Speaking of Water

As 2012 gets underway, many issues face the communities around the Monterey Peninsula. The main problem is water, we face draconian water rationing if no new source of water is developed by 2016.

The regional desalinization project is dead, millions spent in preliminary studies and cost estimates, only to be abandoned by the agencies involved and most importantly abandoned by Cal-Am Water Company. Back to square one and the cities are just getting started organizing committees to “find new water”. Talk about failure…Every politician, agency, mayor, etc. has dropped the ball on this issue.

A front- page article appeared three months ago in the Carmel Pine Cone stating that if the Monterey Peninsula communities used 1% more water than the norm, water rationing would start by 2014.  If 2% more water was used above normal, rationing would start in the year 2013.  We had the second driest Fall/Winter on record so far, along with warm daytime temperatures. We most certainly have used more water than normal, because so many homes and businesses had to irrigate to keep gardens alive and healthy.

To me, the only insurance anyone can have to lessen the damage done to our gardens by water rationing is rainwater catchment systems. These systems are initially expensive to install but the payback starts as soon as gardens are saved and money is saved on water bills. Under the proposed water rationing, residents will not be allowed to use any large amounts of water through their meters for any price.

I personally installed a 24,000gallon rainwater storage setup on my property in Carmel Valley. It has been in service for four years, starting at first with 15,000 gallons storage in 2008 and adding more tanks until 24,000 gallons was saved in 2011. This amount of water lasted from May 2011 to October 2011. I used a system of combining Cal-Am metered water with saved rainwater. Each month had two weeks of Cal-Am and two weeks of rainwater. My water bills had previously averaged $300 to $350 a month during hot summer months. With my current system, the bills are down to $50 to $60 a month. The tanks (polystyrene) will last indefinitely, since sunlight (UVrays), are the only damaging factor to the tanks.

I covered the sides of the tanks with redwood bender board slats and the tops with jute mesh covered with leaves and duff. This also keeps the tanks cool so no algae can form. I calculated my roofs square feet x 660 gallons per 1’’ rain per 1000 sq. ft. of roof. I could harvest 24,000 gallons during a 17’’ rainfall year.

I am trying to state a positive case for rainwater harvesting, which I feel is the only solution to our approaching water crisis. By combining garden irrigation audits and retrofits, drought resistant planting, replacing thirsty lawns with artificial turf, we can  still enjoy beautiful gardens and live within the constraints of  water restrictions.