Water is our most precious natural resource; without it, there is no life.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan once said, “Access to a secure, safe and sufficient source of fresh water is a fundamental requirement for the survival, well-being and socio-economic development of all humanity. Yet, we continue to act as if fresh water were a perpetually abundant resource. It is not.”
As we move forward, the number of people living in our valley, our country and our world will continue to grow, while conversely, the amount of water available will always remain the same. Our planet has a growing supply and demand imbalance, but in our favor, we have no shortage of conservation knowledge.
The climate patterns that our water systems were built to work with and around are changing, leading to reservoirs that are either overflowing or empty, regions of prolonged flood or drought, and wasteful, inefficient ways to move and use water in our landscapes and farms.
One of the areas where we can take action to conserve water is our landscapes. Gardening and lawn care account for the majority of household water use. In California, more than half of the urban water is used for landscape irrigation. Substantial water savings can be gained by proper landscape design, installation and maintenance, a process known as sustainable landscape management (SLM). By practicing SLM, we can achieve eye-catching, environmentally-friendly gardens and landscapes that save water.
To improve water savings in this sector, the California Department of Water Resources (DWR) has updated the Model Water Efficient Landscape Ordinance (MWELO). The ordinance promotes efficient landscapes in new developments and retrofitted landscapes. The ordinance asks us to increase water efficiency standards in our landscapes through more efficient irrigation systems, graywater usage, and on-site storm water capture and by limiting the portion of landscapes that can be covered in turf.
Changing water use now will be the difference in what the future offers. Droughts will come, and may press people into action, but rain will fall again. The realities and permanence of climate change and population growth must lead towards institutional and personal growth in water conservation and sustainability. MWELO is one of the tools to get there.