Getting back into drought mode

Life in the Dust Bowl

Life in the Dust Bowl

I was in high school during the last major California drought.  I found it a very traumatic experience.  Thankfully, we didn’t end up with a Dust Bowl, and we didn’t have mass starvation of the type one periodically sees in Africa.  Nevertheless, I couldn’t shake the feeling that things could get that bad.

As a teen, I resented the imposition of water rationing.  I found disgusting the whole “when it’s yellow, let it mellow; when it’s brown, flush it down” mantra.  Truly, I felt that it’s my God-given right as an American to flush my stuff and, when I approach a bathroom, to know that you flushed your stuff too.  My parents tried to save their lawn by catching the water from the last rinse cycle in the washing machine, but it died despite those efforts.

Our house was filled with buckets in the kitchen and the bathroom, and all non-carpeted floors were hazardous, since the act of shlepping buckets from bathtub to toilet or sink to plants meant that the floors were perpetually covered with drips.  Step wrong and your bathroom turned into a skating rink.

yellow let it mellowAs you’ve probably seen in the news, California is having another drought, although this one is worse than the last big one in the 1970s.  (Interestingly, the last big drought coincided with the last big Polar Vortex.  Hmmm.)  The timing couldn’t be worse for my family, because we’ve already sunk substantial sums of money into a project requiring water, not to mention having signed contracts for that same project.  It’s unclear whether the project can go forward.  Worse, because of the signed contracts, we’re in a situation where we’ll still have to go forward with the least satisfying part of the project., which doesn’t require water.  Blech.

What’s also fascinating (to me, at least), is how quickly I’m back in the groove of water rationing.  I guess it’s like riding a bike — you never forget.  I’ve collected buckets, I’m saving bath water, I’m saving hand-washing water for the kitchen sink to use when I need to run my garbage disposal, etc.  I’ve told the kids that the only clothes that get washed are the genuinely dirty ones, that they have to keep their bathing to an efficient minimum, and that they can’t run any water while they brush their teeth.  Oh, and my garden is dead as a doornail.  My home looks derelict in the extreme.

We’ll get through this one, of course, but I’m not looking forward to the drought’s run.  It’s depressing.  Very, very depressing.

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  • Ymarsakar

    What is this, Iraq?

  • vinny

    It is nice of you, but who are you saving this water for? I know for certain that people who rent apartments and do not pay for their water, will use it as if there is no drought.

  • Mike Devx

    good point about renters, Vinny.
    The only way rationing can work is to impose price restrictions.  Everyone gets a certain amount of water up to a standard point at the usual cost, but then costs should escalate past that point RAPIDLY.  Should be written into renters contracts, too, when a water emergency is declared.

  • Bookworm

    If this wasn’t such a severe drought, I would be much more selfish about my water use.  As it is, though, the lack of rain makes this a scary-bad situation, where there is genuinely no water to go around.  Marin County has its own private little reservoir, which has gotten something like 1/5 of the usual rain fall. 

    I have amused myself, though, wondering about greenie parents of newborns:  cloth diapers that require water, but don’t create landfill; or disposable diapers, that create landfill, but don’t require water?  Decisions, decisions.

  • barbtheevilgenius

    I live a few miles from Lake Erie, so if we ever suffer from drought here California will have browned up and died. That being said, we did have to use water conservatively here for a day or so earlier this month. The reason was because supply pipes were partially frozen, affecting water pressure, apparently.
    The City of Cleveland bullied people so successfully into water conservation that water prices were raised because the water company wasn’t making enough money. True story. Fortunately, we don’t receive our water from Cleveland Water.


    Oh my, Bookworm – you sound as sad as the Ancient “Marin”er. 
    The drought reminded me of watching an Israeli friend in the US washing a sink filled with dirty dishes as follows: Wet dishes, turn off water, wash dishes with soap, turn on water to rinse.  Maybe California should consider a desalination project instead of the $30 billion high speed rail.

  • Charles Martel

    Book, we’re back in the groove, too. I bought two pails today, one for the kitchen to catch the cool water that flows while we’re waiting for the tap stream to warm up, and the other for the bathroom, where there’s a very slow shower faucet leak that I’ll get around to fixing soon. The water we collect will be used to moisten the dry areas of our soon-to-be-dead backyard lawn.
    What pisses me off is that I, along with you and everybody else is Marin, are stuck with low-flow toilets that our moral superiors forced on us in the 80s. The theory was that you don’t need 3 gallons of water to properly flush a toilet when a Gaia-saving 1.8 will do. Only it doesn’t. We average two flushes a visit to properly empty the john, which means that the Pajama Boy earth huggers outsmarted themselves yet again. Why am I not surprised?

    • Bookworm

      Flushing toilets with bathwater is very effective, if you don’t mind that your toilet has shampoo foam all over it….

  • Matt_SE

    Don’t worry, Book. You’re just a few years ahead of the rest of us in Obama’s economy. You’re a trendsetter!

  • Ymarsakar

    I’ve heard that with nuclear generators, pebble rock or otherwise, desalination plants can be run 24/7 to produce water from the ocean.
    I don’t suppose California has that nuclear power grid to spare?

  • jj

    The reasons to live in CA just keep piling up, don’t they…

  • shirleyelizabeth

    But Ymar, that water is for the sharks and sea turtles! Think of the sea turtles! And polar bears, or something.

  • Ymarsakar

    We need more purified water to get the holy water production line against zombies. Until the Left turns sharks and tea turtles into zombie sharks, we can leave that be for now.