Should we end the mandatory watering restrictions?

Does Mayor Sanders really think that anyone needs to water more than they have been? Does he think maybe that we should start washing our cars weekly in our driveways, or washing off our sidewalks with drinking water?

There is a time and place for a lawn. I'm not opposed to them outright, despite the a bumper sticker on my car demanding "Kill Your Lawn". However, I saw something sickening today that needs to be addressed. I was in Scripps Ranch helping a friend plant some fruit trees... she's got a landscaping plan to replace her front lawn with fruit trees; a brave family in a sea of green lawn. It was 9AM on a sunny San Diego day, and water was running out of almost every drain from every yard into the storm drain. Was it precipitation from the roofs? I think not! Gallons and gallons of good drinking water that is apparently such a cheap and expendable resource that we can send it right out to the ocean without even using it. You may argue that it was used to water the lawns, keep San Diego green. But, the lawn didn't use it. This was extra. If that was happening here in Scripps Ranch, how many other beautifully manicured communities are doing it? How many thousands of gallons are we paying to pump over mountains, hundreds of miles, only to dump into the ocean?

Now, Mayor Sanders is calling to end the mandatory watering restrictions? He specifically mentions lawns. Now why, after these last two years does anyone need to water more than three days a week? Those who got rid of their lawns did so because they didn't want to pay for water, not because three days a week was too little to keep it green, so they aren't affected by the restrictions. So, I guess it's just those people that can afford to water a green lawn that are affected by the restrictions. But, if their lawns are still green, why do they need to have the option of watering more if they want? This seems like just an excuse to let people be wasteful.

Maybe "mandatory" is a word that we don't want in our world of imagined democracy. But let's rethink our use of this resource and put "guidelines" into place to help us all take better care of our watersheds. I think three days a week is fair. I think fines for gross neglect are fair. Overwater amounts to stealing water from others, although we can justify it because we are paying for it "fairly and squarely", but not really. Water is cheap. I know you may not think so, but at 0.005 cent/gallon, we have cheap water. This means, we don't think much before we waste a gallon here or a gallon there. There is only so much drinkable water in the world, and plenty of people don't get what they need. Thus if we take more than our share, we are stealing from others. I talked to a woman from St. Croix, an island without the luxury of snowpack and hundreds of miles of pipe bringing water from far off rivers. They get what they get out of the sky, and if that runs out, they pay $2-$5/gallon to have water trucked in to fill their reserves. People in remote parts of Africa and India walk miles to fill their jugs of water. We turn on the tap and then complain that water prices keep rising. How else can we force people to take heed of how precious this resource is if not by mandating or at least encouraging strongly a different way of doing things? Mayor Sanders is calling for the elimination of the mandates. But is he calling for any far reaching changes that offer a solution to limited local water supply? Everything is not back to normal now that it rained a little bit more than we hoped for. Extra rain this year doesn't change the circumstances that are causing us to raise our eyebrows at the sources of water we draw from like the Delta, and the judiciary measures reducing our water draw, or the Colorado River and the potential reduction of water there with other cities clambering for their share of the River that we have been using up until now.

Please, let's encourage City Council to refuse Mayor Sander's request. Let's encourage them to come up with a better solution before revoking the "emergency restrictions". Let's all save our rainwater, use greywater, keep stormwater onsite, and reduce our landscaping irrigation needs. This alone could account for reducing our need for outside water sourcing by half!

Did you know: Grass requires about 50 inches of water a year to stay green. We get 10 of that out of the sky. A 500 square foot lawn, therefore requires about 13,000 gallons of municipal water a year to stay green. Check your waterbill. See what 1 HCF (748 gallons) costs you. Figure out how much you could save a year by getting rid of that 13,000 gallons of water use a year. Better yet, sheet mulch that 500 square feet and put in some fruit trees irrigated with greywater. Now, not only are you not using that 13,000 gallons of water a year, you are getting free fruit in your yard (saving you the fuel of going to the store and giving you the peace of mind knowing that there are no pesticides and the fruit didn't come from thousands of miles away), using water you've already used once and which is higher in nutrients now that you've added some nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to it via your detergent.

Greywater Policy Position from: The Sustainability Alliance of Southern California

Dear Fellow Sustainability Advocates:

During our regular meeting on October 27, the Sustainability Alliance of Southern California adopted the following official policy position regarding graywater use in Southern California:

"It is the policy of the Sustainability Alliance of Southern California to promote maximum implementation of graywater systems in Southern California. We encourage all jurisdictions within Southern California to proactively support regulatory approval for graywater systems and that incentives, including cash rebates, sewage rate reductions, or reduction in water rates, be evaluated."

We are taking this position of support for graywater reuse for a number of reasons:

1) Simplest way to reclaim and reuse a valuable resource without expensive treatment and re-distribution.

2) Provides a readily available water source for irrigation of yards and greenbelts.

3) Conserves our most precious resource—fresh, potable water.

4) Cuts down on the amount of electricity needed to move water to and throughout our region.

5) Reduces the amount of wastewater that needs to be treated at publicly owned treatment works resulting in less effluent disposed of through ocean outfalls.

6) Less water treated translates to a reduction in related treatment costs and chemicals used in the treatment process.

Supporting this policy now makes sense because...

1) California is in a declared State of Emergency due to extended drought conditions and much needed, potable water is used to irrigate residential landscapes.

2) Statewide legislation supporting use of graywater was recently incorporated into existing building codes, 'opting in' every municipality for graywater use. To opt out, a municipality must hold a public hearing and show just cause for restricting or eliminating graywater use.

a) SB 1258 (which was signed into law in September 2008) directed the Housing and Community Development (HCD) agency to propose building standards for the construction, installation, and alteration of graywater systems for residential indoor and outdoor uses to the California Building Standards Commission (CBSC). Existing graywater standards contained in the California Code of Regulations, Title 24, California Plumbing Code, Part 5, Appendix G were based on requirements for private sewage disposal. These standards were found to be overly prescriptive and antiquated and not readily usable by people seeking to install graywater systems for the purpose of water conservation and reuse.

b) The emergency graywater regulations, which added Chapter 16A, Part I "Nonpotable Water Reuse Systems,” were approved by the CBSC on July 30, 2009. The emergency regulations were subsequently filed with the Secretary of State on August 4, 2009, effective immediately upon filing.

The two most significant changes in the new regulations:

1) Single Fixture Systems (such as clothes washers) no longer require a permit and

2) Irrigation lines no longer have to be buried 9 inches, but can simply be placed under 2 inches of mulch.