“The East Bay Municipal Utility District Board of Directors voted Tuesday to cap water usage for households in much of Contra Costa and Alameda counties, including Oakland and Berkeley — marking a significant step to address the state’s dire drought situation.” That was the misleading lede of Sarah Ravani's recent piece in the SF Chronicle. A caption on an accompanying photo repeated the misinformation, describing the new restrictions as “a significant step in addressing California's worsening drought.”
Our residential use has only a negligible impact on the overall water supply. The rate hike was a significant step in sustaining payments to holders of EBMUD revenue bonds. In a drought, East Bay MUD — like all water agencies — is allocated less water by the state. With less water to deliver to residential users, they raise their rates and say they're doing it as a conservation measure.
This is not a perspective Ravani shares. She quotes Heather Cooley, director of research at Oakland’s water-focused Pacific Institute, endorsing the new limits as “commonsense measures that should be in place all the time.” Cooley wants more restrictions. “About half the water residents use in urban areas is for irrigating landscapes, she said, and using plants like sage, rosemary and poppies can reduce water usage by up to 80%.”
The term “irrigating landscapes” makes watering your garden sound like a bigger deal than it is. Planting native varieties may be good, common-sense advice for urbanites lucky enough to have a yard, but it's a misdirection play. Only a tiny fraction of California water is sprinkled on home gardens and lawns.
“In addition to the caps,” Ravani writes, “Restaurants and bars can provide water only upon request, and hotel patrons must say that they want towels and linens washed daily. Outdoor watering is limited to three times per week.
Six EBMUD board members voted for the hike. The lone nay vote was the Chair, a hack Democrat named Doug Linnie, who wanted a higher rate hike — 15% instead of 10.
As if trying to create a bandwagon effect, Ravani ends by quoting an EBMUD customer named Richard who is gladly complying with the new limits. “He said he’s removed parts of his lawn and vegetation and fruit trees so that he would use less water. Water is 'a very precious resource and we need to save it,' Richard said.”
Note to Richard, wherever you are (from Foodandwaterwatch.org):
“Government attention and media coverage about drought focuses on things individuals can do to save water. It ignores the fact that agriculture uses the most water. And the vast majority goes towards big agribusiness including growing water intensive crops like almonds and alfalfa. In California 80% of our water goes toward agriculture and 20% of that goes to tree nuts. Around two-thirds of these nuts are exported overseas, leaving massive profits for corporate titans but less water in California. Another 15% is used for alfalfa, a water-intensive crop used to feed cows on factory farms or for export.
“These crops have increased through the 20 year drought and have no business being grown to this scale in our arid climate. This is especially true as salmon die and over a million Californians lack access to clean water, in part due to sinking groundwater tables.
“Saudi Arabia has a law that prohibits the growth of alfalfa because of the lack of water. That’s no problem for a Saudi company that gained access to water rights in California. It exports alfalfa grown here back to Saudi Arabia to support its mega-dairies. Saudi Arabia also imports hay from drought-stricken New Mexico for the same purpose. This should not be possible, but no action has been taken to stop it.”
I can see the day coming when even your home garden's gonna be against the law.— Bob Dylan
Jason and the Jays
Rosie told me this story many years ago. I saw it as a children's book and laid it out for an illustrator who wasn't interested. Then I forgot about it.
Now I wonder if a publisher might consider it timely. My elevator pitch: “Wouldn't it be useful if kids could talk about guns from some angle other than a mass shooting?” But first I have to find an illustrator...
When Rosie lived on a farm in Oregon
And Jason was 8, Evan was 14, and Kate was 6
There was an old, unloaded .22 rifle in the front closet
That somebody might have fired at a rabid skunk crawling out from under a barn long ago.
For safety's sake, Rosie had removed the bolt and hidden it in the bottom of the potato bin.
One day while she was fixing dinner, Jason started talking about blue jays. He said they were no good.
“They take over other birds' nests and chase away the babies.
“They scare off the little songbirds and the butterflies. They steal and they squawk...”
Jason's information campaign about blue jays continued for days.
And then Rosie discovered that the rifle bolt was no longer under the potatoes.
She didn't know that on a day Jason had been sick and stayed home from school, he had found the bolt
And figured out how it fit into the rifle!
Then put it back in the potato bin —at the bottom.
“I know a way to get rid of those blue jays,” Jason announced one morning. “I could use that old .22.”
And he proudly got it out of the closet.
“There are no 'bad birds,'“ said Rosie. “Blue jays are beautiful and clever.
“They're also friendly and stay close to people.
“So you probably could shoot one...
“But then how would you feel?”
Jason thought about it.
He tried to imagine it...
And then he put the old .22 back in the closet.
And the next thing he worked on was his bicycle.