California State Parks shutting off beach showers to cope with drought

Visitors to beaches around California may have to get in the car with sandy feet, following the rollout of new conservation measures.|

Blame California’s drought for taking away another of life’s little conveniences: using an outdoor shower to rinse off after a day at the beach.

For conservation purposes, California State Parks has shut off water to outdoor showers at beaches statewide, including at Gerstle Cove in Salt Point State Park in Sonoma County, and at Van Damme State Park in Mendocino County. Both beaches are popular with divers.

State Parks also has turned off water to outdoor sinks at Bodega Dunes Campground in Sonoma County and at two state parks in Mendocino - MacKerricher and Russian Gulch. Campers typically use the sinks to clean dishes and other utensils.

Park officials say they can no longer justify the water use given California’s crippling drought.

“It’s more of a convenience than maybe a necessity, although I’m sure the people who use them (showers) would consider them nearly a necessity because they don’t want to get in the car with sandy feet,” said Liz Burko, superintendent of the Sonoma-Mendocino Coast District for California State Parks.

Workers were planning to post signs this weekend noting the changes.

“I don’t know that anyone will be surprised,” Burko said. “They may be disappointed, to a degree, but I think people understand why.”

State park visitors, who number more than 85 million annually, are responsible for using the most water within park boundaries, officials said.

On average, each overnight visitor requires approximately 25 gallons of water per day. Officials note that’s far less than the estimated 80-100 gallons people use at home. But they make the case that more savings are needed.

State Parks estimates that shutting off outdoor rinse stations will conserve more than 1.2 gallons of water per shower or rinse, thus potentially saving a total of more than 18 million gallons of water annually.

State Parks said it has met Gov. Jerry Brown’s mandate to reduce water use by 25 percent through a variety of conservation actions, including installing low-flow showerheads and toilets at many locations.

Burko said staff on the North Coast have made water conservation a priority.

“We’ve got our folks looking at it every day to make sure nothing’s leaking or been turned on and left on,” she said.

Indoor showers at state park campgrounds are not affected by the new mandate. But Burko said that could change in the future.

“Given the severity of the drought, I won’t say that won’t be up for discussion,” she said.

You can reach Staff Writer Derek Moore at 521-5336 or ?On Twitter @deadlinederek.

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