california drought, worst drought
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by ecoSolargy

TweeterDeeter’s Drought Rant

California, drought, worst drought, map,Note: This rant was originally written a few months ago, but we didn’t feel that great and I guess had some hopes the rains would help with the drought.  They didn’t, but there was other encouraging news. The Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD) began their CALscape program to reduce water consumption and proposed new rate increases.  More details below.

California’s drought has finally gotten personal: I haven’t seen a filled bird bath in weeks! You would never guess my real hue was bright blue! On a more serious note, the drought in California is disastrous; it’s despicable that additional legislation requiring conservation and water retainment hasn’t been put in place.  Get ready folks, it’s a TweeterDeeter rant!

The ongoing drought in California is breaking records.  Recent rains have done little to stop this three year dry spell.  Wildfire season is now a year-round affair.  Faucets don’t flow in some Californian cities. 100% of California is experiencing moderate to exceptional drought.  Hydroelectric production has fallen significantly. Yet despite these troubling signs, I’ve seen very little action to promote conservation.  I concede, there is the HERO Program and many water districts are asking customers to shorten showers and turn off faucets while brushing teeth.  These measures alone, however, just won’t cut it. We need to create strong incentives for water conservation and intelligent city planning.

Update: The IRWD sent new rate increases and incentives to customers this month.  The incentive is in the Update section below.  The new rate schedule for IRWD significantly increases rates for excessive water use.  The base rate saw a slight increase of 6%.  The tiers above your basic water allocation increased significantly.

california drought, worst drought

Tier

% Change

Base Rate

6%

Inefficient

36.7%

Excessive

29.6%

Wasteful

28%

 

Basic economics can give you an idea why the rates increased.  There’s high demand and low supply!  California already imports water from surrounding states and even those sources are drying up.  There are more reasons though.  You know how we won’t shut up about electricity rates increasing annually?  Well, IRWD has seen a 12% increase in their electricity bills for pumping and treating water.  Maybe if they went solar…

Vegas doesn’t come off as water-friendly, but they have some very successful programs!

Since this is a solar blog let’s use Las Vegas, host of Solar Power International 2014, as an example.  Las Vegas has some incredible water saving programs in place.  First off, Vegas hotels use very little water, most of being consumed in guestrooms and kitchens.  The City of Las Vegas will actually pay you $1.50 per square foot of grass converted to water-smart landscaping.  They also offer rebates for upgrading smart sprinkler systems and even offer coupons for smart water car washes. Large golf courses in Las Vegas save water with special sprinkler heads, smart timers, and strategically placed grass. Through implementing these measures, Southern Nevada has reduced their Colorado River water consumption by 30 billion gallons in the past 10 years.

I live in Orange County, known to most for its well-manicured lawns and beach-side mansions.  Honestly, the rumors are true. Most people water their lawns daily and adoption of water-free solutions has been slow.  Still, some cities are now using reclaimed water or artificial turf on municipal land.  I would love to see the OC adopt Vegas-like rebate programs for customers who switch to artificial turf.  It looks pretty good nowadays. Even simple rebates for conversions like efficient shower heads, toilets, and faucets would have a tremendous impact.  We switched three of our faucets for six dollars and we’ve reduced their consumption by 75%.

water conservation, IRWD, irvine, water, incentives, Update: I’m happy to report that last week I received the postcard seen here.  The IRWD  started Calscape to pay $2/ft² for removing your grass.  What does this mean? #CashMoney! If you were ever thinking of switching to turf, now is the time!  They also have programs to help you switch to more efficient sprinkler systems and water-smart plants.

How much does turf cost?  That depends on how much work you want to do.  I saw pricing on Lowes and Home Depot’s websites that ranged from $3-5/ft² of turf.  The bulk of the expense comes from the installation. I found two websites with some average pricing.  Home Wyse says the approximate cost is between $20-25/ft² and House Logic  approximates the cost at $12.50/ft².

Water Net Metering:  I doubt there’s any actual monetary value in net metering water, but let’s pretend water is necessary for life and super valuable.  Have you ever noticed that storm drains lead to the ocean?  The EPA estimates that 55% of rainwater “runs off” and is not collected.  Instead, greedy Poseidon takes it to his home where he mucks it all up with salt!  Sustainable designs use permeable surfaces for parking lots and walkways to minimize runoff and increase water entering the water table.  I want to propose incentivizing passive water retention designs for construction projects to restore the water table and minimize flooding #NotTooComplicated. The more land is developed, the more water is diverted to storm drains during heavy rains. We still get a lot of water from groundwater sources and this reduces the amount of imported water.  Can we really trust Nevada’s regime not to form the Organization of Water Exporting States (OWES)? Will a Dihydogrogen Monoxide Embargo finally get us to change our ways? You know the craziest idea I came up with? Flooding basement floors of parking garages!  What’s your craziest water retention plan?  Tweet at me @ecoSolargy.

Why is a solar company so passionate about water consumption?  Aside from the fact that water is a vital resource to sustain life, and there is very little potable water in our region, solar is one of the most water-efficient sources of electricity.  Many forms of electricity generate heat to create steam to spin a turbine.  The steam needs to be cooled back down to repeat the cycle.  That cooling usually uses other water.  Emissions that you see coming out of the Simpsons-style nuclear cooling towers is just water vapor.  Nuclear power and natural gas use 720 and 180 gallons/MWh respectively. For every MWh of electricity that photovoltaic’s produce, 0 gallons of water are used. The average home uses about 12 MWh each year. If you use the grid, that’s an additional 2,000 to 9,000 gallons of water your household “consumes”. If you go solar, you can cut that number to zero!

If you want to reduce your water consumption, upgrade your landscaping, go solar, and vote TweeterDeeter/DannyManatee 2016!

 

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