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How much water have Californians conserved?

Last April, facing California’s historical 4 year drought, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order making it mandatory that statewide urban water use be reduced by 25% compared with 2013 levels starting June 2015.  In May 2015, the State Water Board adopted an emergency regulation requiring an immediate 25 percent reduction in overall potable urban water use.  Now one year has passed, how well have Californians been doing?

CA water savings since mandate started

Overall, we, the Californians have done quite a good job!  In the month of April 2015, before the emergency regulation, water reduction was a less-than-impressive 13.7%; after, it more than doubled to 29%, easily beating the 25% target.  In the next 4 months in a row, from June to September, the savings all exceeded the 25% target with a high of 31.4% in July. As the cooler and wetter months of fall and winter rolled along, the water saving levels declined to below 25% target, they also started a month-to-month decline, from 22.4% in October 2015 down to 12% in February 2016. The State Water Board renewed emergency water conservation regulations in Feb 2016, making it effective through October 2016.  Following the renewal, people in the state stepped up the effort again, reaching an impressive 24.3% of water reduction in March. Overall Result Statewide the total savings from Jun 2015 to Mar 2016 achieved 23.9% compared with the same months in 2013, which equates to 1,295,703 acre-feet (422.2 billion gallons).  How much is this amount of water?  It is enough to supply the whole population of California for 2 months! Watering for Outdoor Landscaping How can this much of the water saving be achieved?  A huge part of the answer lies in the savings from lawns and outdoor landscaping. Watering for lawns and outdoor landscaping can account for over 50% of daily water use in many areas; to achieve a 25% reduction it is imperative that watering for lawns be cut back significantly.  In addition to traditional measures such as reducing the length and frequency of watering, the most effective way is to convert a lawn to a water efficient garden. The Department of Water Resources targets to replace 50 million square feet of lawns and ornamental turf with drought tolerant landscapes.  To that end, it has been providing funding for lawn replacement programs; some water companies and local agencies also provide their own rebate programs. See some of the rebate programs here. A water efficient garden doesn’t need to be bare and plaid, with just cactus plants.  Instead, it can be full of beautiful blooms, colors, and all kinds of different plants.  Here you can see some of the garden designs. To calculate how much water you can save by converting a lawn to a water efficient garden, check out the calculator. Overall, while collectively we have all done a pretty good job conserving water, we can continue with our efforts and do even better.  To build a water efficient garden is one of the best ways to go. Comparison

Jupiter’s Beard – Drought Tolerant Splendor

Jupiter’s Beard (Red Valerian)

At this time of the season, everywhere you go in North Cal – Monterey, South Bay, East Bay, chances are you will see the bright blossom of Jupiter’s Beard, or Red Valerian (Centranthus ruber).  On the streets, in the gardens, at the beach, by the mountain, the pink, crimson and purple colors paint out the picture of spring so vividly. The Beard of Jupiter The name must be one of the most unusual for a plant.  Why such a name?  Well, take a look at this statue of Jupiter: P1 By I, Sailko, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16480594 Look at the shape of his beard!  Here is the introduction of Jupiter on Wikipedia: “Jupiter, also Jove (LatinIuppiter [ˈjʊppɪtɛr]genIovis [ˈjɔwɪs]), is the god of sky and thunder and king of the gods in Ancient Roman religion and mythology…His identifying implement is the thunderbolt and his primary sacred animal is the eagle” In addition to the shape, as the king of gods (Roman time), Jupiter’s beard must also be enormous and magnificent, a perfect match for the wonder and splendor of the flower. P2 While you are taking a break to appreciate the flower, if your kids are also around, it can become some good storytelling time too, about Jupiter and any stories in the Roman mythology. Water Efficient Plant Jupiter’s Beard is an excellent plant for a water efficient garden.  Once established, it needs very little to no water.  It qualifies for Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program. Jupiter’s Beard can grow to be 3 feet tall, and 7 square feet wide.   It can be planted as a focal point of a garden, or part of a border for an area or yard. Jupiter’s Beard grows well in full sun.  It can grow in most soil types.  Very little care is needed after it establishes. Variety Most flowers of Jupiter’s Beard are in the colors of crimson, pink and purple.  There are also white ones, but those are rare. The flowers attract butterfly and bees. In a nutshell, if you want a plant that can grow quite tall, that has splendid and bright blossom in spring and summer, that is very easy to care and doesn’t need any watering once established, Jupiter’s Beard will be an excellent choice.

Jupiter's Beard (Red Valerian)
Jupiter’s Beard (Red Valerian)

Measure and calculate the size of your yard

Saving water by converting a lawn to a water efficient garden We are still in a drought, and still need to conserve water.  One of the most effective ways to conserve water is to convert a lawn into a water efficient garden.  By doing so, not only will you save water, you might also be eligible for receiving rebate(s) from various rebate programs offered by water agencies or cities you live in. Find out the size of your garden The first step of any garden planning is to find out its size.  Here is a simple guide. 1. Find out the yard’s shape Most yards are of the shape of rectangle, triangle, circle or semi-circle, or a combination of these shapes.  If the shape is a combination, break them into separate shapes. 2. Determine which measurements are required for the calculation, and obtain them. For example, length and width are required for a rectangle. 3. Do the calculation. Below are some sample garden shapes and how the sizes can be calculated. a. Size = a*b p1 b. Size = (a*b)/2 p2 c.  Size = (a*b) + (a*c) /2 p3 Capture p4 Actual Examples Here are some actual examples. This yard basically can be considered as a rectangle.  The measurements can be obtained along its long and wide borders, then the size can be calculated. p5rec This yard can be broken into a rectangle and a semi-circle.  It can be calculated using the formula in d) above. p6scircle A fun math project If you have teens at home who just studied their geometry, this can be the perfect opportunity for them to apply what they learned! After you determine the shape, take the measurements, and apply the formulas, you can easily find out the size of your yard.  With the size known, you can proceed to the next step of the planning for a water efficient garden.  

Rockrose – a beautiful drought tolerant perennial from Mediterranean

Beautiful blossom

I planted a rockrose in our garden, in the San Francisco Bay area, about 2 years ago.  Since then, it just remained a quiet small shrub.  All leaves.  No blossom.  Never thought anything about it until a morning in March, after a full day of heavy rain and a pretty heavy rainy season brought by El Nino. Voila!  flowers!  So it does blossom, after all! Look at those dark pink dots on the pink patals – making the flowers look like small smiling faces! The rockrose stood proudly with its smiling faces for about a week, then I packed my stuff and left for a trip in Europe.  Before I left the house, I waived it a silent goodbye:  so long, my rockrose!

Same smiling face in Barcelona

The first week in Europe was like a wind whirl, then I landed at Barcelona.  There were so much to see, so much to do.  The day before I left, I went to this big park with other people.   As everyone was just rushing to the entrance, I saw this on the slope along the road: Rockrose Rockroses!  So glad I can see you here half the globe away!  The blossom, the leaves….you are truly sisters!  The only difference is this variety does not have the dark pink dots on their petals, nevertheless they smile the same bright smiles in the spring sun. 

A perennial from Mediterrarean

This is what I found on Wikipedia when I searched for the word “rockrose”: “The Cistaceae are a small family of plants (rock-rose or rock rose family) known for their beautiful shrubs, which are profusely covered by flowers at the time of blossom. This family consists of about 170-200 species in eight genera, distributed primarily in the temperate areas of Europe and the Mediterranean basin, but also found in North America; a limited number of species are found in South America. Most Cistaceae /are subshrubs and low shrubs, and some are herbaceous. They prefer dry and sunny habitats. Cistaceae grow well on poor soils, and many of them are cultivated in gardens.” No wonder I see rockrose in Barcelona…they come form here!

Plant a rockrose in your garden

Rockrose is a great perennial to have in a water efficient garden.  Beautiful blossom, multiple species and blossom colors to choose from – purple, yellow, white, pink, etc., and needs very little or no water once established.  Rockrose qualifies for landscape rebate programs, such as Santa Clara Water District Landscape Rebate Program. Rockroses needs full sun, and can grow in almost any soil type.  Water regularly until it establishes, then just leave it there.  It will serve up pretty blossom when the time arrives, just like the ones at my garden. Visit www.waterefficientgarden.com for more info about the water efficient plants and gardens.

California’s drought over?  Not yet; Still need to conserve water?  Yes

Do all the rains brought about by El Nino end California’s historical drought?  The answer is No.   While the rains definitely helped ease the drought, they did not end it.  As you can see from the graph below, statewide snowpack stood at way lower than average from 2012-2015;  in 2015, that level went down to a really low 5%.   In Spring 2016, while the rains brought by El Nino helped put the level back to 85%, one season of rain fall simply is not enough to offset the deficits accumulated from 4 years of drought. During the past 4 years, groundwater levels dropped to historical lows; in parts of the state it was as low as 100 feet below previous historical lows.  It will take much more than what we receive so far to recover the storage. snowpack We still need to conserve water Governor Jerry Brown declared a drought State of Emergency in 2014; in 2015, he made it mandatory that statewide urban water use be reduced by 25% starting June.  Earlier this year, California Water Board extended the emergency and the restriction on urban water use till Oct 2016.  It is clear: We still need to conserve water, and conserve by 25%. In the 9 months from June 2015 to Feb 2016 when the original 25% reduction mandate was effective, statewide California residents conserved water by 23.9%, just shy from the 25% target.  The data means collectively we have done a pretty good job, but we need to continue the effort, and we can still improve. Ways to conserve water One of the most effective ways to conserve water is to convert a traditional lawn to a water efficient garden.  Other ways include using a high efficiency toilet, shortening bath time to 5 minutes or less, collecting and using rain water, etc.