Life Beyond ‘Flush and Forget’ Philosophy

The acknowledgment that Californians have to change their water-use patterns is not necessarily bad news for people who have been objecting for years to what Bill Roley of Laguna Beach calls the “flush-and-forget-it philosophy.”

Roley, who is on leave from Saddleback College, teaches environmental science and designs ecological systems--including a model house and environment called Sprout Acres in Laguna Beach.

He says we need to rethink everything about water:

“We’re living in a desert and decorating the Hollywood stage set with anything we want.”


The first thing he challenges is the current 10% cutback plan.

“People who have been conserving are being penalized, by being put in the same category with people who haven’t,” he says. He and his wife Susanne have two small children and live in a two-story house.

With flow restrictors, low-flow toilets and an elaborate xeriscape garden/lawn, they have limited their water use to between 100 and 180 gallons a day, he says.

“But I just got a notice from my water district that I have to reduce my water use by 10%. I have to show conservation. Well, I am showing conservation.


“Instead of restricting, we should reward people for innovation. That’s the first line of defense.”

His larger-scale ideas for reform increasingly are heard in Southern California’s growing world of ecological planners. For instance, says Roley:

“We need to distinguish between the priorities of survival and landscape (water) use. We could set up two meters on a house: one for the landscape and one for the personal use. They should be priced separately.

“Houses should be designed differently. We need some sort of filter tank for the bathwater and washing machine so it can be used as gray water for landscape watering.”


On a larger scale, he would incorporate arid strategies into land-use planning.

“When we lay out developments we should use all the surface run-off as an asset. Instead of designing houses so the roof and drain gutters take the water off, we should find ways to cistern it up for home use.

“We should look at water in terms of a whole sustainable system and total reuse.”