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California Drought Is History Repeating Itself; 4th Drought Since 1976

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) — You've heard the bad news about California's drought before. In fact, Gov. Jerry Brown created a drought emergency task force  - in March of 1977 during Brown's first stint as governor. History tends to repeat itself and now it's the same governor with the same arid problem on his hands.

Last month, Brown said that the drought means that "nature is real." Or did he say that last 38 years ago? It's hard to keep track. As a native Californian of a certain age, I'm living now through my fourth drought.

There was the '76-'77, '79-'82, 2007 and today's. By now, I know how to save water. My wife and I now average 40 gallons a day. We don't have a lawn; I take short showers, and turn the faucet off while washing dishes. I'm doing better than most.

"The average East Bay Municipal Utility District customer uses about 50 gallons per day," said EBMUD spokeswoman Nelsy Rodriguez.

EBMUD is the region's largest retail water supplier. By summer, it will likely ask people to use 35 gallons a day. That's 30 percent less than the average now.

"It surprises people when they actually do start paying attention to how much water they use," Rodriguez said.

Tom Nelson, manager at Ace Hardware near Oakland's Lake Merritt, said 35 gallons a day is achievable. Nelson lived for years off the grid in Hawaii using a 55-gallon drum to collect rain water. He admits with those rations his family wouldn't be able to live the same way as they do today.

What does 35 gallons a day look like? He says he'd spend about 30 seconds getting wet in the shower. Then you turn off the water, lather up wash with soap and shampoo and spend maybe two minutes tops rinsing.

"Dishwashers are very efficient, but you have to be really careful to only run them when they're really full. You have to totally change your lifestyle," Nelson said.

And never forget: 1977 ushered in the phrase 'If it's yellow, it's mellow. If it's brown flush it down.' And these days outside— brown is the new green.

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