How We’ll Live in Post-Water America

Around 1980, Bill Mollison (who co-founded the permaculture design movement with David Holmgren) predicted that in 30 years we’d be having water wars. He was spot-on; the situation with Oregon farmers is a prime example. (“Farmers vs. Fish: Tensions Rise Again in California-Oregon Border Area Water Battle“; Gillian Flaccus, AP in Los Angeles Times 4/13/21.)

With much of the western USA now in mega-drought, and even the typically-mild Pacific Northwest cities of Portand and Seattle forecasting 110-degree temperatures or higher, water is going to become an increasingly serious topic.

Available at the turn of a tap in much of the USA, water has tended to be taken for granted here — though people in many other countries know better.

Sarah Scoles spent a week exploring radical water conservation practices at the household level. Myself, having been doing extreme water conservation (5-7 gal/day) for over a decade now, I can tell you it’s not that hard, actually fun and empowering once you get the hang of it. And as Ms. Scoles points out in her article linked below, every change we make helps shift the culture.

” … our individual choices add up to an enormous demand as a society—664 billion gallons per day. In a 2014 Government Accountability Office study, water managers in 40 out of 50 states said they expect shortages in their states in the next 10 years. By late last year, nearly a third of the contiguous U.S. was in moderate to exceptional drought, the latter defined as widespread crop loss, shriveling reservoirs, and water-shortage emergencies.

“I decided to see how low one person could go to ease the problem, and whether that could make a difference. …

“My experimental footprint was the same size as a Chinese citizen’s normal one. Over in Norway, the per-capita use is just half a U.S. citizen’s, and right around the global average. Which is to say there’s room for improvement here at home. If everyone in the U.S. used 20 percent less—still more than twice what I did—they would each save 152,424 gallons of water a year. That’s 49 trillion gallons across the whole country. When you think about it that way, each of us can make a huge difference—especially if our sustainable actions encourage others to behave similarly.

“And that is how large-scale water-use changes happen, says Missouri State’s Jones. If enough people start employing a particular conservation tactic—leaving liquids in the toilet, ripping out Bermuda grass and putting in native plants—that thing becomes the expected behavior. ‘It’s a culture change,’ he says.

“The community flips its reward-punishment system. Instead of shaming you for your brown-grass yard, friends might instead criticize your lush landscaping.”

Read the rest of the article at the link below. She goes really deep (deeper than I go); for example, she includes the water consumed to produce each type of food she eats, each article of clothing she wears, etc. You might find it interesting; my advice is always “Don’t beat yourself up; every cut you achieve makes a difference.”

By the way, I don’t collect my toothbrushing water in a cup to be taken outdoors; I just brush outdoors, and spit directly into the compost or mulch pile. Easy peasy!

However you do it, extreme water conservation practice is planet-friendly, and makes your household less vulnerable to supply reductions.

I Spent a Week Exploring How We’ll Have to Live in Post-Water America” (Sarah Scoles,