I'll bet when you clicked on this link, you thought it would be full of overly watered lush green lawns, hosed off sidewalks and water sprinting down the gutter. Here is an obligatory photo. Please do not do these things in a drought - or at all, ever.
There are a number of measures taken in the name of water conservation, however, that you really really should NOT do either.
1) Turn Off Fountains and Empty Birdbaths: California is recently full of empty birdbaths, idle fountains, and dry watering holes where thirsty wildlife once gathered. If a fountain has a recirculating pump - and most do, it hardly uses any water at all. Birdbaths take just a smidge. The water you capture while warming up your shower or kitchen sink will more than cover it. As we have paved over much of their habitat and drained streams and rivers for human use, certainly we can share a bit with our feathered friends.
Wonder how much birds really use fountains and birdbaths? One woman in urban Southern California created a small recirculating pond that offers migrating and resident birds a much needed respite. Be blown away by the astonishing variety of birds making use of her pond by checking out @terrydavit on Instagram. Or see photos of a Northern California fountain that has become a popular watering hole during the drought.
Finches whoop it up in the bird bath.
2) Let Plants and Trees Die: I have heard many people talking about which plants they should let die. I'm all for letting your lawn die. Most trees, however, we should keep alive for wildlife's sake and because they provide shade, which reduces the need for water of nearby vegetation. Further, native plants and habitat plants (flowers for pollinators, brambles or hedgerows where the birds nest) should be preserved if at all possible. Urbanization and agriculture have destroyed and fragmented much of our natural landscapes. With the drought, wildlife are moving into urban areas in search of water and food. The least we can do is to provide forage and cover for the bees, birds, and small mammals that make it to our gardens.
3) Stop Growing Your Own Vegetables: If I had a carrot for every person who told me that they were not planting a vegetable garden due to the drought... Viscerally, this does not seem to be the right decision and I was pleased to learn that Sunset magazine agrees with me. They reason that we are less likely to waste food we grow ourselves and that it requires far less water to grow vegetables in our own garden than to grow them in a large farm setting and transport them to market. So grow your own food - just do it smartly by heavily amending the soil, using drip irrigation or ollas, and mulching like mad. (More great tips on growing food in a drought here).
A thickly planted vegetable bed with living mulch, ollas, and micro-sprinklers.
4) Buy Bottled Water: Did you know that "bottling water ... takes 30 to 50 percent more water than turning on the tap"? Much of that water is bottled right here in drought stricken California. While a bottle of water you buy at the store will not be added to your water bill, it does come from somewhere and wastes a lot of water to get to you.
A butterfly enjoying the dandelions and other weeds that comprise our unwatered lawn.
Now that you know what NOT to do, what measures should you take to conserve water? See how I expanded my garden but slashed my water use in half at 8 Ways to Save Water in Your Garden and add your own in the comments.
This post is part of the Tuesday Garden Party, Maple Hill Hop and Green Thumb Thursday.