Monday, February 17, 2014

Water on My Mind


Folsom Lake, with a holding capacity of about 1 million acre-feet
is now being referred to as Folsom Pond
Water, Water, Water. Here in California people are scanning the skies, double-checking weather reports and then praying, singing and dancing for rain. As the worst drought in more than 100 years clutches the throat of the state's water supply with its dusty fingers, everyone is worried.
Those who lived through the drought of 1976-77 joke that maybe it's time to start showering with a friend, referring to a popular slogan from that extremely dry time. While we may all have friends we'd enjoy showering with, the idea today is no joke.

A quick online search shows there still are
posters, T-shirts, mugs for sale with the slogan
The San Juan Water District draws water from Folsom Lake and sells it to other water districts -- Citrus Heights Water DistrictFair Oaks Water DistrictOrange Vale Water Company, a portion of the city of Folsom (north of the American River) and periodically Sacramento Suburban Water District. The water is there when about 265,000 people turn on their spigots. Right now there's about 170,000 acre-feet of water in Folsom and Natoma lakes on the American River, near the City of Sacramento, about 20 percent of holding capacity.
Lake levels are dipping dangerously close to the point where water will fall below the intake pumps, which means all the pumps will be able to suck air. Already in the San Juan service area all outdoor watering is banned. Sacramento has just deputized 60 new water monitors with the authority to cite water wasters. Calls to the 311 tip line have skyrocketed as people become more aware of the unfolding crisis and report their neighbors for over watering.
Water-saving image being used by San Juan Water District
to encourage people in its service area to conserve.
And, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is considering the extraordinary step of putting a barge in what's left of Folsom Lake to pump water as its water level drops. Maybe snow and rain at the tail end of winter -- we've still got four weeks of winter left -- will make the move unnecessary. However, even considering such a move is worrisome, particularly with the long, hot summer stretched before us.
The situation, called catastrophic last week by some state water officials at a drought briefing, has prompted the launch of a statewide water conservation education program, which is a partnership between the California Department of Water Resources and the Association of California Water Agencies. Introduced during the briefing last week, the new media campaign will bring the "save water" message to all Californians.
"The severe drought our state is experiencing means we all must do our part to save water," said Mark Cowin, state Department of Water Resources director. "Californians have always answered calls to conserve, and this new campaign will help remind them of creative ways to save water."
Save Our Water, created in 2009 during the last drought, is a consumer-focused program that works closely with local water agencies to help Californians learn the many ways they can save water inside and outside their homes. The new creative campaign will be marketed via the program's paid media, social media and website.


"With this new creative campaign, Save Our Water continues to be a great resource for many local water agencies as they help their customers find ways to reduce their water use at home," said Timothy Quinn, ACWA's executive director. "This partnership between the state and local water agencies has really benefited California as we all work together to help stretch the state's water supply."
The campaign debuts with three ads: The Official 2014 California Shower (baby wipes), The Official 2014 California Hose (a broom) and The Official 2014 California Lawn (brown). The tag line "Californians Don't Waste" accompanies each.
The program will be producing more versions of "The Official 2014 California [fill-in-the-blank]" messages as the drought continues and soon will be releasing short videos to accompany the poster images. I know some very funny people and "fill-in-the-blank" may be an invitation for more than campaign sponsors anticipate. 
Information about the "Save Our Water" program and ways to conserve water, is online at www.saveourh2o.org or follow the program on Facebook or Twitter. For more information about ACWA, visit www.acwa.com. To learn more about the Department of Water Resources, visit www.water.ca.gov.
For a real-time graph of state reservoir levels, go to http://cdec.water.ca.gov/cdecapp/resapp/getResGraphsMain.action
Got any funny ideas for "save water" slogans? Post them in the comments section. The best ones may end up on T-shirts. In the meantime, see you in the garden -- bring cactus and a watering can.