are so many simple things that can be done to conserve water, and they all make an impact. The same things that have been said hundreds of times, such as not to leave the water running or limiting shower times, can really all make a difference.
The short of it is, Californians use a lot of water. In January of this year, the most water received by any part of the state was 0.25 inches, and water usage did not slow down anywhere. Whether we are washing our cars, filling and filtering our swimming pools or watering our bright green patches of front yards, we take the water we have for granted.
The flat, green yards can be transformed into appealing, natural spaces by removing the water-guzzling grass and replacing it with boulders or other hardscape and colorful native, drought-resistant plants. All of these water issues can be resolved rather easily by simply being conscious of how much water is being used at any given time and how necessary using that water really is. Using water for agricultural matters is necessary, using water to take a 30 minute shower is not.