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Water, Water, Water pt. 3

In the last two blogs I gave an overview of the current water situation in the state and discussed mitigation strategies for vineyard owners. I left out one important action we should take: educate ourselves and share our opinions with elected officials. For instance, I would recommend that we ask our elected officials to instruct regulatory agencies to clarify what “hydrologically-linked” means, so that we know under what conditions usage of our own wells can be regulated through enforcement current regulations. In this post, however, I want to touch on a few concrete steps we can take to moderate the effects of this drought.

  • Storage: Just as growers can increase their vineyard’s ability to weather a drought by increasing storage capacity, the State of California can do the same. In fact, all of us, growers, municipalities, counties and the state need to start looking into the payoffs of increasing storage capacity.

  • Recycling: At every water-related seminar or symposium, speakers talk about two issues over and over: “We need more storage,” and “We went to Israel to find out how they do it.” There is a big disconnect, though: Israel accomplishes water self-sufficiency by using recycled water to provide over 90% of their agricultural water. Like California, Israel has a large agricultural sector. Israel is a less-rich country than the United States and California. This begs the question: why is California not doing this on such a scale? I’m not sure what the answer is, but we need to get there. Local and state government need to reduce the bureaucratic barriers. More cities need to recycle and sell their water. We need to stop blocking homeowners from putting in graywater systems. Growers need to re-assess whether or not they are willing to pool money to put in pipelines to facilitate graywater recycling.

  • Conservation: I’m surprised that we are yet to mandate conservation measures for urban users. I think they’re around the corner, but why wait? Even some of those bans in place have not been sufficiently advertised for homeowners to know about them. Apparently, there are two days a week that lawn and garden irrigation is limited in Healdsburg, but I know almost no one who is aware of this. Ban sprinklers; limit lawn and garden irrigation to evening and morning; ban irrigation of newly constructed landscape; and have water authorities attach tips for in-home irrigation to water bills. At some point, we may need to ban lawn and garden irrigation for one, two or even three days a week (to force longer, deeper, more effective irrigation sessions). We should also consider banning car washing soon. These bans can always be rolled back when the situation improves.

  • Reduce the red tape: I touched on this under recycling, and Gov. Brown has done a good job of reducing the barriers to water transfers, but why did we have these regulations in the first place? At this point, our water regulations should have built into them mechanisms to deal with drought. We should be on a perpetual drought footing.

That’s it. There’s nothing too complicated here: store, recycle, conserve and do no harm. I’ll be back to grape price projections in the next post.

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