Water. It’s difficult to say we lack it during this el-nino year. You look outside, nothing but rain. You open your faucet, it doesn’t run out. It seems like it’s always there in unlimited quantities. Hence lies a dangerous illusion that water has always been there and always will. However, there’s been a lot of buzz lately about the shortage of this precious commodity. Some even call water the next gold.
After all, gold values have risen in the last several years. Will water too? Bay Area water suppliers expect there will not be enough water for their customers by 2018. So what does this mean for us and our homes? It means we can expect the water bill to get bigger. Much bigger.
Have you seen all the hub-bub being made about the EPA filing on rainwater runoff? You can read the actual filing if you like. Basically, the tax would be levied on new and newly redeveloped sites that do not meet certain requirements for control of storm water discharge. Closer to home, Deputy GM of the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission Michael Carlin indicated that San Francisco Bay Area households that pay $63/mo for water can expect to pay $128 in 2018. To top it off, the cap on the water that can be drawn from the Hetch Hetchy in 2018 won’t be enough for residents – it will be short by 7% (John Upton Examiner Article).
How can we not have enough water when it’s raining cats and dogs out there? Simply said, we are inefficient in the way we use and supply it. While attending the 7th Annual Water Conservation Showcase on March 23rd, I observed attendees and presenters scrambling and struggling with methods to be more efficient. They said the key to solving efficiency was to solve the riddle “we either have too much or not enough”.
What does that mean? I pondered the meaning of their words, and my mind magically transported me to my childhood days. When growing up in Sacramento I remember having water shortages- drought restrictions told us when we could water and what we could use water for. Spraying down the drive way was a cardinal “no-no”. In fact, a County Sheriff politely shook his finger at my grandmother because little Tommy was doing just that one afternoon. Ironically, the next few years we had way too much water! It just kept raining, and the rivers kept rising. As the rain poured down, my mother had me sand bagging the driveway and clearing out the neighborhood storm drains in a make-shift poncho made from a garbage bag.
Oh yes, back to the Water Showcase riddle… You see, rain umbrellas in Northern California are only needed seasonally. The wettest months in the Bay Area are traditionally November to March. This means we get our rain 5 months out of the year. The other 7 months there is little or “nada”! The challenge is that we are not efficient in collecting the rain and saving it for later.
Sure the reservoirs fill up, and the snow pack rises, but much of the water run off is sent to the Bay and Ocean. When there is way too much rain at once the streets flood because the storm drains can’t handle it. Makes sense why many of the Native Americans in the Central Valley preferred life in the foothills and mountains- the valleys flooded in the rainy season. Conversely, the summer months are dry and hot, when water usage is higher.
So the riddle is Mother Nature delivers our water all at once, and then we need to manage what she gives us. Some years she gives us very little; while in others she gives us a flood!
He is a licensed Insurance Professional in California with an office in Palo Alto, and represents his clients through Farmers Insurance Group. Tommy specializes in partnering with green minded homeowners and individuals, who strive to lead healthy, safe, and secure lifestyles. You can find him at