Posted on | June 1, 2013 | 2 Comments
Another 20th century miracle of modern living is being assisted to the scrapheap of time. Yesterday the federal Bureau of Reclamation announced a $500,000 grant to help Southern California homeowners convert from top loaders to more water-efficient front-loading washing machines. This kind of rebate — not new, but not standing policy either, rather a kind of an incipient nod toward the future — is on the rise again as water supplies across the West contract and a disappointing water year winds up this summer. So, if you have a water hog appliance or irrigation system, now is a good time to go dowsing for a deal at your local water supplier.
The grant would probably be larger if the Colorado River system were running on flop-sweat alone. The elevation of the Reclamation-managed reservoir Lake Mead, source of roughly a third of Southern California’s water, closed May 2013 at 48% full. Click here for a look back in time at the highs and lows of the largest storage reservoir in the US.
If this kind of thing interests you, try noting the historical lows, then use either water company board meeting minutes or a newspaper archive to correlate them to items about rebates for washers, toilets and irrigation systems. You’ll find that our water managers elect to bribe us into efficiency when it’s cheaper to save water through emergency conservation measures aimed at existing allocations than to buy new water in trades or when supplemental water is simply unavailable.
If treating chronic dryness with a spot of rebates here and a blaze of low-flow toilet retrofits there instead of striving in a systematic way for efficiency seems odd to you, it is. It’s also the way we manage water. The simplest explanation may be that our water system was set up in a way that public money subsidizes waste. When times get tough, we in very small increments subsidize efficiency.