Be Reasonable

Growing up in Los Angeles, we got used to going through droughts and being careful about our water consumption. When it was really bad, we had to turn off the shower water while lathering up, put bricks in the toilet tank to use less water, and endure the terrible inconvenience of restaurants not bringing a glass of water unless requested. Record low rainfall (the same this year as the annual equivalent of Death Valley’s) and low snowpack on the mountains from which we get our water, combined with predicted high temperatures this summer, means that we’re gearing up again for drought measures.

Sounds pretty dire, huh? But this time it doesn’t feel so hard to deal with. Our Mayor, Antonio Villaraigosa, just issued a call to Angelenos to reduce our water use by 10 percent. Not a major lifestyle change, but simply cutting 10 percent from what you would normally use. That sounds pretty reasonable and doable. It just means moving a little faster in the shower or skipping one day a week, watering the lawn every three days instead of two, combining smaller loads of laundry together, not leaving the hose running while you wash the car. The specificity of the request makes it easy to think of ways to implement it.

If the Mayor had just said “Use less water,” it would make me feel like whatever I did would not be enough. I could always use less water than the amount of my current consumption. But a reduction of 10 percent is concrete and achievable. It doesn’t evoke bad memories of putting buckets in the shower to catch the runoff for watering plants.

In your programs, are you asking people to give ’til it hurts and then give some more? Or are you reasonable in your request, asking people to make small changes (at least at first) that will add up over time? Be concrete in your messages rather than exhorting people to a vague call to action.

After a while, people will get used to the “new normal” and you can then work on another small step. You’d have a hard time finding a Los Angeles native over a certain age who keeps the faucet running while brushing his teeth. Now I just need to find a location other than the shower to do my daydreaming.

If you want to join me, here are 100 water-saving tips for different regions of the country.

Photo Credit: diedm

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