“Is there still a drought?” People continue to ask this question and the simple, definitive answer is “Yes.” The State Water Resources Control Board ordered a mandatory 36% drop in water usage after the state hit official drought status, and counties, cities, and individuals have complied with different levels of success. Here is a sampling of water savings among the top ten water suppliers in the state since 2013: EBMUD 24%; San Jose Water Co. 32%, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission 14%; Sacramento 29%, and Long Beach 15%. Overall, these figures are impressive, if varied, and our state took a giant collective sigh of relief when the highly anticipated El Nino rains provided even more recovery and turned the land green again. Amazingly, EBMUD’s reservoirs in the Sierra foothills are nearly at 85% capacity, and the summer snowmelt from the mountain snowpack is supposed to make them almost full. We learned what sacrifices we were capable of on a large scale, as cities, and on a small scale, as individuals.


However, despite these successes, the reality is that climate change is alive and well and shows no signs of ending anytime soon. Although we can survey the ravages of drought with our own eyes, we have yet to see all the long-term effects on our surface water and ground water systems. Compared to last year’s restrictions from the state, local water agencies now get to decide their own conservation strategies, and the new self-directed policies are significantly less strict. Without maintaining and continuing our concerted efforts to conserve water, we will lose momentum.


Fortunately, residents have already learned to change many behaviors for the better and are committed to adopting new water conservation strategies in their yards and homes. People know not to hose down driveways. They know they should plant native plants that are drought tolerant. They are taking advantage of rebates and replacing their lawns, and more. But there is so much more we can do. There is no going back. When making changes, the hard part is figuring out exactly what to do and how to do it, following through, and sticking with it for the long haul.


Sustainable Contra Costa is in the business of educating residents, students, businesses, and community leaders on sustainable practices of all types, including water conservation. Want to do the right thing but don’t know how to get started? Here’s the perfect opportunity to educate yourself on practical steps you can take in your own yard and home to be a water-saving warrior.


Next in our Summer Sustainable Living Series is a water conservation workshop called “Beyond the Shower Bucket” on July 12. Grey water landscape design expert Joseah Rosales will discuss how to get the biggest bang for your buck and details surrounding different conservation methods, including: low flow fixtures and appliances, tankless water heaters, grey water systems, rain catchment methods, drip irrigation, lawn replacement through sheet mulching, and more. Learn concrete actions you can take as a responsible homeowner to maximize your water conservation efforts, while taking cost and aesthetics into consideration. Register now at www.sustainablecoco.org/workshops. This workshop costs $20 and is at 6:30 – 8:30pm, July 12, Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center, 315 Cortsen Rd., Pleasant Hill. See you at the ranch!

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