As a longtime California resident, I consider myself fairly water conscious, thanks to a series of droughts stretching back nearly 40 years. As a high school freshman living in the San Francisco Bay Area during the historic 1976-77 drought, I remember folks in my neighborhood using buckets to catch what little rain fell during those years to water outside plants. We learned to take short showers, and we tried not to drink water from the tap because it tasted like saltwater, which was pushing inland toward the municipal water intake located in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta.
Another six-year dry spell from 1987 to 1992 triggered constant reminders to conserve. And now the lack of precipitation is hitting home again. 2013 is the driest year on record, according to state water officials. Gov. Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January. Folsom Lake, a huge reservoir a few miles from my house, is less than 20 percent full and looks like a mud puddle. Outdoor watering is restricted to two days a week, and it may be eliminated altogether this summer if conditions don’t improve.