Will California ever see an end to its drought? For the fourth year straight, the state has experienced the worst water shortages of the entire West Coast and has taken drastic conservation measures to control how much water each household and business is using.
But just as the good news is announced that Californians have saved more water this summer than the government even asked, the flip side of the coin is that these conservation efforts are having negative consequences on the quality of living and even the plumbing systems in California.
After California Gov. Jerry Brown challenged residents to cut back their water consumption this past July 2015 by 25% (compared to their water consumption two years ago during July 2013), everyone was shocked when Gov. Brown announced that Californians managed to cut back consumption by 31% — saving 75 billion gallons of water in just one month, according to the Los Angeles Times.
While these savings certainly are impressive, it’s important to note that California is now trying to make up for lost time; the current drought has been building up for years.
TIME magazine recently reported that 2014 was California’s third-driest year in 119 years, and also the state’s warmest year on record.
It’s estimated that approximately 91% of the state is suffering severely from the drought. From private homes to big corporations, everyone is being asked to cut back.
However, these conservation efforts are having some noticeable unintended — and harmful — consequences. Right now, the issue that no one really wants to talk about is related to the state’s sewage lines.
Shorter showers and washing cycles have led to less waste water in the state’s plumbing system, meaning there’s less recyclable water. And in areas where the terrain is particularly flat, less water running through sewage lines — and very little gravity to move solids through the lines — has increased the risk of blockages. Not only does this increase the possibility that home owners will require sewer repair, but it also has an effect on the environment. As trees extend their roots through manhole covers in search of water, blockages become even more likely and the trees ultimately soak up unhealthy waste.