Living Green: Ask the right question about water
by Christina D.B. Frankel
Feb 20, 2014 | 2737 views | 0 0 comments | 93 93 recommendations | email to a friend | print
It almost felt like winter in California last week. Any rainfall is better than nothing, but what we got wasn’t nearly enough.

According to the Department of Water Resources, the state would need to see rain and snow half the days between now and May to get precipitation levels back to normal. We are officially in a drought.

Water officials up and down the valley are answering concerns from residents. Is there enough water? But that is the wrong question and the wrong answer.

Our water supply in California is overpromised even in a good snowfall year. Every water district has an allocation from a natural source with additional pull from the aquifer. When there isn’t enough water from the sky, everyone’s backup plan is to tap this underground basin as if it were an endless grocery store of water. Scientists in the documentary “Last Call of the Oasis” predict that what took eons to fill will be likely dry in decades. Then what?

We should have been asked and trained long ago to conserve water — residents, businesses and farmers alike. The question we should be asked now and forever onward is how little we can use. We use water as if it were our privilege to waste, rather than a resource to use sparingly. Water conservation is not a panacea for our ills, but it will force us to be more prepared for the crisis that is coming.

We need to be more fatalistic about our water. We do not have enough water to go around and had better learn to live with less — not send a different message to those users who have legacy water rights.

With this drought — like it or not — we will learn once again that critical lesson, so we can all make it together to that rainy day.

For a change: Read your water bill. The unit for our Tracy water bill is 100 cubic feet, equal to 748 gallons. Multiply how many units are listed by 748 gallons. Amazed? An average person in America uses 99 gallons a day.

To make a difference: If you have a home or business 20 years older, it is likely that you have an old, water-guzzling toilet, flushing 3 gallons or more each time. The city offers a rebate to replace it.

To make a stand: Convert your landscaping to drought-tolerant plants with drip irrigation. Lawns and landscaping account for more than 40 percent of residential water use.

• Christina D.B. Frankel has lived in Tracy for 25 years and is an architect and mother of three. Comments can be sent to, or she can be reached directly at

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