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LEARNING FROM CALIFORNIA

​Dry times: What Florida can learn from the drought in California

 The drought in California is wreaking havoc across the state through an apocalyptic-like combination of flash floods and wildfires. The results and responses range from desperate to absurd – from towns running out of water to people painting brown grass green.

 In 2014, California recorded its third driest year in more than a century, with about 90 percent of the golden state now affected. The drought, in its fourth year, is forcing scientists, politicians, activists, and everyday citizens to confront the stark realities of living without water. After water restrictions were imposed in June, there have been renewed calls for California to upgrade its water infrastructure and reform its antiquated water rights system.

 Florida isn't suffering like California, but we have our own water woes in the Sunshine State. At Toho Water Authority, we're working to protect our regional water supply through conservation measures as an important part of the Central Florida Water Initiative.

 Here are 5 things Florida can learn from the drought in California:

1. A centralized water management system could perhaps work more efficiently. California's water is distributed through a fragmented patchwork of local water districts that results in fragmented response, much like in Florida. One system could allow for more uniform water laws and more clear messages to the public.

 2. New ways to water crops. Using more reclaimed water for agriculture – Florida's top industry behind tourism – would help protect the state's water supplies. In California, farmers are scrambling for ways to water their crops to produce the food we all eat.

 3. Catch more rain water. Every drop of rain caught is a drop of potable water saved. And we all know, despite its nickname, our state gets plenty of rain. Water tanks and catch systems could become a point of pride for the water-conscious gardener, and even homeowners, in the future. Some states do not allow rain water harvesting so check in your area for restrictions.

 4. Statewide rebates. Did you know you could save 10,000 gallons of water a year with a more efficient toilet? And that Toho could help you pay for it?

5. Charging extra for waterhogs.  It's a controversial topic in California and a court recently ruled a tiered pricing system unconstitutional. But even just discussing price incentives gets people talking more about the value of water. Either way, we shouldn't waste it and economic incentives to use water wisely can help!