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Don’t Be a Water Jerk

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California is in the throes a serious drought, but driving around Los Angeles, you wouldn’t know it. Lush, green lawns. Sprinklers going off in the middle of the afternoon when much of the water will just evaporate. People using the hose to (inexplicably) clean off their sidewalk. I refer to people who maintain these habits as “water jerks.”

My backyard has grass, and when my husband and I moved in almost a year ago, we promptly stopped watering it. We haven’t yet replaced it with native plants, rocks, and other such water-saving landscape, so it’s just… yellow grass. But my dead backyard for now is proof that I care about water conservation, and I refuse to waste hundreds upon hundreds of gallons a water a month just to keep some grass green. I even bragged about it on Twitter.

So that other people can brag about their water conserving habits, I made some patches! Share at will, you wonderful, water-conserving people, you.



Katie McKissick About the Author: Katie McKissick is a former high school biology teacher turned science writer and cartoonist based in Los Angeles, CA. Her first book is called What's in Your Genes. You can find more of work at Follow on Twitter @beatricebiology.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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  1. 1. Mannysan 2:04 pm 06/24/2014

    Good luck in getting California folks to cut down on water. They ain’t reasonable at all. On one hand, all this talk about environment, while on the other hand, swimming pools (when the ocean is not far), lots of water waste, and green lawns which are no more than a social status. Personally, I prefer a field with all kinds of wildflowers which is great for nature, and hardier. :)

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  2. 2. plinden2011 3:22 pm 06/24/2014

    Mannysan, actually most water in California is used for agriculture. The cities, like LA and the Bay Area are good water citizens. It’s the inland, rural counties that are the water guzzlers.

    Per capita water usage throughout the whole of California is about half that of e.g. Nevada. Of course it has a much larger population so we use more.

    I don’t have a pool, and my grass is yellow. I do water it to prevent it dying totally, but for about 5 minutes every other day. Our water usage is metered and we use about half as much water as we did five years ago, just by changing some of our habits.

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  3. 3. plinden2011 3:46 pm 06/24/2014

    By the way, checking our water bill, we were billed for a total of 56 units of water last year (varying between 3 and 7 units a month). A unit is 748 gallons, so my family of four uses an average of 29 gallons per person per day, compared to the US domestic average of 95 gallons per person per day (agriculture, industry and power generation increases the total per capita overall). And this is in California …

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  4. 4. HenryB 5:55 pm 06/24/2014

    Arabs are crowding into the United States because there is no fresh drinking water in the arab countries. The ocean waters surrounding arab lands are contaminated by a species of red algae clogging the pipes used to draw water out of the ocean and into their desalination stations. We should send the arabs back to their desert lands. We could sell arabs fresh drinking water drawn from the great lakes. If we did that, we could pay off the national debt (17 trillion) in no time whatsoever. Then, soon, we would have a wealthy, all middle class nation. We could pay the arabs ten cents for a gallon of gasoline.
    Carrying Capacity estimates for the United States made by Pearl and Reed in 1920 predicted a population for the United States of some 197 million people by the year 2060. Lotka, A. J. (1925) Elements of Mathematical Biology pages: 66-68. We are now at more than 300 million people, an overload of some 103 millions. How much longer will it be until everyone in the United States dies in a home invasion, a civil war or from dehydration? (Feel free to run with this thread as if it were your own)

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  5. 5. rshoff2 1:07 pm 06/25/2014

    Ya know, while we worry about flushing the toilet, I see big business use/waste unfounded amounts of water. Construction is a good example.

    So, before I let it mellow or turn of a lightbulb, I expect to see business stop their waste.

    Anything you conserve will be wasted by business anyway. So do what you want.

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  6. 6. rshoff2 1:40 pm 06/25/2014

    Mannysan – Have you been to the PNW by chance? The are noted for rainfall, wet damp, rainy weather. And yet, they do not maintain green lawns in the summer! I was shocked to see Western Washington lawns are brown!!!

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  7. 7. rshoff2 1:44 pm 06/25/2014

    @HenryB, The truth is, people are coming into the country for money. Not to be American or even for our water. They want money, and this is the place the world perceives it is made.

    Then they send it home, or go home and leave their American debt unpaid.

    But I digress. The point is, I don’t think we are getting hoards of immigration for our water.

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  8. 8. rshoff2 2:23 pm 06/25/2014

    Like everything else, legislation is coming down on citizens while the big players with big pockets waste all they want. When you conserve, you are simply ‘donating’ your resource to big business. It does not cut down on over use of resources. So again, do what makes you happy, that’s what big business with their parachute executives and greedy (world-wide) investors do. But hey, if you want to donate your few resources to them, go ahead. It’s a free country, maybe.

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  9. 9. rshoff2 2:28 pm 06/25/2014

    Another way to look at it. The benefits of your conservation can only happen once. Once you reduce your electricity and water consumption by 50% – 100%, you will be getting by on less, and have no more to reduce. So as prices go up and business/industry continues to waste, what do you do then? What happens next? Stop using water and electricity altogether? Conservation is a good strategy for management of resources. It is not a good strategy for reducing costs or reigning in large scale waste. Conservation is an attitude, a value system, but it does not work as a solution.

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  10. 10. rshoff2 2:32 pm 06/25/2014

    And by the way Katie, even though you may think contrary, I do agree with you! Thanks for bringing it up.

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