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California

Santa Monica seeks water freedom

Rain barrels, cisterns pop up all over city

  • In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • This Feb. 28, 2014 photo shows a 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from the roof of Josephine Miller's home in Santa Monica, Calif., which she uses to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    This Feb. 28, 2014 photo shows a 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from the roof of Josephine Miller's home in Santa Monica, Calif., which she uses to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • This Feb. 28, 2014 photo shows a 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from the roof of Josephine Miller's home in Santa Monica, Calif., which she uses to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    This Feb. 28, 2014 photo shows a 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from the roof of Josephine Miller's home in Santa Monica, Calif., which she uses to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

    In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water. (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

  • In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
  • In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
  • This Feb. 28, 2014 photo shows a 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from the roof of Josephine Miller's home in Santa Monica, Calif., which she uses to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
  • This Feb. 28, 2014 photo shows a 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from the roof of Josephine Miller's home in Santa Monica, Calif., which she uses to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
  • In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
  • In this Feb. 28, 2014 photo, Santa Monica, Calif., resident Josephine Miller stands next to her 200-gallon water storage tank that collects rain from her home's roof to water her garden. With California in a drought, some communities in recent years have turned to water conservation measures in an effort to cut down on imported water.  (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

Drops of rain fell on Josephine Miller’s 1920s bungalow – a watery relief in the midst of a punishing drought. Instead of flowing into storm drains and washing out to sea, an oversized tank harvested the precious resource to keep her thirsty citrus trees and vegetables from shriveling up on dry days.

Across Santa Monica, Calif., backyard rain barrels and cisterns are becoming fashionable. Since 2010, the beach city has doled out 385 rebates to homeowners who direct rainwater back into their gardens as part of a broader effort to become water independent that also includes cleaning up contaminated groundwater and recycling water.

“This is kind of a no-brainer, low-hanging fruit solution for anyone,” said Miller, who three years ago installed a 205-gallon water storage container, which resembles an upright accordion.

California is gripped by historic parched conditions that have desiccated farmland, dried up reservoirs and forced rural communities to ration water.

A welcome dousing late last month did little to break the arid spell.

Even before this latest drought emergency, some agencies that historically draw their water from the overtapped Colorado River and Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta have taken steps to slash their dependence on water from outside sources and boost their own supplies. Past drought woes, particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s, have forced some communities to rethink where their water comes from, and they’re increasingly realizing local sources are insurance against future dry weather.

Santa Monica, population 92,000, has perhaps the loftiest goal: to completely wean itself off outside water by 2020.

They build ultrafiltration and reverse osmosis desalination plants in Saudi Arabia for under $400 Million. California probably spends that on tax deductions for 1 liberal Hollywood movie studio where the lead actor makes $60 million

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