In case you haven’t noticed, the whole state of California—including Mendocino County—has been short on rainfall this year. Between October and March (the rainy season), Ukiah received less than half the normal amount for this time. People are comparing this year to 1977 when we had a major drought. If you lived in Ukiah in the mid-70s, you’ll remember this as the year Lake Mendocino only had a small stream running through the lakebed. According to an article in the Ukiah Daily Journal, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said Lake Mendocino’s lowest level was 690 feet and occurred in 1977. (That year, the total rainfall was only 11 inches. This year through March, we’re at about 13 inches.)
The point is this is serious. I think it’s safe to say we can expect water rationing and that we should all do what we can to conserve water. If you still have a lawn instead of drought-resistant landscaping, it’s time to let your lawn die (again). Here are some other water-wise moves you can make.
Go through your whole house and check for leaks. Even the smallest one can add up to a lot of water loss. Check kitchen faucets, bathroom faucets, toilets, showerheads, and any other appliances that use water. Check under sinks by removing the decades’ worth of cleaning supplies for signs of moisture, dry rot, or mold. This is a great time to comply with a law that went into effect in 2017 requiring single family homes to have low-flow water fixtures. You should replace any toilets with a flush volume of greater than 1.6 gallons, showerheads that emit more than 2.5 gallons per minute, and interior faucets that run more than 2.2 gallons per minute (including the bathtub faucet, though if you think about it, that one makes no sense).
Once that’s done, go outside and check for leaky hose bibs and irrigation equipment. Most people who use an automatic timer to water their landscaping rarely see the system running because they run it early in the morning. That’s good for water conservation, but not good to check for leaks. If you plan to keep watering this summer, I recommend checking your system by turning it on and watching it run for a few minutes to see if you are watering the pavement because of a misaligned sprinkler, or if you have a gusher you didn’t know about. You should also check for leaks on the supply side of the valve—leaks that happen whether the irrigation system is actively running or not.
If everything looks good, the last way to check for a leak is to review your water usage. If your water bill is significantly higher than in years past, you may have a leak that isn’t giving you the tell-tale signs of a wet spot in the yard or a new dip in your asphalt driveway. Leaks under the house are hard to spot, and can be even more damaging. Fixing leaks is not only good for the environment, especially during a drought, it is good for your pocketbook. Leaks don’t tend to get better with time unless you do something about them.
If you are so inclined and can afford it, consider replacing your lawn with drought-resistant, indigenous plant species. They are typically attractive and easy to care for—and while you’re at it, might as well throw in some plants that help pollinators like bees. I just learned that three out of four crops across the globe that produce fruits or seeds for human food depend, at least in part, on pollinators. Let’s hear it for pollinators.
If you have questions about property management or real estate, please contact me at email@example.com or call (707) 462-4000. If you have an idea for a future column, share it with me and if I use it, I’ll send you a $25 gift certificate to Schat’s Bakery. To see previous articles, visit www.selzerrealty.com and click on “How’s the Market”.
Dick Selzer is a real estate broker who has been in the business for more than 45 years.