California Drought Map
Source: Why California’s Drought Isn’t Going Anywhere

I am posting this page as a resource for Pleasanton residents seeking both information on the how the drought is affecting the area and resources for how we can all help the situation.

On April 18th, the San Jose Mercury News quoted Daniel Smith, Pleasanton’s Operation Services Director, saying that the outlook for the drought is “very grim”. The key points of the article:

  • Pleasanton gets 80 percent of its water from the state water project and 20 percent from groundwater. Right now, the state has said the city will get a mere 2 percent of its water allotment. There’s a chance the allotment could drop to zero.
  • Residents have been asked to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 20 percent, but usage has actually increased 14 percent in recent months.

The city has water-saving tips and related programs listed here. I recommend adopting as many of their tips as possible, but in my view, these tips are half-measures that are part of the problem. City officials have been slow to react to the water situation, most likely out of political caution and/or operational realities. While we must rely on them to put infrastructure and policies in place to improve the situation, I believe that we all must as individual citizens start taking greater responsibility for our contributions to this problem. We must change the way we both think of and use water. Some ideas on what you can do now:

  • Stop watering your lawns immediately
    We are in a water crisis and people are still soaking their yards daily. Having a grass lawn in this climate makes no sense. If you do not want to convert to a non-grass lawn, then just let yours die over the summer. We have done this before and it always grows back in the fall. Besides the water, think of all the money you’ll save in lawn maintenance. As a bonus, Pleasanton offers residents cash rebates – up to $1/sf – to kill their lawns.
  • Stop washing your cars
    Having a sparkling clean car is a luxury that we can ill afford at this time
  • Stop taking so many showers
    Shorter showers are a great start, but how many times a week do you really need to clean yourself so thoroughly? I don’t mind telling you that I am down to once a week and perhaps I stink a bit, but it’s not as bad as I thought it would be. And I really love long hot showers.
  • Demand that the city stop watering non-essential public landscaping
    And at the moment I can’t think of any public landscaping that is “essential”. When our family moved to Pleasanton eight years ago, we were attracted by the beautiful parks and public landscaping. But Pleasanton’s climate feels more like a desert most of the year and the resources required to keep Pleasanton green year-round are at odds with reality. We live next to Kottinger Park which was developed with a large lawn area which rarely has any activity on it. It’s beautiful, but totally unnecessary and uses a lot of water. Why the city is still watering this park, or any other at this moment is the question. As a kid I spent a lot of time playing sports on dirt fields. It wasn’t a big deal then. It’s not a big deal now. Our huge investment in green public parks is a sunk cost that needs to be written off to insure our basic water needs are secure.

Are these ideas extreme? Sure they are. But in my view, that’s the price we have to pay for ignoring the problem for so long.

I realize I am coming off as a bit of ranting nut-job here. Feel free to rip me apart as a damn hippie or some naive pawn of a shadowy big brother if that’s your thing. And feel free to stick your head in the sand because ignorance is indeed bliss.

For those of you who want to make a difference, please start making a difference.


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8 Response Comments

  • Leonardo Wood  April 20, 2014 at 8:43 am

    Great post Andrew, I’m a million miles away from Pleasanton… but still hope your post can help change people’s habits, good luck!

    • Andrew Shotland  April 20, 2014 at 8:58 am

      Thanks Leonardo. My wife and I sometimes think we are coming off as a bit crazy about this stuff, but then again we think people who are ignoring this issue are the crazy ones.

  • Mike  April 21, 2014 at 9:30 am

    I’ll add a few more:

    Don’t run the dishwasher until it is brimming with dirty dishes.

    OR fill a pot with water and use it for all the washing you need for the day.

    Buy bottled water that comes from out of state to supplement drinking and cooking usage.

    If you “must have” a clean ride, use a car wash that uses a recycled water machine.

    If it’s yellow let it mellow (don’t flush pee) if it’s brown flush it down (flush poop but try to do it all, w/toilet paper, in one flush).

    Wear the same clothing item 4-6 times before washing. If you hang it back up and let it sit in the closet for a couple of days it usually smells and feels clean.

    • Andrew Shotland  April 21, 2014 at 9:38 am

      Great tips Mike. For the rare day we do take showers, we have put buckets in the showers to catch the water while waiting for it to warm up which we use for our garden. We have also put a tray in the sink to do the same for dishwater.

      I am actually enjoying being a bit more “au natural”.

  • Phil Rozek  April 21, 2014 at 3:48 pm

    Now that’s a piece of “local” content, Andrew.

    I’d also add: don’t do so much damn laundry. (Yes, even if your bedding wouldn’t look too good under a black light.)

  • Andrew Shotland  April 21, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Once you start to keep track of the different ways you use water, you start to realize that you use it all the time. It’s quite challenging to purposely limit your water usage, even if you go the grunge route – and I am definitely avoiding black light these days.

  • Stace Coates  April 25, 2014 at 2:55 am

    We have an app to remind the children to turn the tap off between brushing xD. I thought would was related to this subject. Apps are awsome nowadays. 🙂

  • John Warner  May 10, 2014 at 6:49 am

    Stace, I still need to use that myself haha 😉