By Nadja Green
On January 17th, Governor Jerry Brown officially announced a drought state of emergency, confirming what many already knew to be true. California residents are preparing for the most severe drought in over 150 years. The announcement has prompted water use reductions at state facilities, the hiring of more seasonal firefighters, and limits on the landscaping of highways.
Water restrictions have yet to be imposed, however Californians have been asked to reduce water usage by 20 percent. Water officials say that conservation alone will not be sufficient to avoid mandatory restrictions. The state is in desperate need of rain, and according to the National Weather Service, California’s rainfall will remain at below normal levels through April. Marin County water officials warn that mandatory rationing, with fines, may come by the end of February.
According to Michael Henkes, Associate Director of facilities at Dominican University, the school has already taken the steps necessary to conserve water: “At Facility Service we have been concerned with conservation of resources for many years. We have already made improvements throughout campus to save water. In the buildings we have installed low flow toilets. In the residence halls we have also installed low flow shower heads. In the newer buildings we have installed lavatory faucets that turn off after use. Our Building Maintenance staff checks on and repair any leaking valves and pipes. Currently with the renovations of Meadowlands Hall, water conservation is an important issue we will be addressing both inside and outside the building. Already on the grounds we have converted numerous planter beds from spray to drip irrigation. We have converted lawns to areas planted with trees and or perennials plants. We have installed mulch over much of the landscaped area to not only maintain soil moisture but to also reduce the weed population.
This coming year the grounds staff will be inspecting every aspect of each irrigation system we have on campus to minimize the use of water while still maintaining a healthy landscape”.
Water saving measures such as these will become increasingly important as the year continues. On average, reservoirs are at 77 percent of normal, fire risk is high, and famers and ranchers are suffering. According to Stacy Carlsen, Agricultural Commissioner, “The drought has killed 95 percent of the pasture in West Marin”. These farmers have been buying water from the National Park Service. To make matters worse, ranchers do not have enough grass to feed their cattle and are currently buying hay from outside sources. Marin farmers report that they fear in the future, they may be forced to make the difficult decision of selling a portion of their herd due to lack of food.
The drought has brought back memories for many Marin residents of water rationing imposed in 1976-77. The county had to cut water usage by 37 gallons per day per person. Marin reportedly cut water usage by 63 percent during that year. Lifelong Marin resident, Kelly (Cranmer) Valadez, recalls the sacrifices she made, and the creative ways she saved water. “We hardly ever flushed the toilet. The only way to do it was to let the water from the back of our washing machine flow into a big bucket. We would then pour the bucket of water into the toilet tank to flush the toilets. We also couldn’t take showers without turning the water on and off while we soaped up. It was really hard.”
For tips on water conservation visit: http://wateruseitwisely.com/100-ways-to-conserve/