Saving water is good, because it seems they’ve stopped making it. Underscoring the urgency, we’re told to save it because “we’re all in this together.”
If so, we should understand who “we” is and what “we” should do. In prolonged drought, water effectively becomes a finite resource, yet we are rain-dancing past that graveyard.
Consider that the average household supposedly uses 200,000 gallons per year. If (a big if) existing households each save the recommended 20 percent, that’s 40,000 gallons per-year, per-family, saved. The same math indicates that adding one new housing unit will consume nearly all the water saved by five existing households. If only 1,400 new homes are built throughout the county over the next few years, it could nullify the annual water savings of the entire City of Sonoma. Though it’s harder to generalize about business use, every new vineyard, carwash or tasting room puts another straw in the reservoir.
While existing homes and businesses struggle to save, community (cheer)leaders push for even more water-sucking development – more housing, hotels, vineyards, wineries – in pursuit of profits and taxes. As if to keep up appearances, mile after mile of vineyard estates remain brilliant green; winery fountains dance for the tourists; country club fairways are lush; community pools are planned; and acres of city-owned green-space is, well, very green.
Without a moratorium on all development that is not water-neutral, we are not saving water as much as we are subsidizing wealthy developers and an expanding wine industry which, by unsustainably turning sinking water tables into ever more wine, is effectively shipping “our” scarce water elsewhere for profit.
Trend lines of new users, evaporating reservoirs, population growth, etc., will eventually intersect and water for everyone who is “in this together” could flat-line. Before that, a serious plan is needed to adjust the Valley’s expectations, policies and economy to accept drought as the new normal.
For starters, community leaders should publicly disavow the oxymoronic dream of “sustainable growth” before it becomes our enduring nightmare.