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Gary Horton: Put a brick in it

Posted: February 26, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: February 26, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

They say we’re headed for a pretty good rain later this week. The comfortable moisture on our skin and fresh scent in the air might have us feeling “everything’s better again,” but wishful thinking won’t fill half-empty reservoirs.

We Californians have seen droughts come and go before. During particularly tough times, we’ve been told to flush “every third time.” Some cities restricted yard-watering days.

Yet old habits returned as the crisis passed and we told ourselves everything would go back to “normal.”

But water has never been “normal” in Southern California. Without state water aquifers and esoteric water deals, the San Joaquin Valley and all points south would still be parched semi-deserts inhabited primarily by horned toads and lizards.

Some humorously observe, “nothing’s changed by adding water.”
Social commentary of California’s moral character aside, I can’t remember the last good rainy season. I remember floods in the San Fernando Valley as a kid in the 1960s, and a few doozies earlier on in our time in the Santa

Clarita Valley, but a good rain has since been a long time coming.

Meanwhile, Southern California has grown much larger. Consider the awesome growth of Awesometown over the past 30 years — with all our added lawn-watering, pool-filling, tooth-brushing, toilet-flushing, shower-taking and car-washing.

Tons more people, requiring zillions of gallons more water — all while nature herself has throttled back supply.

Now we’re in an awesomely tight spot.

Farming in California remains paramount, as the state is rather remarkably and — to us suburbanites, at least — unexpectedly known as the “vegetable and fruit basket of America.”

Indeed, California produces a full half of the green produce products in the United States. The water tap to our nation’s healthy eating certainly can’t be turned off.

Something’s got to give, and you know it’s going to be you and me making adjustments to a new long-term water reality.

We’re the ones gulping the stuff in our artificially watered wonderland, so we naturally have the means to make changes.

Indeed, despite the tightness of supply, our water remains so cheap we consume it as prolifically as other cultures breathe air.

So it’s time to gulp hard and adopt new habits. Singularly, we can’t make much impact, but as 38 million people acting in concerned unison, we can significantly improve our water security.

Basically, we’ve got to put a brick in it — literally and metaphorically.

For starters, use the old trick of putting a standard brick in your toilet tanks. You won’t notice much difference on the flush, but a brick displaces just over one quart, and by the time a family of four has flushed for a year, you’ll save 2,200 gallons!

Some folks run the faucet while brushing teeth. Maybe the sound is soothing; maybe it’s just a lazy habit. But with most faucets consuming two gallons per minute, a family of four will save another 3,000 gallons just by brushing in silence.

Many run short loads in the family clothes washer. At 15 gallons per cycle, holding onto the socks and tees for a full load makes sense. Pack ‘em in tighter and save another 800 gallons each year.

You’ve never heard me say, “Trust me, I’m a landscaper.” But this time, trust me: most all folks over-water their yards to significant detriment of plant health. They think the ground must always be moist or even wet, and simply, and wastefully, water too much.

The typical yard runs seven valves seven minutes every day. That’s over 250,000 gallons a year, and our current landscape-watering habits represent our greatest opportunity for painless water conservation.

And usually, our trees and shrubs will thank us with healthier foliage for rescuing them from “wet feet.”

So if you water six or seven days, drop one. If you’re doing well watering every other day, drop water times down 10 percent.

Take into account shady areas vs. sunny, and reduce watering in shade. You don’t need moss, and your ground cover isn’t Greg Louganis. If you end up with a small dry spots here or there, enhance sprinkler coverage rather than over-watering to cover problems up.

These changes don’t require money or inconvenience. Yet right now, each household wastes tens or hundreds of thousands of gallons. With just these easy adjustments, you and I can make significant impact.

Want to save more? Spend a little. Inexpensive under-the-counter water heaters eliminate the need to “run the water until it’s hot.” At $150, they won’t break your bank and you’ll appreciate not waiting around for the hot water you want.

Still more? Change your irrigation system to drip and cut your outdoor water by a whopping 80 percent.

Don’t want to spend cash? Many water agencies will provide you free “smart” weather intelligent irrigation controllers.

California’s problem is largely self-made and, with common effort, can be largely self-corrected.

Start with these small changes today, save money tomorrow, and you and your plumbing and plants will feel much better having all done your part for our collective good.

 

Comments

ricketzz: Posted: February 26, 2014 5:42 a.m.

Some bricks will start to decompose and deposit baked clay inside the wastewater system; use a half-gallon/2 litre plastic container, filled with water.

When I run the bath "until it's hot" I use the tepid water to fill my humidifier. Otherwise it goes into a bucket to be used elsewhere.

Can we legally use our dishwasher and washing machine wastewater in the yard? Swamp cooler bleeder water?


chico: Posted: February 26, 2014 7:41 a.m.

Make sure there is enough water volume to flush waste because I've heard 'low flow' toilets are leading to clogged sewer lines.

Here's a better tip - don't flush every time you use the toilet - a rule of thumb is that if it's yellow it mellow (don't flush every time), but if its brown send it down.


17trillion: Posted: February 26, 2014 8:03 a.m.

Screw that! I'll use as much water as I darned well please. When the idiots of this state stop flushing billions of gallons a year into the ocean to save a bait fish that may or may not be endangered, then I MIGHT change my habits. They even turned down a project to breed the gd'ed things to stop the waste but nooooooo! As for putting a brick or something else to lower the flow of my toilet, you've got to be on drugs!


OldReliable: Posted: February 26, 2014 8:46 a.m.

I'm with 17Trillion... politicians have messed this up... again.


Indy: Posted: February 26, 2014 3:28 p.m.

17trillion wrote: Screw that! I'll use as much water as I darned well please. When the idiots of this state stop flushing billions of gallons a year into the ocean to save a bait fish that may or may not be endangered, then I MIGHT change my habits. They even turned down a project to breed the gd'ed things to stop the waste but nooooooo! As for putting a brick or something else to lower the flow of my toilet, you've got to be on drugs!

Indy: At first glance, it is indeed understandable than recognition of resource constraints to be erroneous when American folklore doesn’t reference any ‘limits’. Only ‘hard work’ is the norm.

The fact that human activity is now creating what is called the ‘sixth extinction’ in that humans are capturing a greater and greater share of the biomass that other creatures need to exists.

Understandably, none of this type of evidence in included in our political discourse since many of those we’ve elected are attorneys or have degrees in political science (Scott Wilk) or no degrees at all (Stephen Knight). Buck McKeon has a degree in animal husbandry and might have a better chance to understand environmental issues with respect to all creatures but from what I saw, this degree is more interested in maximizing standard ‘agricultural animals’ (think cows, chickens, pigs, etc.) output versus any type of recognition of what ‘sustainable’ practices mean to our future.

In any event, studies of ancient civilizations indicate that water indeed is an important item in whether a civilization continues. Many civilizations failed when they found themselves in severe droughts even after hundreds of years . . .

In any event, years ago the Dept. of Water and Power gave residents simple plastic ‘dams’ that reduced their toilet water capacity. And today, ‘low flow’ toilets are required in construction projects recognizing the ‘limits’ of water availability.

For me, the problem we have today is that politicians are very slow to react and usually have to wait for a ‘crisis’ to make any decisions. This is partly a result of our polarized political process that ignores any type of ‘proactive planning’ and assumes the public must see the ‘house on fire’ if you will to get a local fire department in place.

We’ve now got over 35 million people in CA and the historical weather patterns reveal that droughts are part of our existence. As our population grows beyond ‘sustainable’ limits, we’ll be faced with the same water crises only making the consequences more severe . . . including the recent practices of ‘fracking’ that requires huge amounts of water.


michael: Posted: February 26, 2014 5:23 p.m.

I'm with you 17! Additionally, let's stop this stupid land development or make the people that move to California bring their own supply of water! A dumb statement I know, but think about it!


technologist: Posted: February 26, 2014 7:57 p.m.

Before one of the resident Leftists accuse you, whose water are you carrying, Michael? Confess before the interrogation!

Be prepared for Indy to label you as a religious conservative market fundamentalist libertarian social darwinist Fox News watching RNC point talking revanchist who can't "see" what "works in the modern world" on this "fixed rock in space".


ricketzz: Posted: February 27, 2014 7:47 a.m.

The Delta Smelt is not to blame. The greedy selfish people who refuse to modernize the Greater Delta are the culprits. They are probably the same people who deny science because it's too scary.


technologist: Posted: February 27, 2014 8:20 a.m.

Ricketzz, the anti-development folks are frequently the ones that lack scientific and statistical rigor. They operate on fear.


Indy: Posted: February 27, 2014 2:01 p.m.

michael wrote: I'm with you 17! Additionally, let's stop this stupid land development or make the people that move to California bring their own supply of water! A dumb statement I know, but think about it!

Indy: I always find remarks such as this amusing as if the poster is unaware of why developers build homes!

I for now get into the resource constraints we face but suffice it to see that we don’t live in a ‘limitless’ world and sooner or later, the ‘limits’ are reached.

Then you either use less per person or fight among ourselves for who gets what. That’s the battle taking place today between ‘farmers’ and the public.


Indy: Posted: February 27, 2014 2:02 p.m.

technologist wrote: Be prepared for Indy to label you as a religious conservative market fundamentalist libertarian social darwinist Fox News watching RNC point talking revanchist who can't "see" what "works in the modern world" on this "fixed rock in space".

Indy: If the shoe fits . . .


technologist: Posted: February 27, 2014 3:20 p.m.

Your attempts to apply political labels to everyone in your small minded ideology plays are, fittingly, comical.

Do you have dolls on your desk to assist you in post composition? Do you make them talk?


Indy: Posted: February 27, 2014 6:55 p.m.

technologist wrote: Your attempts to apply political labels to everyone in your small minded ideology plays are, fittingly, comical.

Indy: Depends how you look at things . . . you assert libertarian ideology here all the time based on ‘market fundamentalism’ that ignores economic scarcity.

Then anyone that pins you on your ideology failures is labeled by you as ‘small minded’.

This type of debating technique is effective when the low info voter group you’re addressing isn’t knowledgeable enough to realize that reciting ‘focus group slogans’ to gain a false consensus isn’t helping anyone including those duped into the nonsense.

I'm just here filling in the missing descriptions of your ideology and clarifying what works and what is just ideology based nonsense.

technologist wrote: Do you have dolls on your desk to assist you in post composition? Do you make them talk?

Indy: LOL


technologist: Posted: February 27, 2014 7:18 p.m.

technologist wrote: Do you have dolls on your desk to assist you in post composition? Do you make them talk?

Indy: LOL

Aha! You do, don't you? Since you've never been able to "pin" me in debate, do you use one on my effigy, voodoo style?


ricketzz: Posted: February 28, 2014 6:01 a.m.

Anti-development folks have fear of what, technologist? "Statistical rigor" just sounds silly. I am against land speculation that is really a done deal. If there is little risk there should be small payoffs. Risk is supposed to equal reward.

Over and over the Corporatists and their elected toadies have socialized the risk (made you and I pay for them) while pocketing all the profits. Think of Prop 13 when you put that brick in your tank.


Indy: Posted: February 28, 2014 6:00 p.m.

Technologist wrote: Aha! You do, don't you? Since you've never been able to "pin" me in debate, do you use one on my effigy, voodoo style?

Indy: LOL!

In any event, no need to applaud you . . . you do such a great job of that yourself!


technologist: Posted: March 1, 2014 1:49 p.m.

"In any event, no need to applaud you . . . you do such a great job of that yourself! - Indy

"That’s one of the reasons why it appears I know all the answers since I have the MBA plus the years of experience running a business." - Indy: Posted: February 11, 2014 7:20 p.m.

http://www.signalscv.com/section/33/article/113798/


Indy: Posted: March 9, 2014 3:59 p.m.

technologist wrote: "In any event, no need to applaud you . . . you do such a great job of that yourself! - Indy

"That’s one of the reasons why it appears I know all the answers since I have the MBA plus the years of experience running a business." - Indy: Posted: February 11, 2014 7:20 p.m.

Indy: Ditto


technologist: Posted: March 9, 2014 6:35 p.m.

"Indy: Ditto"

I had no idea you were a "ditto head". I am surprised!



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