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Blog Action Day Post – Water Water, Anywhere?

by germinatrix | October 15th, 2010

the last rainy day in LA

We are in trouble.

The world is running out of water, and nobody is taking it as seriously as they should.

The United Nations estimates that within our lifetimes, half of the world’s population will be living without access to clean, potable water for drinking and sanitation. Scary, isn’t it? If you think our issues with oil and energy have been problematic and have been the underlying cause for wars and “police actions”, that is NOTHING compared to what upcoming water shortages will bring. I don’t mean to scare anybody, (or maybe I DO), but for us in the SouthWest, the issue is of vital, urgent importance. Estimates say that Lake Mead, which holds the water from the Colorado river that supplies millions and irrigates farmland in Nevada, Arizona, California, and New Mexico, will be dry by 2021.

Everybody hates an alarmist. Nobody wants to listen to Chicken little chirping about the sky falling. But when the threat is an impending lack of water, people MUST listen, regardless of their political inclinations. We are now transitioning our energy system from a dependence on fossil fuel to also rely on wind, solar, and other technologies. But what is our substitute for water? Um… anyone?

My personal issue is front lawns – I’d rather see ANYTHING in that space than a water guzzling swath of turf that is only glanced at by those in passing cars. I mean really, how often does anybody hang out on and enjoy their front lawn? If you do, okay, (whatever – I’d like to see all that front yard lawn fun that doesn’t involve a mower), but if not – GET RID OF IT! Or please, at the very least, minimize it. Grow natives, grasses, drought tolerants, succulents, herbs, food – ANYTHING other than default, predictable, ubiquitous lawn. Imagine the impact on our water supplies if everyone who owns a home removed their front lawn. What to put in it’s place? Well, there was a time when the front lawn did NOT reign supreme, and people had flower gardens, vegetable gardens, spaces to sit and chat with neighbors – there ARE other options. There ARE other ways.

We gardeners can make a tremendous impact on this upcoming water problem, because between 45%-50% of residential water is used outside (according to the EPA – and this varies according to where you live). If we take serious steps to promote low water gardens in dry areas of the country, and rain harvesting gardens in areas with regular rainfall, then maybe our future won’t be so bleak.

Okay, I’m off the soapbox for the moment. But really – DO something! We each can make a difference, if we try.

Damn, I’m thirsty now. Thank goodness I can easily get some clean water to drink. For the time being.

XOXOXO your Germinatrix

5 Responses to “Blog Action Day Post – Water Water, Anywhere?”

  1. Some of the statistics you cite are really shocking! I think sometimes people block this kind of information out because they get overwhelmed and think they can’t do anything meaningful to make a difference. But as you point out, for those of us in thirsty regions, we CAN make a difference by rethinking our landscaping preferences. Keep pounding the drum! (Particularly as you do it so charmingly).

    SuMo

  2. We were just in Palm Springs, where I always scratch my head and throw up my hands at the water-unwise horticulture.

    But note that I was NOT scratching my head at the glorious Parker Palm Springs, where we stayed. I took tons of pictures. Check it out: http://back40feet.blogspot.com/2010/10/parker-palm-springs.html

  3. Yep!! Well said, Germi. Up here in the Redwood rainforest I tend to forget that water is such an issue elsewhere.

    Now, this isn’t meant as any kind of jab, so I hope you’ll give me your honest take. Here in my area, I don’t actually water my lawn. It just sorta stays green most of the year and then goes dormant in summer. It means more weeds in my lawn, but I just whack it and it’s fine. But my food gardening – well, I water that a heck of a lot!

    Do you have any tips for making my veggie garden low-water? It’s obvious you care about this a lot and I’m guessing you’ve found some ways of dealing with the low-water issue even while growing food. For me, food’s higher-water than lawn and I feel like I must be being less efficient than the farmers who grow it for me otherwise.

    Your book probably deals with this, I should probably just be patient. But any tips you have would be fantastic. I’d love to read a blog post about it if you ever felt inspired.

  4. SuMo! It IS scary, right? But each of us CAN do something, and it counts. I will bang my drum and add it to the music YOU make – we can start a BAND! XOXO!

    Hey Chuck B! Palm Springs is a fantasy – ESPECIALLY the hotel gardens! I’m SO grateful for your shout out, and I’m super happy that you enjoyed your time at the Parker. I LOVE those gardens! THANK YOU!!!

    Gen darling! Yes, water is SUCH an issue for us – I can see that with the kind of rainfall you get, you must feel water rich! And you should!
    Please – JAB AWAY! I TOTALLY don’t mind being called on accounts, in fact, I relish it! I continue to learn and grow, mostly via conversations with friends and colleagues who have different experiences. I can see that for you, lawn must be a reasonable thing to have, and in a climate like yours, why not? Food takes the kind of supplemental water your lawn doesn’t, and it IS a use of water – but I think it is one of the best uses of it. Growing food gives us something our lawn spaces don’t – it is a practice that nourishes us in a direct way, so when prioritizing how to use valuable space in our gardens and valuable water, some things have to go (in my opinion). It isn’t ALL lawns that I am against, it’s just the FRONT lawn, really – back yard lawns do make sense to me, especially when a family with kids is in question. Then I can see a lawn being useful as a play space – but I think it should be only as much as reasonably needed. In the FRONT yard, lawns are usually just their as a default – to look neat, to visually tie one yard to another … it is mostly a pass-thru space. I think utilizing that space to do something that gives us something REAL back for the resources we expend makes sense.
    As for drought tolerant food – I have a front yard agave/cactus garden, and I grow tons of herbs – sage, basil, marjoram, oregano, thyme – these tough guys are totally xeric!
    As far as “The Edible Front Yard” goes – it is, frankly, a design primer. I do get into sustainable practices, but there is SO MUCH ground to cover that I don’t get into low water food gardening in enormous depth – but if the book does well, that is DEFINITELY something I’d love to expand on! This is a tremendously important issue, and you are right – DEFINITELY deserves a blog post (or FIVE)
    Thanks for this fantastic question, Gen – it is important to be held to a standard, and I trust that you guys will do that to me! (because again, that is what it is ALL about – learning, growing, and sharing!) XOXO!!!

  5. Nature Assassin says:

    Man, I’m with you. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I’m in awe over the water situation in the southwest. Of course, here in the midwest, people are still overly obsessed with grass lawns. Ugh!

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