It should come as no surprise that California is in the midst of an apocalyptic-level drought, with San Francisco seeing its driest year since record keeping began in 1849. Governor Brown and President Obama are calling the situation a “drought emergency” and “federal disaster.” The State Water Board is having an emergency vote tomorrow aimed at reducing consumption, so expect to hear a lot about the plan’s effect on our day-to-day life. Basically, if you enjoy walking around San Francisco without checking your shoes for poop every few minutes, then Tuesday's water-conservation decisions could just kill the spring in your step.
The Water Board vote, which SFGate reports is expected to pass and be in effect for the next nine months, will prohibit the watering of lawns to the point of run-off, the use of a hose to wash your car unless equipped with a shut-off nozzle, the use of drinking water in any decorative fountains, and worst of all, using water on ANY hard surface, such as a piss-covered driveway, or a sidewalk that’s been used as a toilet, or a dead, rotting bird on the asphalt. Instead, they suggest using a broom. So. Gross. The fines, which will be up to $500 a day for frittering away our precious Hetch Hetchy resources, will be administrable by any public employee with a ticket book, from cops to meter maids.
If you’re really committed to washing your street clean of feces, you can eschew the $500 ticket for a class on water conservation, although it isn’t quite clear how often you’re allowed to take the class. Most importantly, perhaps, is the limiting effect these new rules will have on San Francisco’s flushing trucks, which roam our dirtiest streets in the early morning, washing away trash and petrified poop. If you think the city smells like a weed toilet now, just wait until next Friday, when it reaches Outside Lands port-a-potty proportions.
We reached out to Rachel Gordon, the Public Works Department spokesperson, for more info on watering the concrete. She explained that since Gov. Brown’s plan to cut back on usage 10% in February, the flushing trucks around the city have been using reclaimed gray water once a month, mostly because there is only one waste treatment facility retrofitted with the necessary pumps to fill the trucks. She also told us that the street-sweeper trucks no longer use any water, except when absolutely necessary. “The other situation we use it for is sidewalk power washing requests. Those we are going to make sure that we can still keep, for health and sanitation of human waste, but otherwise we'll be cutting back,” she said. “Lastly, about a week ago we started shutting down water to the medians, so there's going to be more brown and less green, unless it’s been newly planted, then we'll be keeping those [sprinklers] on.” Gordon stressed, “We’re taking this very seriously.”
Honestly, I’d rather have a brown median than a brown sidewalk, but either way, it sounds like our San Francisco summer might get a little smelly this year. But at least we'll have water to drink in the fall.
Photo from Thinkstock
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