By Nani Teves
Being in a water shortage heightens our awareness of the importance of water in our lives. We notice the creeks running shallow mid-winter and watch our plants die, and we take action. We teach our kids to turn the faucet off while brushing their teeth, we stop watering our lawns, and we talk to our friends about what a drought means for local farmers. If we do this together and long term, we might find that drought cycles would no longer be considered emergencies.
Often we are told that water conservation, reuse, and appropriate land-uses are not enough to meet our needs in California and we must build more dams and export more water from the north to the south. After 100 years of dam building and moving water around the state, we still find ourselves without enough water; but what does “enough mean?” Does enough mean using water to farm water-intensive orchards in arid environments? Does enough mean flushing drinking water quality water down the toilet? Water experts argue we already have enough water; we just need to be much more intelligent about how we use it. Cities like Los Angeles have met the challenge by managing storm water as a valuable resource, they use recycled water for irrigation, and they implement and fund large scale water conservation measures. In fact, Los Angeles residents use about 100 fewer gallons of water a day per person than we do up here in the north, and the city has increased their population by a million people without increasing their total water usage. Because the Sierra Nevada snow pack is projected to decrease dramatically as a result of climate change, and there is increased pressure to export local groundwater to the San Joaquin Valley, it is critical we implement the sustainable solutions now before we find ourselves in more and more drought emergencies. When we do this in our homes, on our farms, and in our communities, we will find that conserving water is not a chore but an empowering ethic of appreciation.
How Water Wise Are You?
Where does your water come from?
Why is there water in the creek in the summer even though it has not rained in months?
How much water on average does a Chico citizen use each day?
Where do the creeks of Chico originate from and flow to?
What are three ways your family does, or could, conserve water?
Answer 1: Our water supply is groundwater. For bonus points: The Tuscan Aquifer
Answer 2: Snow melt recharges the groundwater, which flows to the creeks throughout the summer by gravity.
Answer 3: 230 gallons
Answer 4: From Sierra Nevada Mountains to the Sacramento River to the ocean.
Answer 5: Endless possibilities
Here is an activity that demonstrates to your kids where their water comes from: Fill a clear glass half way with gravel and soil to represent the ground. Pour water into the glass like rain, demonstrating that the ground is like a sponge that holds water. Pour a little extra water in until the glass is ¾ full, explaining that this extra represents lakes or creeks. Then place a straw deep into the glass, to represent a well which pumps the water out of the ground into the water towers, and then through pipes to our homes. Ask them what would happen if more wells went in and we pumped more water. Ask them what ideas they have to save water.