Droughtresponse! was formed in early 2014 by Peter Kampa, a 20 year veteran water manager, to offer California communities and their water providers the resources and strategies necessary to successfully cope with the worst drought in the state’s history, and possibly the most damaging natural disaster ever to rock the Golden State!
As a water district manager constantly struggling to cut cost, comply with regulations and meet community expectations, revenue was always an issue. Raising water rates to fund the rising cost of system operations and improvement was bad enough; but raising rates to implement water conservation? A very unpopular venture, especially for rural Sierra Nevada foothill communities with ample amounts of surplus water rights in storage and diversion projects to meet current and near future community water needs. Water conservation programs are always more expensive to implement for water agencies that place a $0 value on water they receive at a $0 cost per acre foot, right?
After January 2014 California water managers realized tha their worst wate nighmare could come true….a drought worse than 1976-77. But wait, all of our formulas, trajectories, headings, bearings, supply calculations and cost/benefit analysis were based on how the 76-77 drought affected the entire state’s water system. We must have been “smoking something” back then, because here we are facing an epic drought. A water shortage for 17 systems” according the the State DPH. My estimates for communities with dangerously low, or no water is well over 100. As managers, we are still hoping for huge March snow storms. Even if they don’t come, we are still good…..right? We are busy planning our engineered solutions like mad; dusting off old wells, pumping homeowner ponds, installing interties between systems and recycling any possible standing water. We are mandating our customers to cut back on consumption up to 50%, and they will or by golly we will nail them with fees, fines and penalty rates….right?
As water managers we are schooled and learn to plan for the weakest link, because it will fail. What if we do not get the March storms? Then what is our customers, who we have given almost 40 years of extremely low cost water with very few water use restrictions decide they don’t want their pansies, organic vegetable garden and prize turf to die a water starved death? Thats okay because the wells we put on line will keep us in water…right? Don’t count on it.
There is one thing on which you can count. The majority of our water providers are extremely dedicated and will do nearly anything to keep our communities in water. Unfortunately we as public agencies have been resistant to implementing water conservation programs that take into account the 2014 TECHNO lifestyle. Instant messaging, text, email, compute controlled cars, homes, and lives. Roll back to 1976…. we got home from work at 5:15 and smoked a cigar while reading the paper on the EZ Boy, and we had time to read “emergency drought restrictions” flyers sent by mail. We could visualize the savings of a toilet with a brick in the tank to reduce water consumption. Today is 2014 and we need a new approach toward water conservation. Customers scream and want to sue you when the water does not flow beautifully from their tap. They wonder “why you did not send me a text message or email to warn me??? And conserve 30%? How? I already have low flow fixtures and an HE washing machine? You mean you are telling me to cut back 30%, you are going to charge me more money and I have to dig through your website for a 60 page documents on how to do a sprinkler can test to save my lawn? Come on, please show me how to do this!!”
This is where Droughtresponse! comes in. We employ a 2014, technology and customer service based approach to rapidly achieve a reduction in a community’s water consumption. When combined with fines, enforcement and emergency water supplies if necessary, communities are virtually assured continuous water supply and a damage free drought experience. Our strategies affect a long term change in consumer water use patterns, freeing up valuable water and wastewater system capacity; and providing the tools to more effectively handle the next California drought! Our methods will allow water providers to defer or eliminate the need to build expensive capacity related improvements.