Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced just over two weeks ago that California is facing a drought, warning that the state could be forced into some heavy rationing if the situation does not improve.
In Davis, however, a sense of urgency to change water habits has not quite developed yet. The city has not implemented any rules or restrictions on its residents, but some residents are aware of the issue and feel obligated to make a personal change.
“I’d like to say that I am, but I don’t think I am conserving that much water,” said Chelsea Simenhoff, a junior at UC Davis. “But I don’t take long showers and I used to keep the water running when I brush my teeth but now I don’t.”
The drought was declared for the entire state of California, but officials say certain parts will be hit harder than others.
“The biggest effect will be with the farmers,” said Yolo County Public Information Officer Beth Gabor. “Cities will have to regulate on their own, since many run on their own water supply systems.”
Other cities throughout the state, such as Roseville, have put water restrictions in place. Traditional responses to droughts have been the restriction of restaurants to serve water unless a customer asks for it, or residential sprinkler usage rationing with a fine for violators.
UC Davis junior Brian Gerson said although he hasn’t been instructed to follow any water-conservation guidelines, he does what he can. Like Simenhoff, his major contribution is turning off the water while brushing his teeth and shorter showers. He also leaves his car back home, meaning less waste during car washes.
The single driest year in California’s history was 1977, when runoff was only 21 percent of the annual average, according to the state’s Department of Water Resources records beginning in 1908. Runoff is defined by the U.S. Geological Survey as “water that does not get soaked into the ground when it rains, which pools and eventually ‘runs’ into other bodies of water.”
Between July 1, 2007 and June 2, 2008, Sacramento had 13.71 inches of rain, or 77 percent of the yearly average, according to the DWR.
Many options are available to residents for water use reduction. People can sweep their driveways instead of hosing them clean, reduce the amount of toilet flushes by not using the device as a trash can but for its intended purpose, run washing machines or dishwashers only when full or purchase a dishwasher if one is not owned.
A study at the University of Bonn in Germany found that using a dishwasher uses only half of the energy and one sixth of the water that washing dishes by hand does. According to this study, about 200 bathtubs of water may be saved per year per household that switches to a dishwasher.
“Oh, the wonders of technology,” Gerson said, “That makes me feel better about not wanting to do dishes by hand.”
ALI EDNEY can be reached at email@example.com.