We are all familiar with the famous Mark Twain quote: “Whiskey is for drinking; water is for fighting.” After four years of drought, all of California is faced with drinking more whiskey (wine in the Bay Area) and less water.
California Governor Jerry Brown announced an executive order mandating statewide water restrictions to reduce water usage by 25 percent over the next nine months. The ink wasn’t even dry on the order when the accusations of fault began to fly. The environmentalists blame agriculture and global warming; the agriculture community blamed the environmentalists and thirty years of doing nothing to create more water storage.
Since the reduction is to be implemented by local water agencies, the cuts aren’t a blanket 25 percent; rather, some local districts will be required to cut as much as 36 percent and others as little as 8 percent. Lawsuits have already been filed against the state so much is still up in the air.
We applaud the governor for taking action to address the state’s drought. In past years, the commercial, industrial, and retail real estate industry has provided input to, and thoroughly reviewed, the state’s plans for water efficiency; supported legislation to implement strategic plans; and advocated for more storage and conveyance.
Most of our industry has done a great job reducing water usage over the past five years and have set the pace in terms of innovating with gray water and drought-tolerant urban landscaping. Now we have to make sure that this leadership and action is recognized.
Recently, the governor convened officials representing a broad array of leaders that impact water usage at non-residential properties, including landscape, golf, home and garden, spa and pool, cemetery and mortuary, building and manufacturing, retail, restaurant and hospitality industries. I was included and represented the commercial, industrial, and retail real estate industry.
The governor set the stage for the discussion by noting, “The key challenge here – aside from getting the water – is to be able to collaborate together. We’re going to rise to the occasion as Californians first and as members of different groups second.”
Brown stressed it was going to be important to work with the local water agencies in adopting appropriate policies.
I made it clear that our industry believes that water conservation is not just good public policy but it makes good business sense. I pointed out that numerous internal and external changes have already been done to reduce water needs, and that the industry has in some instances already met the reductions sought by the governor.
Much of what is going to happen remains unclear and the coming weeks and months are going to be critical in meeting the challenge. So hang on and stay tuned!
Rex S. Hime is President and CEO of California Business Properties Association.