San Francisco residents join campaign to conserve water

Conserving water could be as simple as singing a shorter song in the shower or fixing a leaky faucet, and now there are reasons worth thousands of dollars to do your part.

In anticipation of the Bay Area’s need to have a viable source of water in case of emergency, Mayor Ed Lee has joined a national incentive-based campaign that urges residents across the country to sign a pledge to conserve water with big prizes for the most successful participants.

This would be the first time San Francisco has participated in the friendly competition dubbed the National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation. The city that achieves the most pledges will automatically be entered into a drawing to win prizes where the grand prize will be a new Toyota Prius. San Francisco is currently in fourth place, beating major cities such as Seattle, Los Angeles, and Denver.

Lee has partnered with the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to encourage all residents and businesses to sign an online pledge now through April 30 to use water sparingly in an effort to become more environmentally conscious.

Public Utilities Commission spokeswoman Chandra Johnson said the goal of this challenge is to promote awareness of the ecological dire straits California is facing with continuing climate change and droughts. She emphasized that making a commitment to all forms of conservation, or even just starting the conversation, could make a difference in the fate of the Bay Area’s environmental future.

“For us, it’s more about keeping San Francisco engaged in ongoing efforts to save water,” Johnson said. “We think it’s really a positive way to look at this and get people engaged.”

Johnson estimates that San Francisco residents and businesses use 64 million gallons of water per day. Continued abuse of natural resources could drastically affect the future of the Bay Area due to ongoing climate change.

“A strong earthquake could cause the already fragile levee  system to collapse, resulting in flooding of farmland, saltwater intrusion and thus a severe water shortage to millions of California residents,“ said Dana Wingfield, oceanography lecturer at SF State.

Lily Madjus, communications director for the mayor’s office, said this challenge is part of the annual push to save water. She said that although right now we do have water, we should always be good stewards, especially since we are susceptible to droughts.

“We should be mindful. We shouldn’t use water just to use it,” Madjus said.

The mayor’s office and the SFPUC are using social media like Facebook and Twitter to try to appeal to those who aren’t always conscious of city-wide efforts like the conservation challenge.  Yet, many students at SF State were still unaware of the challenge.

Brian Delino, a 23-year-old kinesiology major, said he did not consider himself an environmentalist, but feels he does his part to conserve water.

“I think it’s dumb to not save water,” Delino said. “It’s easy, (but people) just don’t really care about it.”

Johnson encourages all residents to visit the SFPUC website for tips on how to be more conscious of their water use. The site offers multiple solutions and free programs that help businesses and residents assess their water usage, including ways to crack down on leaks and rebates for buying water efficient toilets and washing machines.

“San Franciscans all have a great reputation for being environmentally savvy and environmentally responsible,” Johnson said. “We want them to take pride in that and to let the rest of the country and state know about what we are doing to save water in San Francisco.”