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This story first appeared in the Oct. 2 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
My childhood in Austria made me a fanatic about conservation. We didn’t have running water, so I had to schlep the water 200 yards from a well. And you can believe that when you have to do that, even when it is snowing, you don’t waste an ounce of water.
I was 15 before I took my first shower. It was in the local gym, and the water was freezing. So I never believed in long showers, and I had a rule with my kids that when they were in there for more than five minutes, I turned the hot water off. As this drought hit, I wanted to do more, so I’ve had a strategy for both the short-term and far into the future.
I’ve decreased our water usage this August compared to 2013 by more than 40 percent, and almost everything I’ve done is something anyone can do. Besides just watering the lawn much less and fixing sprinklers, I replaced a big percentage of my grass with artificial turf and tile. And it hasn’t ruined the look of the yard: The artificial grass looks so real that my pony, Whiskey, still tries to eat it.
As for the future, I saw when it rained and our drainage system blasted all of this usable water into the one place we don’t need more water: the ocean. So I’m adding large cisterns to collect that rainwater, which we should be doing all over the state, to water my lawn. Local and state governments should start building long-term infrastructure, from rain-collecting cisterns to much larger water-storage projects, so that we can store water in our wet years for the inevitable dry years. But talk is cheap, so I’m walking the walk at my own house.
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