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Gary Horton: Water rationing is old thinking

Posted: August 20, 2014 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 20, 2014 2:00 a.m.
 

Ah, the 1973–1974 oil crisis. I was 17, driving my blue 1968 VW Bug back and forth from high school and work.

The U.S. had backed Israel in the Yom Kippur War, and now the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries were going to make us pay with a harsh quadrupling of oil prices matched to equally harsh cutbacks in supply.

Driving around in my blue Bug, I was about to learn more about government than I ever learned in school.

Government policy allowing sleepy dependence on cheap Arab oil had left the U.S. vulnerable. As flat-footed as our energy policy had been, government response to the OAPEC embargo was fully clubfooted.

Soon, America was on 12-month Daylight Saving Time with kids heading trudging off to school in the dark.

Skyscrapers and buildings fully blackened after dark. No Christmas lights, as Christmas spirit was made illegal.

Above all, what got to us most was the implementation of dreaded gas rationing “even-odd” fill-up days.

While the genesis of the “oil crisis” was largely high-level government ineptitude and inaction, you and I were made to pay for it, and pay for it personally.

We were forced into an even-odd fueling scheme, decrying odd-numbered license plates could fill up on odd-numbered days while even-numbered plates would gas up on even days. And Sundays were no-fills.

We know what happened next: gas lines as long as freeways. Fights at gas stations. Otherwise honest folks took to switching license plates between cars.

Gas cap lock sales soared as drivers found their cars left outside had been siphoned dry while their owners were sleeping.

A simple-minded, one-size-fits-all approach to gas conservation turned America into a nation of pathetic fuel-beggars and gas swindlers, leaving us feeling helpless and defeated. And all for lack of long-range planning coupled with a simple-minded response.

So much of this sounds so familiar today, but with a watery twist.

The Signal recently reported:

“Between now and October, residents with odd-numbered addresses can water lawns on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Residents with even-numbered addresses can water on Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday.

“During the cooler-weather months — November through March — residents will be able to water their yards just two days a week. They will be Monday and Thursday for odd-numbered addresses and Tuesday and Friday for even-numbered addresses.”

Simpleminded. Knuckleheaded. Counterproductive. Divisive. Destructive. Unproductive.

Our local water agencies have just resorted to the same shortsighted, simple-minded response as the oil embargo days.

“Even-Odd” rationing. One-size-fits-all. No reasoning or thinking to allocation of consumption.

No consideration of need, past conservation efforts, or investment in new. Now, as in the ‘70s, you and I are again being made to pay in a deeply personal and destructive way for poor public policy.

What, did they get this idea from a newspaper clipping from the 1970s Herald Examiner? We’ve got nothing cleverer than a 40-year-old gas-rationing, even-odd scheme?

Just as gas rationing and even-odd ultimately damaged the national psyche and encouraged all manner of poor behaviors, this same even-odd response will damage us again.

Let’s be clear: No homeowner who has invested thousands, or tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands in their home’s landscaping will allow puny-thinking agency mandates to damage and destroy their cherished gardens.

Even-odd watering rules are simply insufficiently flexible to meet the needs of varying households.

Why not more democratically phase in a 20 percent water-reduction requirement over a short period of time and allow individual homeowners their own, individual decisions on how their families will meet the objective? Let us use our own personal choices to achieve the desired response?

Yes, some may be able to cut water days. Some will reduce lawn and landscape area. Some will launder clothes less frequently. Some will learn to not run the shower incessantly.

Some will turn off the faucet while brushing teeth. Some will rebuild sprinkler systems. Each of us can choose our own effective responses to a 20 percent water-reduction goal.

Instead, this 1970s thinking will turn otherwise honest citizens into “water criminals.” Facing dying lawns, some will simply water longer on their designated days, actually increasing water waste and runoff.

Some may sneak a double watering, once early in the morning, and once hidden late at night.

Some will simply fail to comply, knowing that agencies don’t have sufficient enforcement resources.

And what happens for the new homeowner with the new landscape initially requiring water every day during establishment? Or what of Grandma, who’s otherwise got a very small yard but needs daily watering of her flower patch?

Unlike the situation with the gas crisis, this time we have water meters to measure our progress and flexibly allow us to individually demonstrate compliance with water-reduction goals.

Remember, water consumers, killing lawns isn’t the goal. Water reduction is the goal.

Agencies: Don’t tell us how to achieve, just tell us what to achieve. Give us the goal and leave our lawn, laundry, and showering decisions to ourselves.

We can be much smarter in this water crunch than the 1970s “punish the public” thinking.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

Comments

17trillion: Posted: August 20, 2014 11:17 a.m.

Sheesh Gary, I'm surprised I can actually agree with one of your columns. How about one the benefits of reduced government?


tech: Posted: August 20, 2014 11:38 a.m.

Refreshing to have Mr. Horton observe, with examples, how government creates problems and then exacerbates them by inflicting draconian measures on the citizens. Interesting how he posits that individuals are better suited to meet a water use objective rather than a government imposed "solution".


philellis: Posted: August 20, 2014 12:17 p.m.

I wonder if the Bingo lady will "Bingo" this column - about as conservative as Gary has been in a long time.


Nitsho: Posted: August 20, 2014 12:30 p.m.

Was his account hacked? I could not agree more with this.

Water a pay by consumption product. If I want to wash my car, I can since I am paying for the amount I use but the low information voters want to fine me if they see a drop outside of a planter.

If I am allotted 1000 gallons a month and I go over it, Fine, bill me the $500 fine for wasting. But until there is a cap. and I wish to use it however I want, I will.


BrianBaker: Posted: August 20, 2014 12:48 p.m.

Agreed. As always with government-mandated "solutions", there's no room for common sense.

What about people who have already been very water-wise? How are they supposed to reduce usage another 20%?


projalice11: Posted: August 20, 2014 12:59 p.m.

You can't leave people to their own devices--
They don't have enough discipline --
Rationing water in a one dimensional concept, such as through sprinklers,
will alleviate all the other concepts of rationing water.
If the Joe's and Jane's want to add the other concepts of rationing water that will
be great.
Don't boggle the minds of Joe and Jane public with any more than one concept
of water conservation.


BrianBaker: Posted: August 20, 2014 1:17 p.m.

Those first two lines perfectly characterize the socialist mentality.


Nitsho: Posted: August 20, 2014 2:43 p.m.

Funny thing BB, that's exactly what I was thinking before I read your comment.

However, she does kinda have a point.

A person is smart, People are dumb. My point being is a person is reasonable and in most cases, can be agreeable and thoughtful. People, develop this mob mentality. We label them as "low information voters" or "tea baggers" while in most cases, the individual is sane and somewhat normal.

Bingo lady just can't articulate it. At least I hope that's what she was meaning.

If she means Nanny Government is better had handling an individual then said individual, then she should let illegals move in, give 70% of her income to the government, give up her car (which she should do regardless) and work for free.

But we all know liberal socialists have a "do as I say, don't do as I do" mentality.


tech: Posted: August 20, 2014 3:23 p.m.

projalice11:

"You can't leave people to their own devices--
They don't have enough discipline --"

"Don't boggle the minds of Joe and Jane public with any more than one concept
of water conservation."

Now that you've provided a summation of your capabilities, what's your suggestion to resolve the issues Mr. Horton's column raised, projalice11?


BrianBaker: Posted: August 20, 2014 4:02 p.m.

Not, I see nothing in her column that indicates a respect for individuality.


Indy: Posted: August 20, 2014 4:07 p.m.

I agree with Gary that methods exists to deal with this more effectively.

Since the metering data is there, comparisons can be made from historical usage and penalties applied to the bills if the property doesn’t reduce the consumption by 20% by whatever means necessary.

In any event, how do you think our ‘pro-business’ city council would go for ‘billing penalties’ that address Gary’s concern?

And why don’t our local water companies have on their websites their well data for aquifers?

Shouldn’t we know that they are being drawn down unsustainably?

Why hasn’t our city council addressed that? Same for the legislators . . .


Nitsho: Posted: August 20, 2014 4:12 p.m.

"Since the metering data is there, comparisons can be made from historical usage and penalties applied to the bills if the property doesn’t reduce the consumption by 20% by whatever means necessary. "

Unless you moved (historical data is by account, not address...and yes I know having recently moved), put in a pool, put in a spa, filled up the kiddy pool too much, had a kid or extended guests that shower too much, bought another car that needs washing, re-landscaped, Put in watering systems, Bought a bigger hot water heater, etc etc etc.

What about the ones that cut water usage down 20% for over a year and cant cut anymore?

Unless water is an allocation, fining for pay-by-consumption doesn't work.


BrianBaker: Posted: August 20, 2014 4:20 p.m.

Yep, Nit, another socialist heard from.


Indy: Posted: August 20, 2014 4:28 p.m.

Nitsho wrote: "Since the metering data is there, comparisons can be made from historical usage and penalties applied to the bills if the property doesn’t reduce the consumption by 20% by whatever means necessary. "

Unless you moved (historical data is by account, not address...and yes I know having recently moved), put in a pool, put in a spa, filled up the kiddy pool too much, had a kid or extended guests that shower too much, bought another car that needs washing, re-landscaped, Put in watering systems, Bought a bigger hot water heater, etc etc etc.

Indy: Well, that’s why we need to address water demand.

We should put into the water billing a ‘tiered’ system mush like SCE.

You decide to demand more water than the average home, you pay more.

Nitsho wrote: What about the ones that cut water usage down 20% for over a year and cant cut anymore?

Indy: That’s why the data I see on my bill goes back a year .. .

Nitsho wrote: Unless water is an allocation, fining for pay-by-consumption doesn't work.

Indy: The allocation issue is addressing this.

Factors could be placed into the calculation for lot site and number of bedrooms, normalized, then the tiers go into play.

Want a bigger house than your neighbors with more landscaping, you pay higher dollars per gallon.

This addresses the water scarcity issue here in CA.

Want to pay less, have a smaller home . . . and smaller lot.


Indy: Posted: August 20, 2014 4:31 p.m.

BrianBaker wrote: Yep, Nit, another socialist heard from.

Indy: Not surprising that that a religious conservative ‘separatist’ uses the socialism term to discredit government. But let’s revisit the definition:

Since it’s quite popular to constantly criticize any government program for having its asserted roots in the conservative ideology position put forth as socialism, I’m going to paste this explanation every time I see the ‘quick quip’ that distorts the definition of socialism for political gain.

Here’s the definition:

Socialism: a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole.


No progressive I know of or heard in the last 35 years of my adult life promotes government ‘taking over’ the ownership of the ‘private sector’. This is a distortion.

Additionally, government ‘safety net’ programs (think unemployment insurance) designed to ‘cushion’ the harshness of ‘market fundamentalism’ by providing working people some margin of error in the swings in the economy (thing recessions) actually ‘promote’ more risk in the marketplace by giving workers some leeway in taking new jobs or making their own jobs better.

You’d never know this by the ‘quick quips’ offered up here to support ‘market fundamentalism’.

Likewise, regulating the private sector in a manner that promotes fairness, a level playing field and competition not to mention correcting areas where business ‘abuses’ its trust with its customers, is not advocating the ‘control’ of a business.

We as a society have a voice in the ways business is conducted in our nation. Our legal system is a testament to that voice. Additionally, since businesses continually try to ‘cheat’ each other for one reason or another, this is but further proof why our courts, based on laws created by society, are even beneficial to the businesses themselves by upholding contractual agreements at taxpayer expense!

In any event, we can’t solve our nation’s problems by simply reciting ‘focus group tested’ slogans that give the reader little knowledge or backstory that doesn’t provide them the intelligence to hold their elected politicians accountable for sound decisions and judgment.


BrianBaker: Posted: August 20, 2014 4:42 p.m.

Too bad you don't like it, bub. But when it quacks like a duck and waddles like a duck, it's a damned duck.

You're a socialist duck.


Nitsho: Posted: August 20, 2014 4:50 p.m.

I like the tier idea. But no tier and fines is stupid.


tech: Posted: August 20, 2014 5:54 p.m.

Tiers are used by SCE for cross subsides, are they not? I escaped from the scheme by circumventing the government regulated monopoly, i.e. with solar. Generating on site keeps me out of tiers 4 & 5 for my large home with pool and a family occupancy of 5. That and intelligent Nest Thermostats has resulted in a net savings of ~15% annually.

I've already installed a weather sensing smart irrigation controller, calibrated for plant type, soil, slope, latitude, season, etc. My lawn has some brown tips and likely requires more water rather than less.

As Mr. Horton stated, I'm not going to kill my landscaping for a brain dead government mandate.


AlwaysRight: Posted: August 20, 2014 6:50 p.m.

I dunno, Gary. Maybe we should let everyone's lawn die.
That would really put a crimp in the cash flow for... say it with me...
landscaping businesses.

LOL


jdebree: Posted: August 20, 2014 6:56 p.m.

It seems as though Gary has turned to the starboard side.

Great article--following up on last week's Gilligan Island metaphor.


BrianBaker: Posted: August 20, 2014 8:22 p.m.

I've been water-wise for years, always well below my allocation. Needless to say I consider this yet another fine example of SOP Big Government bullpuckey.


tech: Posted: August 20, 2014 9:08 p.m.

Indeed, Brian.

By the way, I was already doing my part to conserve when I bought my first vehicle at age 15. It was a barely used 71 Datsun Pickup with a 1.6 liter 4 cylinder engine when V8s were still common. I had 2 sets of plates and a 5 gallon steel gas can during Carter's gas rationing. The idea that folks would use less fuel based on even/odd days was risible.

I also drove over 55 mph and had a driving record to match. My 1st citation was for 70 in a 30 mph zone. My dad had to appear in court with me and wasn't pleased. :-D --edited.


BrianBaker: Posted: August 20, 2014 10:35 p.m.

Hahahahaha!


Yeah, I'll bet he wasn't...


MariaGF: Posted: August 20, 2014 10:59 p.m.

I agree with Gary. To be clear, the State mandated the "no runoff" rules and the watering day restrictions on every public urban agency in the state, or the water agencies would be fined. We were allowed to offer exemptions, which we all did, including....if you save 20% over last year you can water whenever you want. That can and will be checked upon request using your water account information. If you have new landscaping, you are out of the restriction. If you are in a fire zone, no watering restrictions. If you have other hardship issues (like some programming or station issue with your irrigation) you can ask for assistance or exemption. And we are focusing are large users like HOA and City and Schools and trying to help them reduce and not looking to harm homeowners. The state also pretty much mandated some penalties. We can and will exercise great understanding with homeowners since they do not have the resources of larger entities. Killing all the grass in southern California will not fix the state's water issues. We need support for the state water bond (which will fund water reuse projects here in SCV) and also support the state water project and Sacramento Bay Delta which is half our supply here. We will be closely tracking the costs and water savings (if any) on doing what the state mandated and also continually demonstrating better solutions than their arbitrary day-of-the-week scheme which, as everyone knows, is just a pain without any numerical effect on water reduction. The education component, the elimination of runoff and overwatering by large users will have the most effect locally. We also have option to go to water budgets, which our agency is in the process of doing. Contact your particular water retailer for details on where you live. For NCWD you can see our policies and all the exceptions at www.NCWD.org/droughtactionplan.htm I am not commenting as official spokesperson for my agency however I can tell you the majority of my fellow elected water officials were opposed to the state mandate but essentially (again) had no choice. We were in Sacramento today and continually mentioned that the urban users cannot continue to be raked over the coals for a small fraction of the states water use. All urban use is 20% of the state total. Public agency urban use (which they regulated) is probably 2/3 of that. The 20% immediate cutback is, therefore, "saving" 4% of the states water, at most. It will help our community last longer on our stored water but it's not "solving the drought" by any means. Cloud seeding is perhaps the only thing that would do that.


tech: Posted: August 20, 2014 11:35 p.m.

MariaGF:

Thanks for your cogent and informative post. Please continue to participate as we could benefit as a community from your expertise and inside knowledge regarding how these decisions are made.


ricketzz: Posted: August 21, 2014 10:04 a.m.

When do the green pools get drained? The blue pools?


AlwaysRight: Posted: August 21, 2014 10:47 a.m.

I would never admit to it publicly, but I voted for Maria....


tech: Posted: August 21, 2014 4:02 p.m.

"When do the green pools get drained? The blue pools?" - ricketzz

How soon can you organize the fascist goon squads? Do you have a pool, ricketzz?


rosekitten: Posted: August 21, 2014 6:22 p.m.

Dear Gary, Thank you for taking the time to write your thoughtful article. I AM that grandma with the flower garden that needs to be watered every day (about which you wrote above). Except mine is a 30-year collection of exotic hybrid roses. Not the varieties that can be easily repurchased at local nurseries, mine are award winners that are exhibited competitively. I have 300 roses, 100 of which are in small containers. If they are not watered every day in temperatures hovering around 100 degrees, they can quickly die. My larger roses are planted in the ground but they are grafted on specialty shallow-rooted Fortuniana rootstock. Compounding that fact, the soil in my yard is 100% sand, except the top several inches of mulch and organics that we have applied ourselves, so the water runs through our soil quicker than those with clay soil. Our yard butts up against the flood control channel, which is the Santa Clarita River coming down Bouquet. That is why our soil is so sandy. We knew this for sure when we saw the hole being dug for our swimming pool 23 years ago. I am not willing to kill off my beloved roses and 30 years of hard work, and of course about $25,000 in value. We have lived in Saugus in this same house for 46 years. Our household has been doing what we can to conserve water for many years. We've been doing all the laundry list measures that the water companies suggest now as if they are something new to do. Such as, we've had shut off valves on our hoses for over 20 years. We have water saving toilets. We take 2-minute showers and don't let the water run while brushing teeth. We haven't washed our cars in our driveway for more than 25 years, and when we do (about twice a year) it's at a water conserving car wash. We have always had our sprinklers set to the minimum amount necessary to keep our roses alive during 100-degree weather but without any run-off. To hell with the lawn though! I hope we have rain soon, but also hope that serious consideration will finally be given to building a desalinization plant on our coast like we saw in Aruba way back in 1987. --edited.


Indy: Posted: August 21, 2014 8:45 p.m.

MariaGF,

Thanks for your information.

It’s encouraging when local officials comment at this forum.

I do know the state is considering some new management of underground water sources.

This is a good thing . . . we need to know if the water providers are using underground aquifers unsustainably.

With the data like this, we can better determine what the future ‘growth’ will be in the state relative to historical rain fall and underground sources.

We shouldn’t have to wait for a ‘crisis’ to act.

We know the state goes through droughts . . . thus we should be planning appropriately.

And while some advocate more state reservoir construction, who’s going to pay for that?

Republicans at the national level refuse to address such spending.

And I’m not sure the republicans in this state, their hands tied by conservative ‘anti-tax’ ideologues, will find any funding either.

And it’s good to note when our legislators abdicate their leadership and ask ‘voters’ to approve ‘bonds’ for infrastructure, most voters don’t realize those bond dollars are paid back through the ‘tax base’ . . .

In any event, it would great if all the water districts here report on their website the status of the ‘draw down’ of their aquifers so we can see if we’re living ‘sustainably’ or not.

Finally, with respect to the growing CA population, having good data for historical rainfall and underground sources can start telling the public ‘in advance’ of potential cut backs be they in agriculture, business, public, or private uses.

Limited water and more people means somebody gets less everything else being equal.


ricketzz: Posted: August 22, 2014 9:13 a.m.

"Fascist goon squads" sounds like one of my characterizations. Yes, pools are next. I have never wanted a pool and do not have one. The pump motor alone uses way too much energy for something hardly ever used. A couple neighbors have pools; they seem to have a lot of friends on hot days.


Nitsho: Posted: August 22, 2014 11:15 a.m.

"Republicans at the national level refuse to address such spending."

Since that would be brought to the floor by our democratic senators...it won't reach the house for the republican's to vote on. And since this is a STATE issue...not sure why the feds would need to get involved unless you just like talking points.

"And I’m not sure the republicans in this state, their hands tied by conservative ‘anti-tax’ ideologues, will find any funding either. "

You mean the super majority democratic state government can ram something down? hell, Governor Brown killed the statewide bond measure on his own yesterday.


lars1: Posted: August 22, 2014 12:48 p.m.

Mixed up Signals

http://www.signalscv.com/section/36/article/123120/


tech: Posted: August 22, 2014 1:22 p.m.

As you know, Nitsho, "progressive" members of the Party must always denounce Enemies of the State. Indy's non sequiturs are textbook examples. No thought is required. Think of the endless repetition as a daily "Two Minutes Hate".


tech: Posted: August 22, 2014 1:36 p.m.

"Fascist goon squads" sounds like one of my characterizations. Yes, pools are next. I have never wanted a pool and do not have one. - ricketzz

I thought you'd appreciate my accurate description of the monopoly on force by the state, ricketzz. Thanks for the clarity in your response about why others shouldn't have pools.


Indy: Posted: August 22, 2014 8:02 p.m.

Nitsho wrote: "And I’m not sure the republicans in this state, their hands tied by conservative ‘anti-tax’ ideologues, will find any funding either. "

You mean the super majority democratic state government can ram something down? hell, Governor Brown killed the statewide bond measure on his own yesterday.

Indy: What legislation do you refer to that was ‘rammed down your throat’?

And prior to the super majorities, the republicans in the minority could block any tax increases since the law here requires a 2/3s majority.

Finally, Brown is acting to his words that he will not put more spending on the tax base than required in any given time period.

As I noted, most voters don’t realize that bonds are paid back through the tax base.

In any event: Gov. Jerry Brown pushes for scaled-down, $6-billion water bond
http://www.latimes.com/local/la-me-brown-water-bond-20140625-story.html

Gov. Jerry Brown told legislative leaders Tuesday that he wants a $6-billion water bond to be put before voters in November — a substantially lower price tag than proposals making their way through the Legislature.

Brown also made clear that he has concerns about the $11.1-billion bond now set to go before voters in the fall, according to legislative sources familiar with the conversations. That bond, originally written in 2009, would direct $3 billion for storage projects. But opposition from Brown could seriously harm its prospects if it remained on the ballot.

According to the sources, Brown indicated that he would want one-third of the bond — $2 billion — for water storage. Republicans and Central Valley Democrats had wanted at least $3 billion for storage projects such as dams and reservoirs, which are a top priority for agriculture interests.

. . . The Legislature needs some Republican support to provide the two-thirds vote needed to put a new water bond on the November ballot. It would replace the $11.1-billion measure that's already there but that supporters fear will not win voter support.

In addition to meeting with Democratic legislative leaders, Brown also had discussions Tuesday with Senate GOP leader Robert Huff (R-Diamond Bar), Sen. Anthony Cannella (R-Ceres) and Sen. Tom Berryhill (R-Modesto), and in a separate meeting, with Assembly Republican leader Connie Conway (R-Tulare) and Assemblyman Frank Bigelow (R-O'Neals).

On Tuesday, a spokesman for Huff confirmed that Republicans were willing to negotiate.


Nitsho: Posted: August 23, 2014 11:42 a.m.

Indy. I'm talking about the new gun laws, the coming gas tax in Jan, in-state tuition for illegals (but not us troop), common core adoption, etc...



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