Perhaps you feel yourself drowning in water-saving suggestions just now—low-flush toilets, gray-water capture, lawn removal, two-minute showers, dirty cars, etc., etc., etc. You’re undoubtedly awash in water stats, now knowing how much water it takes to grow a single almond (1 gallon) or to flush a toilet (1.6 gallons with a new toilet, up to 5 gallons with an old model).
But regardless of how much you've read or watched or talked to your water-frugal neighbors, there is one important thing no one has mentioned to you.
No one has suggested you attend a water board meeting or, even more far out, consider running for your local water agency.
And that’s why this week my Water Conservation Hero is my mom.
Twenty-five years ago, a friend of the family called Mom to see if she would serve out someone else’s term on the board of the Sunnyslope County Water District in Hollister, California. Hollister—no, it’s not the fictitious surf town established by Abercrombie & Fitch—is a bedroom community of 35,000 that lies about 50 miles south of Silicon Valley.
Mom ended up serving the water board for 22 years, until after she turned 80. That’s a long swim. And it was often against the tide. "My biggest concern was always whether we had enough water," she says. "Our lawyer always came back and said, 'We're in business to sell water, and as long as we have it, we're obligated to sell it.'"
Mom stood for election five times and, as far as she can remember, no one ever ran against her. Not because she was a formidable opponent, but because no one seemed interested. Let someone else do it, seemed to be the attitude. That, I would guess, hasn’t changed.
But it needs to. More of us need to be part of the conversation. When California finally passed legislation in September to regulate groundwater, it called for the establishment of Groundwater Sustainability Agencies to draft plans for managing the water basins around the state. The work of these agencies will be absolutely critical.
Maybe it’s time to do more than let the lawn die.
Are any of you already involved with water agencies? Any of you future candidates?