California looks to Monterey Co. for tips to conserve water

As California faces drought measures, the governor's office is looking to Monterey County for advice on how to conserve water.
February 5, 2014 6:33:59 PM PST
People living on the Monterey peninsula haven't been able to water their lawn during the day for 15-years. There may be lessons there for all of us.

Monterey County residents, on average, use only 60 gallons of water a day. In San Jose, the number is close to double that. As the rest of the state faces drought measures, the governor's office is looking here for advice how to conserve water.

Six-hundred-thousand people depend on the Carmel River and an underground basin for their water. But portions of the river bed have gone dry without rainfall. To preserve the watershed, the local water company is under orders to reduce its drafting of Carmel River water by 70 percent by 2017. So conservation here is a way of life.

"We shut down the sprinklers so we don't water the yards anymore," Carmel Valley resident Jeff Stachelek said. "We take care of the dogs, of course, but overall, it's been really easy."

Monterey County may become a role model for the rest of the state. Yards can be watered only twice a week on an even or odd schedule, based on your address. $2.1 million in incentives are available for installing artificial turf or drought-resistant plants, or switching to water-saving appliances.

The Monterey Plaza Hotel is in the process of converting the toilets in all 290 rooms with the latest 1.2 gallon per flush models at a cost of $200,000. Dishwashers have been replaced with new technology that saves one million gallons of water per year. And hotel laundry is sent out of the county where, for now, water isn't a problem.

"It has to be done at this particular time, especially here on the Peninsula, and given the situation of California and the potential drought and the emergency as ordered by the Governor, it's a new way of life," said Monterey Plaza Hotel General Manager John Narigi.

The county's growers are pitching in, too. Drip irrigation is now used by 60 percent of the crops, replacing traditional sprinklers. Crop water comes from the ground along the Salinas River, but the reservoirs that help re-charge the ground water are at a fraction of capacity.

But this conservation has happened over 20 years.

"So when the drought hits, if you haven't been really planning for that and working towards, you really con't do it overnight," said County Assistant Agriculture Commissioner Bob Roach.


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