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Deeply Talks: Water Conservation and Efficiency Challenges

Statewide regulations and local innovations are contributing to making water conservation a ‘California way of life.’ Listen to two experts explain the implications of new water efficiency laws and highlight promising trends in conservation throughout the state.

Written by Lindsay Abrams Published on Read time Approx. 1 minutes
A sprinkler waters a lawn in April 2015 in Walnut Creek, California.Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

In this month’s episode of Deeply Talks, Water Deeply managing editor Tara Lohan discussed California’s statewide and local conservation and efficiency efforts with Cynthia Koehler, cofounder and executive director at WaterNow Alliance, and Erik Porse, a research engineer in the Office of Water Programs at California State University, Sacramento.

California’s recent statewide regulations, Senate Bill 606 and Assembly Bill 1668, which aim to boost California’s water efficiency, are often misunderstood. Despite what you may have heard, it is not illegal to shower and do laundry on the same day. Koehler provided some historical context for the regulations, which are part of Governor Jerry Brown’s executive order aimed at making water conservation “a California way of life.”

Both experts agreed that the state did a good job of involving local water agencies in the drafting of the legislation. But they emphasized that these new regulations are far from the only driver of efficiency gains.

“Really, the action is on the ground, with these individual water agencies,” said Koehler, highlighting innovations such as turf replacement programs and consumer-oriented water technology. “We’re seeing a trend toward a growing outreach and partnership between utilities and their consumers.”

Just as important, added Porse, is “becoming familiar not only with the technology, but with the ecology.” Cities and suburbs throughout the state are moving toward a greater understanding of how to manage low-water landscapes.

Still, California has a long way to go. Porse shared some insight from his experience in energy management: Homes, he noted, may be becoming more efficient in their energy usage, but they’re also getting bigger and therefore using more energy overall. The same principle applies to water management. “Ultimately, what we’re trying to do is maintain or reduce the amount of water we’re using through conservation,” Porse said. “Promoting efficiency alone doesn’t get you there.”

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