Six million people in Southern California will be prohibited from watering their lawns beginning June 1. In Las Vegas the water intake in Lake Mead is now partially protruding from the lake. There is no question that the Colorado River in particular and the West in general is experiencing drought. However, water conservation is a phony solution.

The fallacy of water conservation: do we need green lawns? No, of course not. The practice harkens back to medieval times when a ‘mowed landscape’ was an indication of wealth. The landowner’s livestock did the ‘mowing’. Somehow that status symbol carried on to today’s norms.

Still, lawns are useful. Children playing in the yard are better off in some kind of grass rather than on a rocky ‘zeriscape’. Flat ground around the house allows the area to be used by that particular family. So perhaps some compromise can be etched into our psyches moving forward. Native grasses come to mind. I know. I’ve had a blue gramma lawn. Watered it once a week if it didn’t rain. Of course the neighbors thought I was nuts because it is not bright green. However, it is a lovely greenish blue and pretty when allowed to grow tall.

But water conservation itself is a scam.

When local governments get serious about conserving water and living within the limits of their resources they will stop issuing building permits for new construction. When an existing family conserves water all they are doing is permitting more families to move in, more homes to be built, and for the problem to get worse. As population grows how will conservation solve the problem? It won’t.

If you were to actually use all the water you need then there would be less for new growth. Is conservation of resources important? Of course it is. But we are not conserving water resources. Instead governments are playing a shell game that makes the problem steadily worse. The problem is growth.

The Colorado River provides water for more than the people of Southern California. Las Vegas is upstream and so is Arizona. Both are desert landscapes where uncontrolled growth impacts water availability for Southern Californians.

The Fallacy of Water Conservation

Unrestrained growth is at the root of water use. How many new homes were built in Las Vegas last year? ‘More than 2.3 million people currently live in the Las Vegas Valley. Roughly 3.38 million are anticipated to live there by 2060.’

“There’s never been a strong sense of community here,” said Fielden, founder of Henderson-based RAFI Architecture and Design. “There’s always been a strong sense of development, a strong sense of growth, and a strong sense of expansion.” (source: Las Vegas Review Journal)

How is this different from Southern California? Population growth there is increasing more rapidly in less dense areas, such as Riverside County. New construction is more constrained in dense areas like the City of Los Angeles which increased in population from 3 million people in 1980 to 4 million in 2020. Overall, Southern California was home to 23,800,500 people as of 2016. There is no water to support a growing population.

By using less water in your own home you allow this growth to continue unabated. You allow local governments to avoid taking aim at the core issue: growth beyond the limits of natural resources, including water. (Let’s not even mention air quality) I suggest you don’t conserve. Use the water you need. Alright forget the green lawn so you don’t get fined. And don’t dare let water run down the driveway lest you get turned in by a neighbor. But it is the current residents who are paying a price to allow more people to move in. That is naive.

Water conservation is a phony solution. When government gets serious about saving water all new construction will stop. After all, we’re in a drought.


Share this:
Share this page via Email Share this page via Stumble Upon Share this page via Digg this Share this page via Facebook Share this page via Twitter

About James McMahon

Studied ecology at the University of Illinois, mountain survival at Eastern Washing University, Deep Ecology at Naropa, River Ecology with The Nature Conservancy and Luna Leopold
This entry was posted in Healthy Living, Water Use and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *