I drove through drought parched Kern County on my way through California, stopping north of Bakersfield to have dinner at a Denny’s.  There had been little snow in the mountains, it hadn’t rained much this year, and last year was the driest on record.

I walked into Denny’s, sat at the counter, and asked only for “a little water.”   I was served a pint of ice cold water.  That wasted 400 cc.  Multiply that by every person who eats at Denny’s in California, and you are dealing with a significant problem.  How many Denny’s are there in California?  About 400. This is one chain.  How many wasted pints in an acre foot?  About 2.6 million.  How many restaurant visitors get served unnecessary water in California every day?  Multiply that by 365, divide by 2.6 million, and you have the number of acre feet wasted.  No, the quotient isn’t a million that California needs, but it is a good start.  Damn, I like math.  It helps me understand the world better.

I next went to the men’s room, where during my two minutes there, I saw a faucet on full, the basin full and draining, while a man brushed his teeth.  Wow, people still do that in the 21st century.  He easily used 4 gallons to brush his teeth, faucet still on full as I left.  I wonder how often that happens in California.  I use about 1/4 pint a day, and most with a Water-Pik.  I muttered “what a waste of water” as I walked out, because much as I wanted to shut off the water and lecture the guy about droughts and water, I didn’t want to get slugged….or shot.  This is America, where people have rights, including the right to waste water and shoot others.  People also have responsibilities, which include paying for resources they use, not wasting them, and not selling weapons to those who can’t prove they can handle them safely.  I’ve given up on guns.  The NRA won.  I’m not yet giving up on water.

After dinner, I drove by signs along CA 99 saying “Pray for Rain”, “Food grows where Water Flows,” and others by the Family Water Alliance.  I was annoyed.  Yes, these people get their livelihood from growing crops that feed America.  Have any of them been to a Denny’s lately?  How long do their showers last?  Are all the leaks in their houses fixed?  Do they know that for a fact?  What do they pay for this resource?  And do they harvest rainwater, like they do pecans?

Pray for rain?  What will that do?  How about doing something useful, like educating people?  Here are my suggestions, so that those who disagree, may, for this is America.  However, I challenge those who disagree to state workable, specific solutions.  “Get big government out of the way” is not specific.  Indeed, in California, the myriad of different entities dealing with water suggests perhaps it might be handled best by one entity.  Here, I am going to be that one.  Wow, fun.  I get to tell the state where I was born what to do.

  1. Immediate state-wide cessation of automatic water serving in restaurants.  This is simple and has been done in other places.
  2. TV ads, at no cost, telling people how to conserve water: first, fix leaks.  If you have a meter, (see 5 below) turn off all water, and if the dial moves in an hour, you have a leak.  No brushing teeth or shaving with the faucet on.  Shorter showers, too, and low flow toilets.  I take Navy showers: water on, get wet, water off, soap up, water on to rinse, soap off.  Learned that in California waters.
  3. These ads must be in restaurants, hotels and all public places.   Options for hand sanitizer and not water should be present.
  4. In hotels, low flow toilets and for people who stay more than one night, no sheet washing, only bed make ups.  You have no choice.  You don’t wash your sheets or towels at home every day; you don’t need them washed in a hotel, either.  Some hotels have given this option for decades. I didn’t see it in California.
  5. Requiring every house owner in Sacramento and state-wide to buy and have a water meter installed.  Suck it up.  Everybody should pay for long showers, brushing of teeth with a faucet’s running, and violation of “if yellow, be mellow, if brown, flush it down.”  Live in the desert, as I have, and this stuff is easy.  We meter gasoline; water is 21st century oil.
  6. Stop irrigating bare ground that has no crops, and give one warning before fining somebody who does.  I saw this in Kern County last fall (date, place on request).  I wonder how much more I missed seeing.
  7. Non-essential water use (golf courses) must pay a high premium.  If you can afford golf, you can pay for water use.  The money goes to build rainwater harvesting barrels, education, or low flow toilets.
  8. A statewide campaign to have plumbers fix leaks and have people look for water wasting.  Are we going to be water cops?  I prefer not, but if a guy is watering his lawn and flooding the street, I think he has given up his right not to be bothered.
  9. Require cities over 100,000 (California has 69) to rainwater harvest a minimum of a square mile of roofs.  A foot of rain a year would generate 44,000 acre feet.  This requires 16,000 houses or fewer houses with large buildings.  I would offer tax credits.  Imagine the savings, if this were state-wide.
  10. Basic water prices for normal use should be cheap, rising rapidly for larger families and larger usage.  In case people haven’t noticed, we have a population problem in California, the country, and the world as a whole.

I’d have the media come out monthly with how much has been accomplished, so that people could see the progress made.  That is important.

A pipeline from the Willamette River, where I live, to Lake Shasta would provide jobs, and spills wouldn’t exactly be toxic.  Two months‘ flow at high levels would be a million acre feet.  But I’m damned if I will support a pipeline if people are going to brush their teeth with the faucet running, grow crops where they shouldn’t be grown, and act like there is no tomorrow.

I’m old and can waste water, but I don’t.  Nor should California.



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