Even as California’s drought is worsening, water consumption in the state continues to rise. Communities along the southern California coast increased water use by about 8% in May, and some in the northeastern part of the state increased 5%. Although some areas did reduce consumption, overall the state’s water usage was 1% higher in May compared to previous years. Ironically, because many water districts have done a good job conserving and storing water, residents in those areas aren’t yet seeing the effects of the drought and aren’t inspired to conserve water themselves.
Last month, however, the State Water Resources Control Board passed an emergency measure placing restrictions on outdoor water use, with individual fines up to $500 possible for things like washing a car with a hose that doesn’t have a shutoff nozzle, watering outdoor landscapes to the extent that runoff flows from the property, and washing down driveways and sidewalks with potable water. Water agencies that don’t comply with the rules and don’t enforce the restrictions, meanwhile, could be fined $10,000 per day.
And if the threat of a fine isn’t enough incentive, perhaps a celebrity public service announcement will help. Save Our Water, a statewide program to educate people about water conservation, has released a PSA featuring Lady Gaga asking Californians to “do your part.” She agreed to record the PSA after shooting a music video at Hearst Castle; during the filming the site’s 345,000-gallon Neptune Pool was filled with water, which was supposed to later be reused to irrigate landscaping. According to some reports, the water was too heavily chlorinated to be used for that purpose, a statement her representatives deny. In the PSA she says, “I had the honor of shooting my music video at a California landmark, Hearst Castle, and while I was there, I learned about the necessity of water conservation during this drought.”
If you live in one of the many that has been affected by drought in the past few years, what was your experience with conservation measures? Were they voluntary in your area, or were there mandates to reduce certain activities? What do you think were the most effective ways to get the message across?