Oh, I know it’s boring if you live someplace where rain falls at reasonable intervals. But it’s all the talk around here. Just heard of another person who’s pulling up all of his lawn to install artificial turf. That’s plastic, isn’t it? Guess that guy in The Graduate was right: the future lies in plastic. And we all know where plastic comes from, don’t we? As someone once said to me, in explaining why some product or other cost so much, “It’s a petroleum product, you know.”
When Ed and I and our children were ricocheting back and forth from one coast to the other — 4.5 cross-country moves — we missed the last California drought. But friends told us about it at the time: how they would place a brick in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water per flush (now they’d buy pricey low-flush toilets), keep a bucket in the shower to catch used soapy water to pour on plants (now they’d invest in expensive gray-water systems), and of course not running the water when they brushed their teeth (today, electric tooth-cleaning systems minimize water use). A cartoon recently implied that the characters were not bothered by drought restrictions because they were Europeans – “We don’t shower as much as Americans.”
Two facts that I learned and have carried through life, both counter-intuitive, are that showers use less water than baths and that dishwashers use less water than hand-washing dishes. I have had arguments with people on these two topics, but here’s the Los Angeles County Waterworks Districts confirming both assertions as they list water saving tips.
Our local Southern California Public Radio station had a piece about businesses that are suddenly profiting from this new interest in water conservation. After years of just getting by, a company that installs gray water systems can barely keep up with the telephone inquiries, and a nursery specializing in cactus and succulents sees its clientele surging from its former few aficionados to crowds of new devotees. And, of course, business is booming for landscape installation companies whose work seems to appear almost overnight. I drive by and ask myself, “When did they do that?”
Even without tackling major projects, the drought has the benefit of making us more aware of what a precious resource water is and how much more care we need to take about its use.
And for me, prone as I am to find things about which to feel guilty, all of the drought talk has left me with a whole range of new guilt outlets. Like: Is it true that it takes more than a gallon of water to grow just one almond? No, that statement has been disproved, although almond trees do require water year-round. Just like beef, which requires more than 106 gallons of water to produce one ounce of meat. Almonds with their shells, according to a Los Angeles Times report by Kyle Kim, require 48.6 gallons of water per ounce. The LA Times website also has a neat interactive graphic feature in which you can calculate the total “water footprint” of your meal, should you be so inclined.
Enough drought talk. Now I’ll concentrate on hoping for the return of El Niño and all the rains he might bring with him.
Isn’t it amazing how wrong our intuitions can be on facts like water usage? Just yesterday I heard (on NPR, I think) that replacing a lawn with a swimming pool will save water, over time. Here is an article in the LA Times that confirms that fact: http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-pool-haters-20140913-story.html. So maybe all those municipalities that have recently banned filling swimming pools ought to reconsider? Crunching the numbers can be such an eye opener.
Makes sense, doesn’t it? A pool gets filled once and then just topped off as water gets splashed out or evaporates — and even less so if it’s covered. But the water on a lawn gets absorbed or evaporates over and over.