Water on the brain

Jeff vonKaenel

A recent headline in The Sacramento Bee announced that “Sacramentans make a surprise cut in winter water demand.” City residents reduced their water usage by 2 percent from November to February. According to The Sacramento Bee, this “represents progress.”

I’m not so sure.

First of all, our city has a per-capita water-use rate that can only be described as obscene: 270 gallons per day. This is as we head into what may possibly be the fourth year of a sustained drought in Northern California. The Delta and our lakes and reservoirs require more water to support and sustain a viable ecology. Our groundwater is in desperate need of replenishing. Impending climate change could also present challenges to our water supply. In the face of such a crisis, a 2 percent reduction in water usage doesn’t seem that significant. It is particularly unimpressive when, according to the Bee article, “Many California cities … saw double-digit savings in response to drought.”

Secondly, the Bee’s February 28 weather box reported that we had 25 percent more rainfall this rain season compared to last season, one reason to hope that the drought may be ending. Wouldn’t more rain mean less watering of lawns? I would hope that we would use less water in a year with more rain.

Sacramento’s water-conservation plan recommends watering no more than once a week during the winter, on Saturday or Sunday. The Bee article announced that now that daylight-saving time is here, city residents can start watering three days a week: odd-numbered addresses on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday; even-numbered addresses Wednesday, Friday, Sunday; only at night, between 7 p.m. and 10 a.m.

But let’s stop, take a step back and ask ourselves: Do we really need to start watering so soon?

I admit I am not a water expert. In college I studied sociology, not hydrology. But I do know that at the vonKaenel-Redmond residence, we’ve been able to completely turn off our sprinklers every fall, and don’t feel the need to turn them back on until it starts getting pretty hot or the grass starts to get crunchy, whichever comes first. It’s an easy way to conserve.

According to the water experts that I have talked to, 60 percent of Sacramento urban water is used for landscaping, and around half of that is wasted. We usually get around 19 inches of rain a year, most of it during the winter. So just because daylight-saving time has come, there’s no immediate need to turn your sprinkler systems back on. I’d like to encourage you to wait to start watering until it’s really necessary. It’s an easy way to conserve a very valuable resource.

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About the Author

Jeff vonKaenel
Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.