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Courting disaster until the water runs out

Observations from the Edge
Robert T. Nanninga
Coast News
July 6, 2007


You wouldn't know by looking at it, but San Diego County is located in a region that is predominantly semi-arid desert. And with below average rainfall for the past two years, it is easy to say we are experiencing desert conditions in the lush landscaping of suburban San Diego.

Of course it doesn't help that the majority of San Diego's water is imported, and those sources are drying up. Water from the Sacramento Bay delta is no longer available to residents of San Diego County, the Sierra snow pack is depleted. The Colorado River Valley has been going through a drought and Phoenix and Las Vegas are using more of their fair share of that increasingly limited resource.

But why worry? There is plenty of water right?

Really, what else is someone to think when the rate of development, and redevelopment, continues unchecked while the growth pimps of SANDAG (the San Diego Association of Governments) along with their unelected board of regional politicians, beat the drum of short term profits and long term population growth? If there really was a water shortage it would be unethical to ask people to conserve water while bringing more people to drink for the same well. Wouldn't it?

Why then is the water authority allowed to accommodate new water customers while calling for conservation by existing ones? Are calls for conservation just another way of justifying continued economic exploitation of natural resources and the myopic municipal planning that enabling it?

Asking water users to reduce their consumption 10%, the equivalent of 20 gallons a day, only to allow more customers to turn on the tap does nothing to conserve water. If there really is a looming water crisis, then it is everybody's best interest to severely limit future residential growth and any additional drain on available water resources.

This is not to say reducing personal water use is not a good thing. It is. In fact the 10% reduction goal is rather timid considering the hardships a prolonged drought could have on the ecological and economic well being in a region of more than 3 million people.

How one saves water is just as important as how one reduces it's usage. Reducing the need for water is the biggest contribution to conservation efforts. Landscaping with native plants, instead of thirsty lawns would result in enormous savings of both water and money. Every city in San Diego county should require this of all future development and redevelopment.

Requiring future development and redevelopment to include gray water systems in all residential projects, would further reduce regional water requirements. Gray water is wash water, kitchen, laundry and bath, redirected for irrigation purposes. Trapping rain water for later use is another way to reduce the need to import water.

Shorter showers, less laundry, less dishes, and less flushing are other ways to cut consumption. None of which compare to the best way to reduce water usage, which is to not increase the number of people using the water.

More makes less. Right?

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