The situation is getting dire and California needs everyone on board

Marianne Taylor

By Marianne, Taylor

Is there anyone in California that doesn’t know we’re in a drought? Has the media told you over and over that the drought police are coming? It’s looking pretty serious with the water warnings. As of July 15, 2014, new state rules were passed cracking down on water waste.

We’ve been informed that residents, businesses and public entities will face daily fines up to $500. The infractions include: washing driveways and sidewalks; watering ornamental landscaping or turf with potable water that causes runoff; using a hose to wash a motor vehicle, unless the hose is outfitted with a nozzle; and using potable water in a fountain, unless the water is recirculated.

I’m not sure who the drought police are but I do know that I do not want to wait to have an infraction if I can make simple changes in my daily life in and around my home.

Do your part. Starting today, use less water.

Time your showers to two minutes—the Navy way, get wet, soap up, wash off. While you’re at it, add a bucket in your shower and collect water to use on your plants.

Even without a turf lawn, you can put together a beautiful, water-wise yard using native plants, perennial grasses and ground cover. Photo by Marianne Taylor
Even without a turf lawn, you can put together a beautiful, water-wise yard using native plants, perennial grasses and ground cover. Photo by Marianne Taylor

Calculate how much landscape water you’re actually using. Recently, I saw my husband staring at his watch while he was filling a five gallon bucket full of water. I asked him, “What are you doing? Washing your car?” No, he said, “I’m figuring out how much water we use hand watering our plants.” Turns out, it costs us about $3 to water for 30 minutes. Knowing this information is essential to getting in control of our water bills and water use.

Seventy-five percent of our state’s water use is in landscaping. Now is the time to get on board and lose the lawn—it’s that dire of a situation.

There are five great reasons for losing the lawn. A typical lawn consumes 10,000 gallons a year—think of the reduction in your water bill.

Gas-powered lawn equipment emits 11 times the emissions of a new car for each hour of operation, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency—think of the clean air and peace and quiet—no more mowers or blowers.

Americans put 23 million tons of lawn clippings a year into landfills. By replacing your lawn, you will be reducing your carbon footprint. Drought tolerant landscaping uses 30 to 50 percent less water than turf—think savings in the bank over the years.

Replacing your lawn with native plants, perennial grasses and ground covers also support beneficial insects, like butterflies, and birds—think of a healthy Earth for future generations.

We took out our lawn years ago and created a natural native garden, along with a butterfly habitat and water fountain that uses recycled water. Not sure how to get started? Check your local garden nurseries regarding complimentary garden consultants to help you lay out your yard, select plants and install proper irrigation. It doesn’t have to be a chore, either. Recruit the family to reinvent your gardens and build a place to play and relax. Be sure to check your city’s water department and ask about any lawn rebate program.

With each household reducing their water use, in and out of the house, we’re helping to make California a greener place.

Marianne Taylor is a 24-year resident of San Juan Capistrano, in the Los Rios Historic District. She is married to City Councilman John Taylor and mother to 24-year-old Harrison and 16-year-old Claire. She is the executive director and “dirt therapist” for Goin Native.

In an effort to provide our readers with a wide variety of opinions from our community, The Capistrano Dispatch provides Guest Opinion opportunities in which selected columnists’ opinions are shared. The opinions expressed in these columns are entirely those of the columnist alone and do not reflect those of The Capistrano Dispatch or Picket Fence Media. If you would like to respond to this column, please email us at

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comments (5)

  • Well said, Marianne. Thank you.

    According to the April 22 release of the U.S. Drought Monitor, “every last inch of California is in a state of “moderate” to “exceptional” drought — the first time in the monitor’s 15-year history that’s occurred. Indeed, the vast majority of California’s territory is now either at “extreme” or “exceptional,” which are the two most severe levels.”

    From “2004 (when the drought began) to 2013 the Colorado river basin lost 17 trillion gallons of water, which is enough to supply 50 million homes for a year. Three-fourths of that loss was groundwater, and the fastest rates of depletion occurred in 2013 — following one of the driest years on record.”

    This past year I installed a water recycling pump in the hot water line running to my bathroom on the opposite side of the house from my hot water heater. I press a button and the cold water in the hot water line is routed to the cold water line. When the hot water reached the pump, it shuts off and the hot water takes about two-seconds to reach the sink faucet and about ten-seconds to reach the shower head. I also installed automatic faucets in my bathroom sinks and dual flush toilets. The result was my water bill was reduced by nearly 35 to 40 percent.

    I’d like to see an ordinance that requires double-plumbing in all new construction. Waste water from the bathroom sinks, showers, and laundry are re-routed to a holding tank, where it is utilized to flush the toilets in the house. It has been estimated that a family of four can save up to 35 percent annually on their water bill.

    The major threats to our water supply are POPULATION GROWTH (By 2025, it is estimated that “the state’s population will increase from its current 37 million to between 44 million and 48 million people.”), EXTENDED SEVERE TO EXCEPTIONAL DROUGHTS driven by climate change, HYDRAULIC FRACTURING (consuming between 54 and 90 million gallons of water per well.) and BOTTLED WATER. Few people realize that the “manufacturing of the bottles requires twice as much water as the bottles ultimately contain.” Additionally, the “filtering process uses between three and nine gallons of water for every filtered gallon that ends up on the shelf.”

    I replaced bottled water with a $90.00 filter that lasts six to seven months and a couple of reusable bottles from REI. I find it almost beyond comprehension that people will complain about their monthly water bill, but they think nothing of shelling out up to 900 times the cost of an equivalent amount of tap water when they purchase bottled water at Ralph’s or Von’s.

    Again, Marianne, thank you for speaking out about our diminishing water and what we can do individually to mitigate the problem.

  • Thanks for finally writing about >Dirt Therapy:
    When it Comes to Saving Water, Just Think About it | The Capistrano
    Dispatch <Loved it!

  • I know we are in a drought here. We have farmers who were cut back water and who know what else. So why is it that all our water parks and other entertainment locations have the water they need to stay in business or keep running fountains and things of that nature? I do not think our state officials know how to regulate our water if they are still providing it to those locations. I don’t think they have the right to fine anyone who is washing a car if they are not going to fine those businesses 100x the amount they fine the rest of us. I am a little worried that entertainment locations are more important than someone who grows food. Anyone else feel the way I do about this?

    • Joanna M. Clark

      Hi Broke,

      I know a lot of people can’t afford all the upgrades. They are not cheap. That is one reason I told the City Council we should raise the minimum wage in San Juan Capistrano to $15.00 p/hr. A number of cities have already raised the minimum wage to $15.00, and surprise, their economics prospered. I understand there are programs that will provide financial assistance with upgrades.

      Unfortunately, I have been ignored, and those who would benefit the most have remained silent.

      Sean, I agree with you. But remember, we are no longer a democracy We are a full-blown Oligarchy today where elected officials are bought and paid for by the corporate elite . The corporations can pretty much do as they please because “they are too big to fail.” And we poor schmucks get stuck with the bill.

      The oil and gas cartel has pretty much bought our legislature and City Councils up in Kern County; hence the green light for fracking. A single well can consume 54 to 90 million gallons of water that could have been used for agriculture or residential use. Add 1000 new wells, and the amount of water consumed rises to 54 to 90 BILLION gallons of water, and the USDA predicts we will be out of water in 24 months if we don’t get some rain. Researchers at UCI predict 12 to 18 months.

  • Guess Joanna has lots of money. Who can afford special pumps for sink water? Where I live you get billed $25.00 a month just to have the water meter in front of the house- the little water I use only costs about $6 to $8 a month. We already conserve as much as we can, they say in our area, the average person uses 100 gallons per day for drinking, cleaning, etc. The 2 of us use 100 or less gallons per day- 1/2 the ‘average’ amount. Washing machine water is used for watering front of house that only has 1 plant. Who can afford ‘special’ plants from the nursery? Not me. Poor people get the wrong end of the lollypop every time.

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