70 Million Gallons Is Nothing, When It Comes to California’s Drought

By Marc Schryer.

Quite a few calls to action have surfaced in the last few days about the reported 70 million gallons of water used in California for hydraulic fracturing.

Yes, fracking in California used 70 million gallons of water in the last 9 months—an exorbitant amount of water use from an activity that already damages the environment in a number of significant ways.

However, when looking at Governor Jerry Brown’s mandated water cuts of 1.5 million acre feet, we are getting caught up on the units.

The total use of fracking in California is nothing more than a drop in Lake Oroville.

The new water regulations in California call for a reduction of 1.5 million acre feet. That is, to put it differently, 488,777,140,500 gallons! …roughly 500 billion!

This 70 million that everyone is talking about is less than 0.01% of the reduction in water usage that California needs. One hundredth of one percent pales in comparison to the 25% called for in the mandate.

Fracking does pose dangers to the environment. However, banning it is not going to solve our water crisis. Not even close. We need to start reigning in water waste and inefficiency in the personal use and agricultural sectors.

My neighbor hoses down his driveway and sidewalk daily. A conservative estimate of the flow of a normal garden hose is 10 gallons per minute. Usually watering his driveway and sidewalk lasts about 10 minutes. So, that is 100 gallons of water, per day, that is unceremoniously wasted. 100 gallons. One household.

Hypothetically, if just1% of Californians (about 300,000) water driveways and sidewalks for 10 minutes, 30 million gallons of water would be wasted.

It might not be too difficult to imagine that personal water waste does not stop with watering driveways and sidewalks. As we tally up the various ways water is wasted, it becomes all the more obvious that personal water use has a huge potential for alleviating the drought.

1% of Californians may or may not be watering driveways. However, far more are likely using water inefficiently, intentionally or unintentionally—contributing, nonetheless, to draining our reservoirs, aquifers, and water supplies.

Directing policy and regulations to address lack of respect for the water crisis and the environment, will be the only sustainable solution to save water. Each stakeholder—individuals, fracking and agricultural operations, and industry—must play a role in averting overuse of our shared resource.

Limiting personal water use is one key to the puzzle of navigating safe passage through the next year of California’s water shortage. Reducing agricultural and industrial use will be a far larger challenge and piece of this puzzle. However, that should not detract from our own, individual obligation to fight overuse in this Tragedy of the Commons.

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