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The New York Times today (November 30) has a long story on the huge water usage of Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego County's most upscale community. According to state data, the tony town's residents used an average 584 gallons of water a day in September, almost five times the average for coastal Southern California.

September usage was down only 1.5 percent from September of last year, compared with 10.3 percent statewide. Rancho Santa Fe, whose "palatial homes are surrounded by rolling grass lawns," says the Times, luxuriates "as people in low-income corners of the San Joaquin Valley cope with dry taps and toilets they cannot flush."

Michael Bardin, general manager of the Santa Fe Irrigation District (embracing Rancho Santa Fe, Fairbanks Ranch, and Solana Beach) is encouraging water conservation. Outdoor watering is restricted to three days a week. The Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club is beginning to take up 20 acres of turf with the promise of $1.6 million from the water authorities, according to the Times.

The article quotes an old saying: "In the American West, water flows uphill to money."

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Comments

Visduh Nov. 30, 2014 @ 3:45 p.m.

This is not really surprising. The lot sizes in RSF are 2.3 acres or larger, I've been told. But most are larger than the minimum. Few are left natural, and in some cases orange groves have been planted on parts of them. That means that a lot that houses from two to six or eight people on, say, three acres has to be watered heavily. Nobody in that area is going to scrimp on water and let the estate look parched. So with the expense being a small consideration, there will be little effort to conserve water until it is mandatory. Shorter showers and front-loading washing machines in that area will save some, but with 90% of more of the water going for irrigation, it is the landscaping that is the culprit.

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Don Bauder Nov. 30, 2014 @ 4:09 p.m.

Visduh. These are more reasons for mandatory conservation, which should have been imposed more than a year ago. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Dec. 15, 2014 @ 8:08 p.m.

Visduh, RSF is in the part of the county that has an evapotranspiration demand of somewhere around 3-4 (acre-) feet per year with an average annual rainfall of about 8-10 inches. But actual irrigation application is in the realm of somewhere in the realm of 6-16 (acre-) feet of water per year. That is, the WASTE component at RSF is in the realm of 3-12 (acre-) feet per year. That is, about one million to four million gallons per acre per year. But let’s not just rag on RSF, the poor, unloved devils—let’s ask everybody who’s crowing about conservation, starting with our politicians, to reveal their consumption ratios.

The last time I checked my per-acre-equivalent usage (total, not just landscaping, including hosing off the driveway into the bushes, watering when the plants need it any gd day I need to), it was 1.3 (acre-) feet. That's 1.7 feet less than the total evapotranspiration demand (3 acre-feet) where I live in San Diego (seven miles from the coast, or about as far as RSF). About 5.6 inches more than the average annual rainfall. Most of my share goes to fruit trees and vegetables, but my front yard looks like a jungle, not a desert. I keep my plants stressed, not in luxury. And they want me to cut my “usage” by 20% and lecture me about a little water on the sidewalk (running off into the soil), “restrict” me to certain days of the week, and other irrelevant window-dressing.

Before we go off half-cocked on guesswork, why not figger a little? What if we allocated residences based on the size of their lots and the evapotranspiration rate in their locations? The billionaire in RSF with five acres would get an allotment of three acre-feet per acre, or fifteen acre-feet per year, and I would get an allotment of 0.5 acre-feet. Folks in El Cajon would get more, because their evapotranspiration demand is about 5 or 6 feet per year. That’s fair, and is based on providing every square-foot with enough water to keep grass green all year ‘round—the luxury-consumption break-point. For commercial and industrial consumers, they would get increases over their base-line according to an analysis of their actual needs and consumption records. Everybody who consumed less than the luxury break-point for their area would be paid for the amount they conserved, but penalties would be assessed for absentee owners who do not maintain their property, including foreclosure properties that are not maintained, in addition to the usual fines for trash and public safety violations.

New developments would not be permitted until the developers could ensure (the burden of proof is on them) that sufficient water would be available in perpetuity that would not worsen (exacerbate) the water-supply equation for established properties (i.e., not require a compounding of conservation beyond the baseline established as the maximum sustainable capacity of the state water supply network).

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MichaelValentine Nov. 30, 2014 @ 6:18 p.m.

If you can afford the bill, fines and all. I guess your entitled. But perhaps there should be a much stiffer fine involved. I mean if one can afford green grass in the desert and it comes at a wildly excessive cost for water then isn't that what makes it exclusive?

The rich are different then you and I apparently.

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Don Bauder Dec. 1, 2014 @ 7:23 p.m.

MichaelValentine: Stiffer fines would be an improvement, but mandatory conservation is essential. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Dec. 15, 2014 @ 8:15 p.m.

Fines could be used to reward those using below luxury levels for their locations. Rewards should be substantial, but not extravagant, to minimize loophole-mining.

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AlexClarke Dec. 1, 2014 @ 6:36 a.m.

If we really had a drought there would be no landscape watering period. Of course a lot of illegal alien gardeners would be out of work.

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Don Bauder Dec. 1, 2014 @ 7:26 p.m.

AlexClarke: California does have a drought and the risk is something like a 50-year drought. Yes, mandatory conservation would put some gardeners, both legal and illegal, out of work. However, the desertscaping process would employ a number of people. Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Dec. 15, 2014 @ 8:21 p.m.

No, there was a drought, but the water supply problem is caused largely by waste. Were it not for the waste component (not touched much by the current "restrictions), there might not be much of a crisis.

I would keep my "alien" gardener. His ancestors (and some of mine) were here before my European ancestors arrived.

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AlexClarke Dec. 1, 2014 @ 6:36 a.m.

If we really had a drought there would be no landscape watering period. Of course a lot of illegal alien gardeners would be out of work.

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Twister Dec. 15, 2014 @ 8:24 p.m.

Drought is a weather issue. Water supply is not the same as a drought.

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Dennis Dec. 1, 2014 @ 3:03 p.m.

I have in-laws living in eastern Oregon. We visited there last summer. The water for irrigation of yards is provided by separate piping from reservoirs. When the water level dips below a certain point the irrigation water is turned off.
Problem solved!

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Don Bauder Dec. 1, 2014 @ 7:27 p.m.

Dennis: That's one way of doing it. Best, Don Bauder

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MURPHYJUNK Dec. 2, 2014 @ 8:42 a.m.

are the golf courses exempt from water rationing ?

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Don Bauder Dec. 2, 2014 @ 12:12 p.m.

Murphyjunk: The golf courses around San Diego use recycled water. You raise a good question. Are they exempt from rationing? I dunno, it but doubt it. Best, Don Bauder

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jelula Dec. 2, 2014 @ 4:54 p.m.

Don - I know there are some golf courses which buy recycled water from the North City Water Reclamation Plant but I believe they are a small number relative to the total golf courses in San Diego, city or county. The difficulty is the cost of separate pipes to convey the recycled water to the buyer. There are two maps of the distribution of recycled water piping here: http://www.sandiego.gov/water/recycled/availability/index.shtml Golf courses etc are shown in bright green.

The non-potable recycled water is also used for some industrial purposes where available. There's additional information at the main page: http://www.sandiego.gov/water/recycled/

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Don Bauder Dec. 3, 2014 @ 8:07 a.m.

Jelula: This is good information. Best, Don Bauder

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UberAlles Dec. 2, 2014 @ 3:22 p.m.

It would be interesting to see data on water usage per acre throughout the county. Or per square mile. It is misleading to use per capita, particularly in areas with agriculture.

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Don Bauder Dec. 3, 2014 @ 8:12 a.m.

UberAlles: Economists have long said that there would be plenty of water in the state if agriculture got less and residential areas got more. But this raises philosophical points: 1. California is a huge agricultural state. Should the state give up this important source of income? 2. Does California really want to encourage more residential real estate development? Isn't there too much already? 3.Land around Davis, some of the finest ag land in the nation, is now used for homes. Is this an intelligent use of such land? Best, Don Bauder

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Twister Dec. 15, 2014 @ 8:28 p.m.

Water supply from wells, such as in the Central Valley and the laughably-named Borrego Springs, is a different issue. Aquifers have been long over-tapped, and whomsoever doth drill the deepest, dries up the shallower ones. Besides there's subsidence . . .

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Twister Dec. 15, 2014 @ 8:11 p.m.

Good point. See my response to Visduh.

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Twister Dec. 15, 2014 @ 7:21 p.m.

There you go again, Don--don't you know that it ist verboten & Unamerikan to mention that there is a relationship between the number of mouths (and landscaping, and utter waste) to wet and the amount of water available?

What will be the result of water conservation? More development. And after more development, how much more water conservation will be needed due to the increased number of consumption/waste units?

How much is enough?

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