After you crawl out of bed and hop into the shower, you may find yourself pondering life’s questions during your daily 15-minute soak session. Ponder somewhere else. You just used half of your allotted water for the day.
Given the statewide drought emergency and Santa Cruz’s shrinking water sources, the city implemented mandatory water rations earlier this month. Jumping from a stage one water shortage emergency to a stage three, Santa Cruz anticipates remaining in stage three until the end of October with the hope of reducing water use by 25 percent.
Whereas Californians on average use 196 gallons of water per day, Santa Cruzans can no longer use more than 60 gallons per day, or they will pay the price — literally.
Santa Cruz’s freshwater is supplied from the rapidly desiccating San Lorenzo River and the Loch Lomond Reservoir, since the city doesn’t import water from other areas of the state. The last time there was a water rationing program was in 1990 during a six-year drought. Now we’re back in the same mess, with roughly one-third of single family residential consumers going over the daily limit during stage one, and the Loch Lomond capacity estimated to drop to 33 percent by October without water rationing.
A majority of Californians, compared to many other people in the world, are used to seeing water come out of their faucets. This may be leading us to forget how precious water is since it’s abundant in our daily lives. As a reasonable society that wants to flourish, there’s no place for assuming that we have enough water to be wasteful or inefficient. This behavior should not be condoned or tolerated.
At the beginning of April, our reservoir was at 67 percent capacity. Though even if it were at full capacity, it still wouldn’t be enough for one year’s water demand. With only two sources of water — both of which are shrinking — we must as a community be mindful of our daily water usage.
Simple shifts in routine like taking shorter showers and turning off the water while brushing your teeth will add up over the course of the month. According to the city website, you’d save 10 gallons a day while brushing or shaving.
While students living on campus won’t be fined for using more than the city’s limit, wasting excessive amounts of water will impact where our university allocates its water resources. Back in 2009 during a water rationing period UC Santa Cruz shut down irrigation, leaving fields and lawns withering. If we don’t start conserving now, this could very well happen again this year.
To help transition consumers to more reasonable water usage, the city is providing free kitchen and sink aerators, water saving shower-heads, hose nozzles and even gardening literature for more efficient irrigation. Additionally, rebates are awarded for changing to high-efficiency washers and toilets, as well as for buying compost bins and removing a lawn and replacing it with a more water-efficient one. Santa Cruz also provides consumers with discounted rain barrels, which collect water run-offs for irrigation.
There are 42 communities in California that have yet to install water meters — meters that measure a facility’s water usage. They are currently paying a flat monthly rate and use 39 percent more water than the state average. Forty-nine percent of our state capital’s water-pipe connections don’t have water meters and are wasting excessive amounts of water. Wasting water is naive and such a severe issue that the greater community needs to mandate restrictions to ensure that irresponsible behavior is penalized.
Such a message must have teeth — the monetary penalties will show wasteful community members that we do not condone their behavior. Running water is a privilege — abusing such a system is not the behavior California cities and counties should be condoning.