The County Role in Water Conservation
All over California water purveyors are restricting when people can water lawns and other ornamental plantings. That makes sense to me. As the four-year drought intensifies, we just don’t have the luxury of lush green lawns anymore. And people are watering less— either on their own, or to comply with the new restrictions. But I think Counties have a larger role to play in making it even easier to comply.
I am gratified by the way people are responding to this slow-moving natural disaster. Droughts build over a long time, and the impact may not be overtly dramatic. But from fallow fields in the Central Valley, to dead trees in the Sierra Nevada, to empty reservoirs and depleted aquifers, this natural disaster is devastating to California. People have responded pretty well to a consistent drum-beat of messages about conservation, but we can do even more.
As President of the California State Association of Counties, I am urging all 58 California counties to coordinate closely with their local cities and water districts to enact consistent watering restrictions within their county. Stanislaus County recently took this step, allowing outdoor watering only two days a week—consistent with what the cities and water agencies here are doing.
I know there are people who will say “there’s no way to enforce this.” That may be true in some cases, but the idea is to make it easy for people to know how they can help regardless of where they live. I believe people want to do the right thing. They want to help their neighbors in times of trouble. We just need to tell them how. We need to provide consistent messages. This is not about enforcing the letter of the law; it’s about making it easier for people to comply with the spirit of the law.
So I’m asking my fellow county supervisors and their staffs to coordinate with the cities and water districts in your region about outdoor watering restrictions. Make them as consistent as possible across city, county and district lines. If we make it simple and easy to remember, people will do the right thing.
As a family farmer, I’ve learned to help my neighbors when they need it, because next week it might be me who needs an extra pair of hands, or to borrow a piece of equipment. Neighbor helping neighbor works on my family farm—and I think it can help get California through this drought, too.