I’ve been worried about the lack of rainfall for the past couple of years.
While I was a practicing journalist, I constantly watched the weekly numbers coming from the water company and the city’s public works department on rainfall.
I watched as council after council, here and in Paso Robles, never met a development they didn’t like. It seems nobody ever worried about the availability of water.
A little over a week ago Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought emergency for our state. He wants us to cut our water use by 20 percent. At almost the same time Atascadero Mutual Water Co. declared a Stage 1 water shortage condition, asking customers to cut water use by up to 15 percent.
We are being asked to stop “wasteful practices,” which include run-off from landscaped surfaces, failure to repair plumbing and irrigation leaks, washing sidewalks, driveways, patios and washing our cars without a shut-off nozzle on the hose.
Those are all things we can do immediately. According to John Neil, general manager of Atascadero’s privately-owned water company, the last time the water board declared a water shortage condition was in 2009 in response to three years of below-average rainfall.
I know in my own personal habits that I can reduce my usage of domestic and irrigation water by 15 percent to 20 percent. I’m going to watch my monthly water bill from now on more closely to see if I’m doing it. I live in a small condo with a tiny yard, so there isn’t a whole lot of room to cut, but a change in personal habits, such as how I brush my teeth or run bath water, can help. I’m going to reduce water on some landscaping. I’ll let it go brown and replant when the rainfall returns.
Those are all things that you and I can do.
But what do I do about what I saw last week while driving back from Southern California? A very large vineyard was being irrigated with overhead sprinklers in the middle of the afternoon.
How do we stop, say, Paso Robles from giving even a green light to major residential and commercial development when evidence shows we don’t have enough water to go around now? One of those developments, at the intersection of Highway 46 and 101, may even dip into Atascadero’s water source.
This is the driest year in the water company’s 100 years. John Neil’s crew has water-saving ideas that can help, too, by calling 464-5347.
It’ll take this village and thousands of others — and a state — to really begin reducing our use and/or wasting this precious commodity.