Photo by flickr user Scott Robinson

Strolling a Bay Area neighborhood yesterday, I noticed a couple of water-intensive gardens where the owners have posted a sign letting passersby know "This garden is irrigated with well water." What good does that really do?

After all, these homeowners are still pulling water out of the environment for an ornamental garden. (If the sign read "Irrigated with reclaimed gray water"—like this garden—then they'd truly have something to crow about!) In fact, I'd rather those big gardens were irrigated using the municipal water system. That way at least, like most people, those homeowners would get a water bill that puts their usage on the radar.

Coincidentally, the State Water Resources Control Board just issued new rules compelling Sonoma County property owners near the Russian River to report how much groundwater they are pumping (in the belief that well water overuse is depleting river flow and endangering salmon runs). In other words, groundwater is a far-reaching natural—and public—resource.

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