Don Hodel, environmental horticulturist with the University of California Cooperative Extension, believes in water conservation. What he doesn’t believe in is the way the state of California has gone about trying to save water. “My concern with the way the state imposed watering restrictions,” Hodel said, “is that they were made without any knowledge of how plants grow, how they interact with the soil, how water moves into the soil, and how the soil holds water.”
Hodel says that the two-day-per-week limits are causing a lot of harm. “We can have or retain our landscapes, and receive the benefits they provide if we simply watered in a more precise or judicious manner, and we have the research to support that position,” he said.
Bill Croyle, deputy director of the State Department of Water Resources, agrees that their response to Governor Brown’s conservation initiative was a rush job. “Part of this was one-size-fits-all,” he said. “There wasn’t a lot of time to get on top of this. The state water board was following the executive order.”
According to Hodel, cutting out non-agricultural irrigation entirely would only conserve seven percent of our overall water use. Given that 50 percent of the state’s water usage is ecological, and 40 percent is agricultural, the 25 percent of the remainder that Californians have conserved results in a whopping 2.5 percent savings in water.
The assistant public works director for Clovis, California, Lisa Koehn, says that even the water that was conserved for storage as groundwater won’t be available next year. “Our savings were vastly outweighed by the pumping that was done to provide enough water for the crops.”
There’s a real value to storing emergency supplies of water and keeping crops alive, but so too is there a real value to living urban landscapes. There are a host of environmental, psychological, economic and health benefits from our lawns and trees which are being sacrificed. Hodel believes that sacrifice is needless. “There’s a better way to go about it than what the state policymakers have given us. Absolutely we can have our little green lawns.”