By Haddon Libby
California uses about 38 BILLION gallons of water a day or nearly 14 TRILLION gallons of water annually. This equates to daily use of 976 gallons for every man, woman and child.
That is a lot of water.
When Governor Brown called for a cut of 25% in residential water usage, he was calling for a cut of 500 billion gallons of water usage or 35 gallons per person daily. Given that we are using 976 gallons per person, 35 gallons per person doesn’t sound like much.
Of that 976 gallons, 67% or 654 gallons is used in agriculture. Almond growers alone use 10% of the state’s water supply. Water used in agriculture is excluded from cuts so we need to cut that 35 gallons from the remaining 322 gallons of water usage per person.
Of that 322 gallons, the average person in California uses 181 gallons a day with more than half for landscaping. Inside of the home, 30 gallons is used to flush toilets, 20 gallons for showers, 16 gallons via plumbing leaks and 16 gallons via a faucet for washing hands, preparing food, etc.
If we eliminated plumbing leaks, replaced shower heads and toilets with low water use devices and cut what is used to water yards by only 10%, we would achieve Governor Brown’s target.
The problem is that many people will not due their fair share in water conservation. The worst offenders have been people in more affluent communities who use more water because of larger yards as well as pool evaporation.
Locally, Coachella Valley residents use nearly twice as much water as the state average. This is because it takes a lot of water to keep lawns green, citrus fruitful and pools full given our climate. Applying Governor Brown’s 25% cut to a typical Coachella Valley homeowner means that we need to cut our consumption by nearly 50 gallons a day. Assuming that we fix leaks and use low flow shower heads and toilets, we would need to reduce water used in landscaping by 24 gallons per person. Less grass and more drought resistant landscaping would easily reach the targeted water use reductions.
Where else can we reduce water usage?
Approximately 13% of all golf courses in California are right here in the Coachella Valley. Local golf courses use 37 billion gallons of water annually. Most of this water is drinking water with very little recycled from waste water.
California is the second largest producer of rice in the United States. Given that rice is grown in flooded fields, this seems like a poor use of our limited water resources.
Cattle and cows consume 23 gallons of water daily. Every pound of beef that you eat uses 1,600 gallons of water. If you consumed 8 fewer pounds of beef annually, you would reduce your water consumption by 35 gallons per day.
Beyond all of this, we have another looming water problem. We have overtaxed our aquifers such that we need to add 11 TRILLION gallons of water or 283,505 gallons per person in order to replenish our water reserves to historic levels.
If this wasn’t bad enough, oil companies have polluted the ground water of central California by illegally dumping over 3 billion gallons of toxic fracking water with known carcinogens back into the water table. This has rendered many areas in central California with virtually no safe water supplies.
Assuming that the historic California drought continues, creating more desalination plants will become critical. The cost to desalinate sea water is only 1 cent per gallon. Rather than putting state resources into a rail line to nowhere, the Governor might want to think about fast tracking some very large desalination plants.