Drought or not, we need to be good stewards of our water
Maria Zampini for Nursery Management

I recently returned from the California Spring Trials where I represented the HGTV HOME Plant Collection. If you’re not familiar with this annual event, it’s where the world’s prominent breeders, growers, educators, brokers, marketing professionals and other plant enthusiasts preview new introductions that will debut in the marketplace the following year. Think of CAST like an outdoor trade show but you have to drive the coast of the Golden State from San Francisco to Los Angeles to visit each vendor display. Yes, it is held during the peak of the spring shipping season (insert groan here). But it provides a great high-level view of where the industry is going.

During CAST set-up, I needed to travel from San Luis Obispo to Santa Paula to pick up plants one day. But what should have essentially been a straight shot down and back on the 101 turned into something more. MapQuest decided to take me on the scenic route through the Los Padres National Forest. It was an eye-opening detour.

I knew the drought was bad in California, but seeing is believing. During my trek over the (now dry) river and through the woods, I went past Lake Cachuma, a recreational area in Santa Barbara County. I saw first-hand the drought devastation as the lake is at less than 40 percent of capacity. I went past several scenic overlook stops, but any photos would have been a panoramic view of weeds and brush where water should have been. It was unbelievable.

About the same time CAST started, Gov. Jerry Brown ordered California’s first-ever mandatory water cutback, imposing a 25 percent reduction to force residents and businesses to significantly tighten up water use. It was the topic of conversation in print, on-line and on-air. The governor said it is a new era and they have to save water however they can.

According to a recent article in USA Today, 40 states will have water shortages in the next decade. After watching a piece on the local news, it inspired me to see how I could conserve more water, in particular when it comes to gardening and my landscape. Right now I have a choice about conserving water, whereas for many it’s a requirement.

The San Francisco Chronicle states Brown’s executive order also:

  • Requires campuses, golf courses and cemeteries to install water-saving systems to meet the 25 percent reduction.
  • Prohibits new homes and developments from irrigating with drinkable water unless a water-efficient drip irrigation system is used.
  • Bans cities from watering ornamental grass on public street medians.
  • Requires 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state to be replaced with drought-tolerant landscaping through programs with local governments.
  • Creates a temporary, statewide consumer rebate program to replace old water-guzzling appliances with more efficient ones.
  • Requires farmers to report more information on their water use to state regulators.
  • Increases state enforcement of illegal diversions of water or unreasonable water waste.

That’s a lot of instantaneous change.

I think back on the inception of the invasive issue and in my opinion, I felt some government bodies took a legislative and regulatory perspective of “monkey see, monkey do” reactionary measures based on what their neighbors did. Will this also happen with water conservation? Maybe, maybe not.

Water is our most precious commodity and a staple for our lives; literally as human beings and obviously for the success of our products. This is the time we need to evaluate drought-tolerant plants in our product line, as well as evaluating and incorporating (if you haven’t already) water conservation into your strategic plans.

I know that pollinators may be today’s hot button issue, but water shortages could be just as big, if not bigger. Are you going to be ready with a life jacket or are you going to sink instead?


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