20 Mar 2009

Landscaping and Thirst

via DW, we get this lovely article:
California is facing its worst drought in decades, but you wouldn't know it by looking at water use in the Santa Fe Irrigation District.

Residents in and around Rancho Santa Fe consume more than three times as much water as the typical San Diego County resident, according to the California Urban Water Conservation Council.


In each of those years, the Santa Fe district ranked second or third in per capita water use, with an estimated 570 gallons per person per day [DZ's emphasis].


The district includes some of the most exclusive neighborhoods in the nation, with parcels that cover 3 acres and brim with manicured lawns or thick stands of non-native trees.
Here are some per capita consumption figures:

These numbers appear to agree with county-by-county consumption figures, but they also reveal a LOT of intra-county differences.

I tried to find the source report from CUWCC but no luck. (Anyone?)

Bottom Line: Landscaping is using 50-70 percent of our potable water. Since water is for people (not lawns), luxury landscapes should come with luxury water bills!


  1. I remember reading in the Whole Earth Quarterly over 30 years ago about grey-water recovery systems for landscape watering, and the need for a modern building code that would allow, if not require, the safe use of such systems. There has been virtually no progress on that front, which is disgraceful when you consider how much new housing has been built in that time. (It remains pretty expensive to retrofit an old house).
    Longer term, GMO technology to increase drought tolerance is already underway for crops (but not in general release. It can be applied to many landscape plants. And, yes, some nitwit in Santa Monica will claim the children and bunnies will suffer.

  2. Great recommendation. Lawns are ridiculous, mine included, when we're talking about putting farmers out of business.

    Good comments by Philip, too. My understanding is that I have to go vigilante if I want to run a recapture line from my shower drain out to my vegetable garden, which seems a shame. On the other hand, there are probably valid health concerns associated with that, hence the regulation. Oh well.

  3. That's the problem, Cap'n: there really are valid health concerns about making sure toilet water is completely isolated from other drain water (and don't worry about guys who pee in the sink; it's not any more dangerous than tears). It's just damned inertia, and resistance from home builders who might have had to tack on a few grand for a more complex plumbing system.

  4. When we lived in Sacramento, I couldn't believe how cheap water was. It was a street expectation that you would water your lawn every day for a few hours. What a waste of water.

    Here in South Australia we have significant water restrictions, which is making people rethink gardens and lawns. We have torn out our front lawn.

  5. I just got back from having lunch in Tiburon, where a couple of friends have done a beautiful "green" renovation, basically rebuilding their house from the inside out. They installed a tin roof and downspouts, to avoid possibly polluting runoff water with copper. The City, however, *required* them to route all the rain runoff into the city sewer treatment system rather than let it leach through their substantial garden. If this is what hip, green, cool Marin County does, imagine what happens elsewhere.
    What is even more ironic is that all the street runoff, containing oil, antifreeze and God knows what other sorts of nasty things, goes directly into the Bay. They put a cute little fish symbol on them to tell you so. Yet ask Marin County people about farms 250 miles away producing pollution that has to be measured in parts per million at the source, and parts per billion in the Delta, and you will hear tales of water waste and egregious pollution that will make your hair curl.


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