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Concrete plans
April 22, 2014, 05:00 AM By Michelle Durand Daily Journal

Rain, rain has gone away and even when — or if — it comes again another day, the drought keeping the state parched has settled in for the long haul.

The only thing left to do then is water the cement. Hose off the patio, make sure the sidewalk is sparkling, put a little extra pressure on those drops of sap and fallen gum collecting dirt on the ground. Pick your housekeeping poison; just make sure it involves a hefty amount of liquid.

The idea of washing down the driveway with nary a care sounds foolish and downright selfish while other communities eyeball fields of dying produce and communities urge conservation with citywide challenges bearing rewards like gift certificates and shower heads. How dare anybody risk the wrath of the nosy neighbors who’ve hung up their wintertime Spare the Air fireplace police uniforms and perched a jaunty water cop hat atop their noggin?

And today is Earth Day no less! Certainly the threat of California, if not the globe, turning into some sort of barren wasteland straight out of every apocalyptic movie blockbuster has to offer some motivation to turn off the tap and turn on the sustainability. Right?

Not so fast. No good goes unpunished and when it comes to water rationing, the people who aggressively cut back before the government mandates are usually the folks on the receiving end of the discipline stick. The only way to ensure my household is allocated enough water to fill the coffee pot, do the dishes, run half-full washing machines and take leisurely showers if the governor imposes rations is to up the usage now. If the mandate is 10 or 15 or even 20 percent lopped off across the board, it’s better to have the original figure as high as possible. The possibility exists that rationing will be staggered in some way to reward those already being thrifty with their water usage or hit wasters with higher bills. But that’s hardly any guarantee.

Billing and mandates aside, letting the lawn and flowers die as a water-savings measure might not be too bad. My black thumb leads most living things to reach an untimely end sooner rather than later so chalking it up to the climate rather than my lack of domesticity is a bit of a win-win. The flora meets its fated demise but under the guise of a pro-environment sacrifice.

Other measures are also pretty palatable — shared showers, opting for wine over water, justifying a car in dire need of a wash, putting off the dogs’ bath yet another week, buying new clothes to replace those worn.

But while installing low-flow toilets or adopting that whole color-coded flushing system, sticking a bucket under dripping faucets and swearing off bathtubs filled to the rim might be good for the overall water supply, it isn’t going to do much for individual allotments or pocketbooks unless it happens after a gubernatorial decree.

At a certain point, after the graywater is recycled an umpteenth time and greasy tresses prove impossible for even the best dry shampoo, there is nothing left to cut back. All the methods to save have dried up and the utilities are still threatening fines if there isn’t more.

The only way to cement future water consumption is, Earth and land be damned, to overuse now. It’s not about rationing. It’s about rationale.

Michelle Durand’s column “Off the Beat” runs every Tuesday and Thursday. She can be reached by email: or by phone (650) 344-5200 ext. 102. What do you think of this column? Send a letter to the editor:



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