North Bay water agencies promote conservation during the heat spell

The recent hot spell that has hit the Bay Area has magnified the need for one of our most precious resources: water

Whether it’s used for keeping a lawn healthy and green, or for staying hydrated while out in the sun, water in the Bay Area is a resource that is no longer as abundant as it used to be. Drought may become a persistent problem, according to Greg Schwartz, a professor of geography and environmental studies.

"We will be in a drought for decades and there's an ebb and flow to that, but we need to develop some habits that make us realize we're in a drought and to manage our water better," said Schwartz.  He added that we are going to have to change the way we use water.

While conservation efforts are important, he said we may yield better results by focusing on how we use the water we already have.

Drops from the sky are not a long-term quick fix.

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"I don't want to be the bearer of bad news, but the long-term trend in every single model in this area shows that we are going to get steadily drier," said Schwartz.

That means the need to conserve water will only increase.  Representatives with Marin Water were outside the Urban Farmer store in Mill Valley holding one of several ‘Saving Water Summer Pop-Up’ events in Marin and Sonoma Counties Saturday. They were arming people with education and tools to help conserve water, all free of charge.

"We have everything from shower heads that are only 1.5 gallons per minute, which is much lower than the typical ones, especially for older households, to hose nozzles to reduce water waste coming out of your garden hose," said John Llaverias, a Water Conservation Specialist.

Joseph Ehrman attended the event and works in the landscaping business.  He said he promotes conservation to his clients.

"Because we’re going to run out of water, and it needs to last for a long time," said Ehrman. "We don’t know when the next storm is going to be and when the next rain is going to be." 

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Experts say just 10% of water is used at home, 10% is used in industry and agriculture accounts for 80%. Professor Schwartz said reducing our intake of meats and dairy, which require lots of water to produce, would be impactful.  He also said using water for golf courses and ornamental purposes like lawns is not practical, given the current situation.  He used an analogy of a $100,000 dollar household income to illustrate his point.

"One person in the household buys $80,000 worth of expensive watches every year, and then he says, 'gosh, we didn't have quite enough money. We should probably cut back on groceries.' And they say, 'oh well, actually, why don't we cut back on that 80,000 in expensive watches?' That is proportionately about what we do with our water," said Schwartz.

To achieve those larger water savings Schwartz says we need to make lifestyle changes that aren’t necessarily easy or quick.  Still, he says personal conservation is important and necessary until we figure out how to make bigger changes.