Wednesday, January 6, 2010

CASE STUDY: Water Conservation and California's Water Quality

By Courtney Shipe

With the drought that is plaguing California continuing into its third year, conservation measures have become a necessity for many water agencies and distributors. Further reductions due to environmental laws have made the situation desperate for many Californian farmers. However, despite the negative results that accompany a severe drought, there has been one benefit: the water quality in California is improving.

"59% of the agencies and districts that have public outreach water conservation programs said these programs link landscape irrigation usage and urban water runoff. This tells us that agencies are starting to realize that water quality can be improved by conserving." Most H2O supply agencies in California currently monitor their customer's usage. This helps them to know how the water they supply is being used and where it is going. Armed with that knowledge, agencies can then promote conservation and efficiency where it is needed.

For example, if people are using half of their water on their landscape, the local agency knows to promote outdoor conservation methods and possibly even place restrictions on some areas. My locality doesn't allow you to use a sprinkler on your lawn on certain days or use a hose to wash your cars. These measures not only help conserve the limited supply of water, they also reduce runoff caused by such activities. "Everyone knows it's wasteful to over-water a lawn - you can literally see the water going down the drain. But more people are realizing that such urban water runoff can adversely affect water quality as well because it may contain fertilizers, pesticides or other contaminants that can get into the water supply."

Ultimately improving the water quality in California saves money since more efficient use by consumers results in lower bills for them and a greater supply for agencies to distribute. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), non point source pollution isn't an easily solved problem. Non source pollution is caused by natural and human pollutants being dispersed into our lakes, streams, river, and underground sources by rain and snow fall.

For example, pesticides on your lawn and garden, oil and other chemicals from roads, improperly contained dirt from construction sites, and bacteria and nutrients from pet waste and septic systems can all be washed away into your local water source. "By addressing the link between water conservation and water quality, agencies protect the integrity of their water resources and free up water to be used elsewhere." If we each do our part to conserve water and prevent pollution, we will improve the water quality not only in California, but all over the United States.

For more information about California's water crisis, please visit

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