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Waste Not, Want Not

Truckee could lead the way with water conservation
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We have water again!

Hallelujah, I can take long showers and wash my car.

Well, not quite. But, with all the reservoirs full and rivers running high with winter runoff, we’re back to pre-drought conditions across California.

The water year doesn’t end until Sept. 30, but so far the Snow Lab near Soda Springs has measured 118 inches of precipitation, the wettest season on record since 1871. With an annual average precipitation of about 52 inches, our area has already reached twice that.

But even with a big winter and self-proclaimed end of the drought, our state’s water situation really hasn’t changed.

Attending the California Association of Realtors annual legislative day in Sacramento last month, the hot issues the organization wanted to share with California’s elected officials was startling — by the year 2030 California will need around three million additional housing units. To keep up with population growth alone, California needs to build 180,000 housing units annually.

All these new houses are going to need water, which means the rest of us will need to save. A 2009 state law requires urban water agencies to reduce per-capita water consumption 20 percent by 2020, down from the usage at the start of the century. According to projections by the water agencies themselves, their total water deliveries will increase 16 percent by 2030 compared to their estimates for 2015. California’s population, already larger than all other Western states combined, is expected to grow 14 percent during that same period, reaching an estimated 44 million people by 2030, according to the State Department of Finance.

We all hope to see our economy grow each year as well. No one wants to see another crash, so a nice pleasant 3 percent each year would be fantastic. But growing our state economy also puts a demand on more water.

Increased business, growth in population, and more housing is the trifecta of expanding water demand.

So, unless mother nature plans to supply an annual increase in clean water production, we as California citizens need to figure out a way to conserve, every year, for at least the next 23 years.

Likely more.

Here in Truckee we are not immune to our state’s growth. With the Truckee Railyard project underway and the planned communities at Coldstream and Canyon Springs gaining some momentum again, Truckee is positioned for another residential and commercial growth spurt.

However, the Town is fortunate to have a self-sustaining aquifer; a perk of being at the top of the watershed. We don’t use enough water to put a dent in our water reserves, with the access flowing into, and benefiting, Nevada, not California. Contrary to the rest of the state, our community really doesn’t need the California state-wide water conservation regulations.

But that is no excuse for wasting resources.

Truckee has much to be proud of when it comes to conserving water. As a community, we’re not perfect by any means, but we do a great job and could be an inspiration for all of California. With so many visitors to our region, we have an opportunity to show how this can be accomplished.

The Truckee Donner Public Utility District stays ever-mindful of water conservation efforts, both internally within their water supply infrastructure and outwardly with their customer outreach efforts. The TDPUD has been replacing old or leaking water lines for years. Due to this effort as well as conservation outreach programs, TDPUD reports Truckee has reduced annual water usage 40 percent since 2006 — a statistic that is way ahead of the 20 percent state goal by 2020.

I have no doubt we’ll see more green grass and home landscaping across the state as a result of the big winter of 2016/17. But I’ll say I’m proud of the example the Truckee/Tahoe area presents our state with our low impact landscaping.

In all my California travels I don’t think I’ve seen another community with such a pride of its environment and resulting xeriscaping mindset. Look around, we live in a forest and our yards look like it. We can be a great example for the rest of the state to follow — maintain your yard to the natural beauty of your region, not a high-water-consuming endeavor.

Don’t know how? Visit the TDPUD office in Truckee, they have outdoor space set aside in the Patricia S. Sutton Conservation Garden that showcases low-water natural plants. Also visit for residential conservation rebates and programs.

So, before we all think California is flush with H2O and remove our low-flow shower heads and wash the pine pollen off our cars daily, consider this — we need to treat our water the opposite of our economy. As we continually hope to increase our personal finances and state economy, we have to also plan to continually decrease our water usage.

Let’s see Truckee keep on leading the way and inspiring California water conservation into the future.

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July 12, 2018