Wising up to our Water Use – here and now!

By Rob Grant

waterissacredMany of you need no reminder that the State of California is experiencing the worst drought and driest winter in its 163-year history. Three successive seasons of well-below average rainfall coinciding with minimal, and only very recent changes in consumption have left us in a critical situation.

A view of Lake Cachuma, Santa Barbara’s main water reservoir, at less than 40% capacity.

Santa Barbara is 10 inches behind its seasonal rainfall average. The signs of this dire situation will be abundant as you make your way to the festival. If you’re arriving from the North, you’ll notice that Lake Cachuma, Santa Barbara’s main reservoir, is showing vast open fields of grasses that were formerly lakebed. These areas weren’t visible even during our last major drought episode during the late ‘80s and early ‘90s; the lake is at less than 40% capacity, and dropping every day. As the reservoir’s levels drop, evaporation increases, creating a positive-feedback mechanism with negative consequences. The Santa Ynez River, which wends its way past Live Oak Campground and feeds the lake, is effectively dry.

Since that last drought episode, the state’s population has more than doubled from 16 million people to 38 million, yet urban users use only 10 percent of its water. Add that to the insatiable thirst of industrial agriculture — the wasteful consumer of up to 85 percent of the state’s water resources — and it’s easy to see how crucial it is that we be more mindful than ever to conserve water.

County Rainfall Graph
Taking a step back from the rain shortage we’ve experienced these last two years, we can see that these dry spells are a normal pattern of this area that we need to constantly be mindful of.

Given that the Lucidity community is an unusually mindful one made up of many people who live sustainability, this comes naturally. No doubt many of us already practice water conservation just as we practice conserving all the earth’s precious resources; it’s consistent with making an effort to sound an ever-richer harmony with our environment.

While the only water sources at the festival are the showers, sinks and potable water taps, making some easy choices can minimize our usage at Live Oak. When showering, a quick wet-down is enough to start; there’s no need to keep pressing the button while soaping-up. Follow with a quick rinse, and leave it at that. Drink as much water as you wish but be mindful not to waste any! Although it may not seem as obvious, fighting fires requires a lot of water. Be hyper-aware of everything you have or do — art projects, camping stoves and other flame-producing implements — that could potentially start any kind of fire, wildland or otherwise. Campfires are not permitted at Live Oak, and by all means, if you’re planning on bringing a magnifying glass, keep it shaded from the sun!

All kidding aside, these concepts also apply for the other 362 days each year, and there are more things you can do at home:

• Eat fresh, sustainably-grown, local, organic foods

• Shower with a friend (provided you don’t run the water twice as long)

• Instead of taking a shower every day, try alternating with a washcloth bath

• Remember the saying, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down…”

You don't need to stand under a hot shower for 10 minutes to get nice and clean!
When was your last sponge bath? You don’t need to stand under a hot shower for 10 minutes to get nice and clean!


• If you don’t already have them, install low-flow shower heads and toilets

• Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth or shaving

• Fix water leaks from faucets, spigots, supply lines and toilets

• Fully load your dishwasher and washing machine

• Use dishpans for washing and rinsing dishes and vegetables by hand

• Defrost frozen foods without using running water

• Minimize your use of the garbage disposal

• Use a bucket to capture shower warm-up water and use it for watering plants or doing dishes; install a flash-heater to reduce the amount of warm-up water needed

• Replace your lawn with drought-tolerant landscaping, and if you don’t, let your grass grow to 3” so it retains more water; water your plants in the evening or early morning to reduce evaporation loss

• Spread mulch to help retain moisture in the soil

• Use a commercial car wash that recycles water and uses higher pressure for more efficient cleaning

All of these practices can make a huge difference in how much water we use. Have any other ideas on conserving water? Post them in the comments below!

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