Admittedly, the impact of these restrictions is lessened because many of the state's cities already have their own water restrictions. But even where the new mandates have good intentions, like restricting landscaping irrigation to two days a week or waiting until 48 hours after measurable rainfall before watering, they still fall painfully short. And some are just laughable. Restaurants can only provide water "on request"? Hotels should "offer" guests the option of not having their towels washed daily? So timid! (And I'm sorry, if you require more than one towel during the average hotel stay you probably shouldn't be allowed to stay in said hotel.)
Let's get real. Here's what California needs to do now.
It is time for California to join the decent people in the rest of the Western United States, where residents have the sense to let their lawns go dormant during the dry season. When the water that falls from the sky is not enough to perpetuate your yard's emerald hue, it is not okay to spew your hose upon it for hours at a time. Stop watering your lawn. If you're really attached to that swatch of turf, it will come back when it rains.
Any green space which was not expressly created for the public's use and well-being should also be required to "brown out." That means golf courses, corporate campuses. Exempt: Parks, schools. Cemeteries are allowed to paint the brown grass green.
What if a car wash was prohibitively expensive in the way that gas prices sometimes are? You wouldn't drive your car, right? You might not even own a car, right? Solves several problems at once.
Even more effective than asking cities to cut back on watering public landscaping is requiring them to use native, drought-tolerant plants in the first place. This needs to happen yesterday. City landscapers can pass along their wisdom to the public through workshops at neighborhood nurseries, which should jack up the prices of non-native plants.
If the state really wants to get serious about changing the conversation around the drought it needs to pay people to make the change. Los Angeles already has a successful program which offers $3.75 per square foot for people who choose to replace their lawns with drought-tolerant plants. There is no reason why this can't be implemented across the state to foster true impact.
Because bottled water is BULLSHIT. But also because most of the bottled water in the US comes from the places in California experiencing the worst drought.
The biggest problem with these restrictions is that most of these restrictions carry no penalties whatsoever. There are fines, maybe, but no one reports the offenders, and no one follows up from the city. Wait, cities don't have the manpower to send the water police out in force? That's why we need to...
See a green lawn? #waterhog Notice a business with sprinklers on? #waterhog Catch someone spraying down their Lexus? #waterhog Geotagged, hashtagged social media posts would not only file an official complaint with the state which could be followed up with a fine, like a 311 report does in many cities, but they also publicly shame the offender.
California, land of celebrities who are using their large numbers of Instagram followers to promote caffeinated booze: Why hasn't a big name taken on this cause? Perhaps because most of them are too busy trucking in water for their own lawns? Jerry Brown needs a high-profile celebrity to deliver some real talk about the drought by posting overshare-y "if it's yellow let it mellow" videos to Snapchat.
Where is the Hyperloop for water? Why aren't there more desalination startups? Who is promoting dietary alternatives to meat and almonds and all the other resource-sucking foods which are parching the Central Valley? We have no shortage of people who are working every day to tackle stunningly brilliant solutions to the world's problems. Let's get them working on the biggest issue the state has ever confronted. Plus there's plenty of opportunity for tech companies to recoup some of their intellectual capital. For example, Google could simply repurpose its entire Glass team as Google Glass (of Water), and help envision a better, brighter future for California.
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong