The water units we have been waiting for

Michael Campana struck a heavy blow against the use of wrong or misleading water units in his April 9 blog post, “Crap Detecting 101.” He explained how apparently impressive water comparisons can dissolve(?) into insignificance when looked at carefully. His advice: “Choose your units carefully, and be cognizant of the fact that the units you choose may be ‘loaded’ and subject to misinterpretation. Think of the spatial scale.”

So far, so good, but even this wise counsel does not go far enough. As David Zetland noted, using Standard Units would help avoid much of the confusion. Yes! Therefore, under pain of ridicule, all future water numbers must be expressed in Standard Units and in scientific notation. The only acceptable units for volume will be liters. The only acceptable units for flow will be liters per day. The only acceptable units for cost will be dollars per thousand liters. The exponent must always be displayed in red to draw attention to relative magnitudes. Like this:

The average volume of Lake Okeechobee is 5.2E12 liters. (Fie with cubic miles, acre-feet, cubic yards, cubic feet, Olympic swimming pools, Great Lakes, Grand Canyons, icebergs, water bottles, gallons, quarts, cups, pints, etc., etc.)

The average flow of Volusia Blue Spring is 3.84E8 liters per day. (Fie again to cubic feet per second, million gallons per year, Mississippi River flows, Amazon River flows, football stadium volumes per day, shot glasses, etc., etc.)

The fee for water withdrawals in Florida is 0.0E0 dollars per thousand liters. (Or is that zero, zero, zero?) (Not dollars per gallon, or thousand gallons, or CCF (thousand cubic feet), or acre-feet, or bottle, etc., etc.)

I see a day in the near future when all water comparisons begin by asking, “What is the Red Number?” Confusion will be defeated. You all are welcome.

Landscape irrigation two(?) days per week

The California State Water Resources Control Board is issuing emergency water conservation regulations aiming at a 25% reduction in potable urban water use. Californians won’t be able irrigate their landscapes more than twice a week. Here’s the thing: most of Florida has been under that rule for years. Except when it is restricted to one day per week.

Draft California emergency rules for hotels and motels:

(b) To promote water conservation, operators of hotels and motels shall provide guests with the option of choosing not to have towels and linens laundered daily. The hotel or motel shall prominently display notice of this option in each guestroom using clear and easily understood language.

(c) Immediately upon this subdivision taking effect, all commercial, industrial and institutional properties not served by a water supplier meeting the requirements of Water Code section 10617 or section 350 shall either:

(1) Limit outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf with potable water to no more than two days per week; or

(2) Reduce potable water usage by 25 percent for the months of June 2015 through February 2016 as compared to the amount used for the same months in 2013 

 Draft California emergency rules for public water supply:

(1) To prevent waste and unreasonable use of water and to promote water conservation, each distributor of a public water supply, as defined in Water Code section 350, that is not an urban water supplier shall, within forty-five (45) days, take one or more of the following actions:
(A) Limit outdoor irrigation of ornamental landscapes or turf with potable water by the persons it serves to no more than two days per week; or
(B) Implement another mandatory conservation measure or measures intended to achieve a 25 percent reduction in water consumption by the persons it serves relative to the amount consumed in 2013. 

In Florida, the water management districts (except Northwest Florida) generally restrict landscape irrigation to only two days a week from March to November and to only one day a week during the rest of the year. The restrictions do not apply generally to the use of reclaimed water, micro-jet systems, and in a few other applications. Local governments can place additional restrictions on the use of reclaimed water from their systems.

Florida usually gets much more rain than California so more restrictive irrigation rules have a less bothersome effect than they would in California. Californians may finally have to “ditch the water-wasting lawn.” Florida should not be too far behind them.


California’s water management system is far from perfect but it has some advantages over Florida for drought management. For example:

Californians can muck things up very well through bad choices and neglect but at least there seem to be some better water management structures.


Florida’s water management system is far from perfect but it has some advantages over California for drought management. For example:

  • Florida has a unified water permitting system and a single water law doctrine for both surface and groundwater.  California’s water law is a clumsy conglomeration of groundwater doctrines, surface water rights, public trust doctrines, etc., etc. That complexity makes drought response even harder than it needs to be.
  • Florida doesn’t pump water hundreds of miles to water users. When distant sources of water runs short in California, the final users can be sent into full crisis mode.
  • There are fewer water control “knobs” in California available to modify water use practices. They lack a system of regional water management districts with phased water shortage orders like Florida.

We can muck things up very well in Florida through bad choices and neglect but at least there seem to be some better water management structures.

Environmental worries?

I don’t have data specifically for Florida but Gallup polling released a March 5-8, 2015 national survey about “environmental threats.” Results included the degree of “worry” about several environmental concerns:


Both self-identified Democrats and Republicans seem to regard these issues as less important than in 2000. Quite a bit less important for Republicans. Florida voters selected last year an entirely Republican Cabinet and a legislature that is 67% Republican. They’re not worried.