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Mitzvah Moments - August 2015


Mitzvah Moments - August 2015

by Tish Levee

Extreme weather events—another side of climate change

It’s summer in the Northern Hemisphere—supposedly—so what’s with snow in Yosemite, Mono Lake, AND Hawaii in July? And, virtually no snow in California last winter? That’s extreme! An early fire season with intense forest fires in Southern and Central California combined with heavy rain caused flash flooding, mud slides, and the collapse of an elevated section of I-10, closing it, both east and west, indefinitely and requiring detours of several hundred miles when traveling between Los Angeles and Phoenix. 

Urge your Assembly member to pass SB 32 and SB 350 today! 

This important climate legislation will make California the world leader in utilizing clean energy and reducing carbon pollution, ensure clean drinking water and clean air, reduce dependence on foreign oil, expand solar and wind power, increase energy efficiency in buildings, and create new energy jobs. Call Jim Wood’s office at (707) 576-2526 now!

Grandparents Climate Action Day, sponsored by Elders Climate Network is September 9th & 10th in Washington, D.C. 

El Niño is coming! That means I don’t have to worry about conservation, right?

Not so. While the greatest El Niño in recorded history is expected this year, we’ll still need to conserve. It’s a myth that El Niño spells heavy rainfall everywhere. Even in strong El Niño years, above average rainfall occurs about 80% of the time. It’s also a myth that El Niño means disastrous flooding, but after four years of drought, heavy rain will probably run off quickly, causing flooding, so that neither our groundwater will be recharged nor our reservoirs refilled. We can easily still be in drought conditions after such an event. The bottom line is that we live in a semi-desert, with a much larger population than our water levels can support. Added to that we provide vegetables and fruit for most of the nation—the average American consumes up to 300 gallons of California water each week by eating food produced here. But the answer isn’t to stop growing the nation’s food. However the State Water Board is getting serious about agricultural misuse, recently proposing a fine of over $1.5 million for water diversion by a Delta water agency. 

Cutting back on lawns is the fastest and easiest way to conserve water

New regulations require new residential developments to restrict turf to 25% of landscaped areas for any yard over 500 sq. ft. Developers will build nearly 500,000 new housing units in the next three years, adding over 20,000 acres of new landscaping. With these new rules, these yards will use about 20% less water while commercial landscaping will use about 35% less. Urban landscaping accounts for about half of California’s urban water consumption. Unfortunately, the regulations will do little to reduce the size of existing lawns, but here we can each do our part by adopting more efficient watering methods, making sure that we only water at appropriate times and as needed, using recycled water wherever possible, and, most importantly, converting our lawns to drought resistant landscaping!

Free! Daily Acts water conservation workshops in August

Register at for greywater workshops in Healdsburg and Petaluma. We could save 500,000 to 800,000 gallons of water annually if only100 families installed a simple Laundry-to-Landscape greywater system. Many water agencies have greywater rebates, too. And check out the Daily Acts Talk: “Practical Solutions to Create a Water-Wise Home – Harvest the Rain and Slow the Flow,” August 27th in Healdsburg. In Australia’s Megadrought, which lasted 17 years in places, one thing that really worked was rain barrels, so much so that the $3 billion Victorian Desalination Plant was never used. Water conservation made it unnecessary, even as it was being built. A lesson for California is that lots of small fixes can do more than one big, expensive, technological one.

One small fix—saving water a few gallons at a time

Turn the water off while brushing your teeth. Doing this twice daily saves more than two acre-feet of water a year. We could totally fill Lake Sonoma if just 38% of the county did this one daily act. We could save even more by the turning the water off when washing hands or shaving. 

© Tish Levee, 2015