California active proponent of water-saving techniques

The effects of decreasing water levels and severe drought across California have brought about the implementation of more conscious water conservation efforts on behalf of the entire state.

Local efforts have been made to compensate for this unprecedented drought period.

According to the California American Water Company’s regional Monterey website, users are charged in increasing block rates, meaning that as water usage increases, so does the unit rate, thus encouraging consumers to keep their water usage at a minimum.

The website also explains that rebates are offered to both California American Water and Seaside Municipal Water District customers who install water-saving fixtures. Essentially, the customers are refunded after they provide evidence of having purchased water-conserving devices.

Similar measures are being taken by the Marina Coast Water District. According to MCWD Conservation Specialist Paul Lord, rebates are an easy and highly effective way to promote water conservation.

“Retrofitting of older toilets to new, high-efficiency toilets…is most effective because all the district has to do is promote the rebates via the Public Information Program and then pay out a reasonable rebate once the customers have completed the retrofits,” Lord says.

In addition to the highly-feasible nature of the rebate program, Lord explains that retrofitting, or modifying older-model toilets to become more water-efficient, considerably reduces hourly water use.

But MCWD has done much more than simply advertise rebate programs.

“MCWD has [also] put more focus on contacting and assisting high water use customers…and has given stronger emphasis to the proactive district-wide leak-detection program,” Lord comments.

Several other local companies have taken initiative as well. Carmel Area Wastewater District General Manager Barbara Buikema explains that CAWD treats large amounts of water, having upgraded to a system which makes wastewater safe for not only reintroduction to the ocean, but also reuse in irrigation.

“The treated water produced by the Reclamation Project has been used since 1994 to irrigate all of the golf courses throughout Pebble Beach,” Buikema offers. “Since the project started we have supplied Pebble Beach with 6.11 billion gallons of water!”

On the statewide scale, several measures have been taken in recent years, mainly in the form of new legislation. For instance, Gov. Jerry Brown signed three bills in September 2014 to track groundwater levels and promote water sustainability, according to the official website of the governor’s office.

These bills outlined a timeline of mandates and deadlines, beginning with the identification of all groundwater management agencies by 2017 and ending with the implementation of sustainable practices in all medium and high-priority water basins by 2040.

State Water Resources Control Board Public Affairs Director George Kostyrko remarks that overall civilian response to state legislation has been quite remarkable.

“Response by the public has been phenomenal,” Kostyrko comments. “For example, when we released the January conservation data, the amount of water saved [remained] strong, with more than 1.1 million acre feet of water saved since June 2015, [which is] 96 percent of the February goal.”

Water conservationists have also found their place on the CHS campus. AP Environmental Science teacher Jason Maas-Baldwin warns against the overuse of California’s aquifer, and preaches the importance of conserving water wherever possible.

“I personally don’t shower as much of the average Joe if you can call that an effort,” Maas-Baldwin teases.

He also addresses the proposed solution of desalination, suggesting that perhaps the solution is not realistically as effective as it is when advertised.

“So many people assume desal is the answer but considering [that desalination] uses 50 [times] the amount of energy as typical water sources, it could ultimately exacerbate the situation,” Maas-Baldwin warns.

Nevertheless, MCWD is considering the implementation of additional desalination technology.

MCWD General Manager Keith Van Der Maaten is doubtful of its potential at the moment, but hopeful for the future.

“The likelihood of a fully-functioning solar power desalination plant in the short-term (0-5 years) is very low,” Van Der Maaten admits. “[However], the likelihood continues to increase as technology advancements in membrane filters (and photovoltaics) are expected to make [desalination] more cost effective.”

Simple on-campus efforts at Carmel High also contribute to the anti-water-waste campaign. Maas-Baldwin, for instance, intends to lead the environmental club in a water conservation project.

He exclaims, “We currently aim to get a rain catchment system installed on my classroom!”

-Melissa Pavloff