By Randy Paynter
Across California, people are flushing toilets less, taking shorter showers, watering lawns less – yet, the state did not collectively cut its water usage anywhere near its goals last month. As such, the California government has instated unprecedented emergency mandates for water conservation, requiring businesses and residents to immediately reduce their water usage by an average of 25 percent. But there is still a problem. Many Californians are not sure how they’ll achieve this. Even the state’s most passionate, environmentally conscious citizens are struggling with how they will save water to meet these standards.
At Care2, our engaged network of advocates are strong supporters of environmentally sustainable practices, yet a recent poll of our community in California shows that 36 percent of these self-reported environmentalists are uncertain how they’ll reduce their water use enough to meet California’s conservation mandates. Yes, some indicated they would install a greywater system (19 percent), and 5 percent reported they are willing to invest more than $2,500 to cut their water use. But a surprising number are unsure if these efforts will even be enough.
The types of people Care2 polled are California-based members who like, share and comment on articles about mindful and conscious living. They are people who are consistently affixing their names to petitions campaigning for more environmental consideration and action from key policymakers and influential business players.
In the last year alone, Care2 users generated more than 5 million signatures on environment-related petitions, and championed major issues like rejecting the Keystone XL pipeline and protecting New York’s drinking water from fracking. Around 800,000 of those signatures last year came from Californians alone.
If our users are struggling to find ways to reduce their water use, then other residents of the Golden State must also face a difficult task. A study by the Hamilton Project shows that California has a history of heavy water use, and a Californian city like San Diego uses about twice as much water as Sydney, Australia, a city with a similarly dry climate.
Yet, Californians are indeed taking action to curb their habits. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, even while the state’s population has grown, per-capita water use has declined significantly. The number of gallons used per day dropped from 232 in 1990 to 178 in 2010. Further, nearly 90 percent of respondents to our poll indicated that they have already invested some amount of time and/or money to reduce their water consumption.
Even despite their uncertainty about how to accomplish it, many Californians are in agreement that the state needs to cut water use further. Seventy-one percent of Care2 respondents say they think the state needs to take more actions to ensure the effects of the drought are mitigated. Many have wondered, on a national scale, if we should be eating fewer almonds or avocados and eating less meat, as some of the state’s heaviest water users are in agriculture and livestock. Water recycling projects or desalination technologies could help, but they are expensive.
The unpredictable El Niño weather phenomenon is offering a glimmer of hope after more than three years of extreme drought, but at what cost? In the end, there is no magical fix to the drought woes, and cutting urban water consumption, as Gov. Jerry Brown mandated, is one part of the puzzle. The poll showed that people across California are eager to take action, but there needs to be a framework in place to help these citizens meet these requirements and preserve the state’s diminishing water supply effectively.
Image credit: Flickr/John Weiss
Randy Paynter is the Founder & CEO of Care2, a social network of nearly 30 million citizen activists standing together for good, and helped pioneer online citizen advocacy with the launch of the PetitionSite.com. Care2 helps individuals start petitions and make a difference in their community while helping over 1500 nonprofit clients recruit more than 40 million prospective donors worldwide. Care2 is a profitable B Corporation, or social enterprise, using the power of business as a force for good. Randy holds an AB from Harvard University and an MBA from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business.