Sunday, April 5, 2009 | Every time I read something — “The City is Acting Really Stupid (April 5, 2009)” — about the proposals and research to cut back on San Diego water use, I am flummoxed.

Throughout the West Coast’s history there have been innumerable droughts but people figured out ways to deal with the scarcity of water. San Diego’s leaders simply need to look at those communities, examine how the water reduction efforts worked and pick a model that best suits San Diego. It’s not that complicated.

For example, I lived in the San Francisco Bay Area during the severe drought of the 1980s. We had to stop watering our lawn and saved our shower water to haul outside in buckets to keep beloved fruit and other trees alive.

It was hard but we managed. We took very short showers, turned off the water while we brushed our teeth and flushed toilets only for “bulk” deposits. Restaurants limited their bathroom use and stopped serving water unless requested. Anyone caught watering a lawn or excessively using water was severely fined and could be cut off if they continued to ignore the regulations. Commercial buildings were not allowed to water lawns and had to let some landscaping die. High water users were not allowed higher water allotments simply because historically that is what they used. Everyone was treated equally, rich and poor, large households and small.

In 2001, I visited Victoria, British Columbia on Canada’s Vancouver Island where I discovered a huge drought in progress. An island that is well known for its magnificent gardens chose to forego watering all lawns, including at all commercial and government buildings as well as at their formerly magnificent city park. They used their allotment wisely and were able to manage their way through the drought. The only public garden kept alive was the magnificent Butchart Gardens but even there the lawns were allowed to die.

Dealing with the challenges of reduced water usage is not that difficult but it does require some intelligent and thoughtful thinking and application — strategies that are being ignored at present.

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