Not only have there finally been several days of rain recently, courtesy of El Nino, global warming and self-radicalized meteorologists, but judging by the pronouncements, actions and inactions of public officials, the drought has been Officially Over for some time.
One sign was the official ho-hum response to data showing that state residents saved less water in October than they did the previous year. No alarm from any government corner office, no hectoring from the governor and no kneecapping fines levied on anyone hereabouts, despite having been repeatedly threatened.
Locally, water-saving data has always been decidedly mixed, if not stirred and cooked. For example, we are told the City of Sonoma saved 30% more water than it did two years ago, but still uses more water per capita than other areas of the county. Tsk, and for shame.
However, when calculating per capita use, it seems that little Sonoma has relatively fewer capitas (pop. c. 11,000) than other places but numerous hotel rooms, restaurants and other water-dependent commerce as well as school complexes and a hospital, all catering daily to numerous non-city dwellers and water-sucking tourists whose capitas are not included in the capita-count and who are immune to threats of fines or beatings.
In addition, Sonoma has acres of neighborhood parks and other public spaces – the 8-acre Plaza comes to mind – which, lush and green, are exempt from the Your-Lawn-or-Your-Life rule, which isn’t exactly a rule because it’s a request.
So when Sonoma’s total water use is divided by only 11,000 capitas, the gallons used per capita should be higher in comparison to other areas. Sonoma’s usage may also compare poorly because many capitas living outside the City use unmetered well-water which isn’t even counted because it’s, well, not like real water that costs money or anything.
Another sign the drought is over is that while residents shorten showers, soak their bushes in bathwater and sandblast the dog, city and county officials continually approve ever-more residential and commercial developments. Everything from new hotels to winery event centers receive official blessing to hook up to public water and/or plunge more wells deeper into disappearing aquifers.
They don’t seem to mind that every new development (“Good for the economy!”) effectively sucks up the water being saved by benighted current residents and businesses who’ve been duped into believing that “we’re all in this together.” Indeed, with a per-household water saving target of 25% over previous years, every additional new household sucks up the water saved by four existing households.
Case in point: Healdsburg recently OK’d a luxury resort for the Excessively Rich which will reportedly use an estimated 6% of the city’s water. And if current plans materialize, Sonoma will soon add a least 100 new hotel rooms, along with dozens of new homes and vacation rentals.
If one asks officials how they reconcile photos of themselves, hard-hatted and smiling at various ground-breaking ceremonies, with their insistence that we all save water, the fumble-mumble translates as: “Our analysts are, ah, continually analyzing the competing demands on water and, ah, our decision-making will be guided by our analysts’ analytical analyses going forward.”
The word common to analyze, analysis and analyst is anal, suggesting that in order to prepare for the next “Official Drought Report and Stern Lecture on Water Conservation,” it could be helpful to stock up on the Charmin.