When I was six years old, I stood in the kitchen while my mother washed dishes. It was dark outside and rain splattered against the window above the sink. “What will happen when we run out of water?” I asked. She chuckled as she rinsed soap off a plate. “We’ll never run out of water.”
But now we have. “Council Declares Stage 3 in Emergency Meeting” (Fort Bragg Advocate-News, September 30, 2015). Apparently, high ocean tides have polluted the Noyo River with salt water. This river supplies 40 percent of Fort Bragg’s water supply. So here we are, almost out of water.
I’m not happy to have been lied to all those years ago.
As California steadily dried up, I did my best to ignore it. At the risk of public ridicule, I’m going to admit what others harbor deep in their hearts—the past three winters with day after day of bright, crisp sunshine have beat the hell out of the previous ones where we suffered endless, miserable rain. The warm, luxurious summers have been a huge bonus. There, I said it—so stone me.
In the two decades I’ve lived here, a couple of winters stand out: the one when it rained every day during the month of January, and another when it rained nearly five feet from October through May until it finally, mercifully stopped.
Whenever I hear—usually from others who pay attention to the news—that a town like East Porterville (wherever that is) has run out of water, I frown, tsk-tsk, shake my head, feel compassion, but mostly great relief that I don’t live in a town like that.
Now I do.
I’ve always done my part to respect the planet, which allows me to feel quite smug. For decades, I’ve recycled, reduced, reused. I’ve driven fuel-efficient cars and rarely wasted water to keep them clean. I’m so obsessed with saving electricity that my family calls me the Light Nazi.
We have never watered our lawn and rarely the outside beds. This past summer, we overhauled a portion of the yard and installed drought-resistant plants. We have a bucket sitting in the kitchen sink that collects what would normally be wasted water to feed the outside plants. We have low-flow toilets and water-saving appliances. We repair leaks immediately.
Up to this point, my heroic efforts have caused only minor inconvenience.
I can handle every sacrifice that comes along with saving water except one—at the end of a stressful, planet-saving day, I like a long, hot bath.
My job can be very demanding. I also exercise regularly. I’m not a person who merely perspires. I sweat. After a strenuous workout, I’m often asked if I’ve been swimming.
So yes—stone me again—I enjoy an evening bath where I can relax and let go of the day.
I’ve never been fond of showers. I have difficulty regulating the water temperature. It’s either too hot or too cold. It also irks me that the amount of water that goes down the drain could be used to fill a soothing tub. I leave the experience feeling deprived.
A few years ago, out of respect for the drought, I reduced my baths from seven per week (yes, I hear your gasp of contempt) to six. As the drought gained momentum, I reduced them to four. When the stage three water emergency was declared, I eliminated baths and succumbed to extremely short showers.
This last sacrifice turned me to a fit-throwing two-year old in the grocery store who’s been denied a candy bar. The damned drought has now robbed me of the ability to calm down. Friends suggest yoga and deep breathing. Right. Sure. No thank you.
Two weeks into the new normal, I’ve decided to look on the bright side. I can actually live—not happily, mind you—without an evening bath. Next year, I could be reduced to hauling buckets of water from Pudding Creek. In the meantime, I’ll sing along to this: