Friday, December 26, 2014

Bob Dunning: Water works? This makes it all make sense


From page A2 | February 10, 2013 |

As the Great Water Debate threatens to stretch far into the new year, it’s great to have folks like my friend Jewel to help us understand the issues involved.

Finally, a voice of reason in the vast forest of opinions concerning our $113 million water project with Woodland and resultant water rates that are headed toward the clouds.

Some folks say that the number of people in a household has a lot to do with the amount of water that household will use in any given month. Others say “nonsense,” it’s all about how often you water the lawn.

One commentator, apparently unfamiliar with John Muir’s description of walking from one end of the Central Valley to the other while always being in the shade of massive trees, offered the opinion that this area was never meant to support trees and grass. A little research would have saved him the embarrassment, but I’m happy to help set the record straight.

The city of Davis apparently thinks the amount of water used indoors is significant, otherwise it wouldn’t be offering fat rebates to get us to replace those old toilets with the low-flow variety and issuing all sorts of “tips” about how to cut down on indoor use.

They should have talked to Jewel first.

“You said that water usage is dependent on family size,” Jewel begins. “No!”

Ouch. I don’t know about you, but when someone uses an exclamation point to dispute something I’ve said, I feel as if I’ve been whacked across the knuckles with a wooden spoon.

“Family habits make a bigger difference than size,” adds Jewel, countering popular opinion that size matters.

“Some families take 20-minute showers; some take two-minute showers.”

True enough. But you’re confusing family size with length of shower. Some large households have family members who take long showers. Some small households have family members who take long showers. However, the occurrence of long showers in a particular family rarely has anything to do with household size, though Harvard researchers do believe the tendency to take long showers may be an inherited trait on the father’s side.

So, just for the sake of argument, let’s say all members of a household of six take two-minute showers and all members of a household of two take two-minute showers. Are you saying, Jewel, that the overall shower water used in these households has nothing to do with the size of those households?

In our ever-conserving family, of course, we pee in the backyard, shower at the gym and eat pizza straight from the box so we don’t have any dishes to wash. We stopped inviting Grandma for Thanksgiving dinner long ago because she always insisted on having a large glass of Davis water to wash down the cranberry sauce, not to mention a large glass of Guinness to wash down the Davis water.

Ever the tipster, Jewel notes “Some families leave the water running while they brush teeth, some turn it off.”

Some families don’t have any teeth to worry about and never turn the water on in the first place.

“When they want hot water for showering, face washing, dish washing, some families let the cold water run down the drain; some save it for other uses.”

Some families have one of those gadgets that gives them hot water instantly so they never experience the horrors of cold water on the face at 5 a.m.

“Some families are much more conscious and careful about water use than other families.”

On that, we can agree. But again, conscious and careful has nothing to do with household size and everything to do with conscious and careful.

Presumably, though, assuming both families are indeed conscious and careful, a household of six will use three times as much water indoors as a family of two, be it for showering, flushing, brushing, splashing or washing six loads of laundry instead of two.

And, since our beloved City Council has gone out of its way to treat everyone fairly by charging the household of six three times as much for water as the household of two, everyone should be as happy as a clam on Seaside Beach.

Even Jewel.

— Reach Bob Dunning at





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