Thursday, November 27, 2014

Big Brother’s watching the water wasters

water wasterW

A portion of the Target store parking lot in Davis reflects sprinklers gone awry on Sunday morning. Vera Smith/Courtesy photo

From page A8 | August 13, 2014 |

It was a bright, warm day in August, and the clocks were striking thirteen.

That’s when it was noticed: the broken sprinkler head at Davis’ Target store on Sunday, watering an expanse of parking lot for at least half an hour. The incriminating photo and accompanying information were sent to the newspaper, but they could just as well have gone to an entity that is tasked with doing something more than public humiliation.

It’s not exactly like the opening lines of the book “1984” by George Orwell, but the city is relying on residents’ complaints about their neighbors and businesses they shop at to find the next water-wasting sprinkler system.

As a punishing drought draws down on city wells, some locals are noticing wasted water and wondering: To whom do I complain? Who does something about this?

The answer is a city email address. Send a report to and, with enough information, the city will follow up and notify the property owner or property manager.

In the last big drought in the late 1980s, newspapers in the East Bay published the names of property owners (supplied by utilities) who used the most water, as a public shaming tool.

So far, the city of Davis hasn’t resorted to those kinds of tactics, just an informational nudge for property owners whose sprinkler heads have gone awry.

In an Aug. 3 article in The Enterprise, the city’s conservation coordinator, Jennifer Gilbert advised Davisites to set their irrigation timers to water no more than twice each week, watering in the early morning or late night to avoid evaporation in the heat of the day.

“Check your sprinklers for broken heads or misaligned sprinklers and make sure the running time is not so long that water runs off your landscaping and into the gutter,” she wrote. “You can avoid water runoff, especially on sloped lawns, by turning off the sprinklers for 15 minutes halfway through your complete watering time to allow the water to soak deeply into the soil.”

Questions? Gilbert can be reached at

— Reach Dave Ryan at or call 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews



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