Each time I walk in the hills above Sonoma, I find reasons to use water sparingly and with care. The less we withdraw for our own use, the more stays in the creek for others to live in, drink, or appreciate. Ten species that I know need the water, because I’ve seen them or their sign while walking this month:
1. California giant salamanders
2. Steelhead trout
4. Gray fox
5. Wood duck
8. Mule deer
10. Human children
Yesterday at a valley health club I was visiting, a mother repeatedly urged her tiny son back under the shower after he was rinsed off and ready to be dressed. He said again and again that he was done; she admonished him to continue to stand under the shower, where it was warm. She was dressing and not ready to towel him off, apparently. This went on for many minutes, perhaps seven total. My estimate of how many gallons of drinking water that used: at a minimum of 2.5 gallons per minute of flow, a shower that might have used 2.5 gallons or less (had the child’s advice to turn off the water been taken) used closer to 20. Multiply that miniscule person’s use by the 41,300 or so valley inhabitants, and all of us taking a daily shower requires some 826,000 gallons a day — not counting drinking, irrigating, washing cars, and miscellaneous uses like hosing sidewalks.
Perhaps when it rains we think that the water as it falls from the sky is immediately ready for our use as shower water and drinking water. In fact, it takes the water time to cycle back through soil and bedrock to the aquifer feeding the creek or feeding our pipes. An easy way to raise our awareness is to remember the salamander in the creek because we love our children — and to preserve life for them. I’d like to see mothers think about how their children, if urged to use water with the care it deserves, will also come to know the other creatures in the watershed. With the creek water withdrawn, either directly or because of depletion of the groundwater that feeds base flow, these species will be gone.