Showering with Governor Brown; now there’s an interesting idea. Of course I don’t mean that literally (unless it’s Mrs. Brown). What I am talking about is that the Governor, the State Water Resources Control Board, Department of Water Resources, and their helpers in the environmental community are developing Long-term Water Use Efficiency Standards for how much water should be used for every aspect of life, including taking showers.
With the water supply situation improved and the mandatory water use restrictions abated somewhat, the state’s regulatory army has now shifted focus on developing the “Long-term Water Use Efficiency Standards.”
What this means is, irrespective of how much water may be available at any given time in our region or locally, come drought or flood, our friends in Sacramento will be telling everyone how much water to use inside and outside the home, forever.
It’s not enough that over the last ten years, Californian’s have reduced their water consumption by over 30%, and it’s not enough the water use within the VCMWD service area has dropped by more than 50% in last ten years. Jerry and his Capitol City friends want more water conservation out in the “Districts.”
We are hearing that each and every Californian will be allotted 35, 45 or as much as 55 gallons per person for use inside the home. This will be the water with which to shower, flush the toilet, do the clothes, wash the dishes and prepare meals. Also so much water will be allotted for use outside the home, based upon the square footage of whatever has been planted and seasonal irrigation rates decided upon by our governor and his regulatory minions. I imagine that we will have to come up with a monthly allocation for each of the critters as well.
So how much water a day does a dog, horse, cow, chicken, or emu need, and how many are there of each? At the same time this is going on, the state is working on a whole other set of regulations for our farmers at the same time; more on that later.
At this point, readers must be thinking that I am making this up. I’m not. Or, thinking that the Water Use Efficiency Standards will only be in force when there is a severe water shortage situation. No, again; that’s just not the case. These Water Use Efficiency Standards will be in force no matter how plentiful water may be at any given time. The only direction these allocation amounts can go is down when we actually do have a shortage.
The way this will likely unfold is Valley Center Municipal Water District (and other districts) will get a water budget from the state based upon population and acres being irrigated in its service area. We will then have to give each customer a water budget based upon the number of people in the home, animals owned, and the amount of land under irrigation. If water use is at, or under, the budget for the month, then everything is good to go. However, the water rate structure will be to provide financial “incentives” (i.e., avoiding higher rate, fines) for not going over the budget.
Yes, the friendly water folks at VCMWD will be forced to become Deputy Water Cops for Governor Brown making sure the right number of people are reported in the home, horses in the pen, chickens in the yard, and that no more water is used to irrigate the landscaping, gardens, and trees than was allocated in an “environmentally responsible” manner. What’s next, a permit to have children because they use water as well?
Not all is lost; at least not yet. We will be working to make sure the new regulations are reasonable, flexible, and allow for variations in local climate and community character, but it is an uphill battle. However, the state agencies involved in the process are focused on the water budget approach, reluctant to take any substantive suggestions, no matter how much common sense these suggestions may make. They are mandated to present their recommendations to the Governor by January 10, 2017. This provides literally just about 90 days to entirely remake the way water has been managed over the last 100 years.
Try as we may to slow this process down and make it as workable as possible, water users might want to practice saying, “Come on in Governor, the water is fine but we won’t be showering for a long time”
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Gary Arant is general manager of Valley Center Municipal Water District, which also serves part of unincorporated Escondido, as well as communities like Welk’s and Circle R.