The Crow and the Pitcher: a New Twist on an Old Fable

A crow perishing with thirst saw a pitcher, and hoping to find water, flew to it with delight. When he reached it, he discovered to his grief that it contained so little water that he could not possibly get at it. He tried everything he could think of to reach the water, but all his efforts were in vain. At last he collected as many stones as he could carry and dropped them one by one with his beak into the pitcher, until he brought the water within his reach and thus saved his life. Moral: Necessity is the mother of invention. CrowandPitcher

A few weeks ago, I attended a water-leak detection training with our Climate Planning Program Director, Nicholas Martin and CivicSpark fellow, Alyssa Collins held at the Nevada Irrigation District (NID). Rob Meston of Utility Services Associates walked NID staff through the importance of leak detection and various methods for detecting leaks. Three full days of field training were dedicated to taking NID staff on-site, using the detection equipment quite literally on the ground.

Catching leaks is important because pipes with leaks are: 1) wasting water–a very important and scarce resource to a state that has been in an ongoing drought, 2) wasting energy–energy that is used to pump and move water along the pipeline into our homes, and 3) wasting money. As a small water agency without a dedicated leak detection staff, this training was valuable for NID.

Here’s what I kept thinking while going through the training: I’m glad for the drought. “Blasphemer!” you’re probably thinking. Let me explain:

1. I’m glad because it forced people to pay attention to their leaky, over-used faucet and a cistern that has no guarantee of ever being refilled.

2. I’m glad because it unveiled reality– a world of finite resources and the need to take better care.

3. I’m glad because it offers people the chance to feel good, to be part of a solution through simple behavior changes.

4. Lastly, I’m glad because people in the industry made the connection between water and energy and called it the water-energy nexus, and that sounds sexy.

I am grateful for this water-energy nexus. Why? It brings a whole new vibe to SBC’s energy efficiency work. Title 24 code compliance and on-bill financing for lighting upgrades just aren’t sexy the way shower timers, low-flow toilet swaps, and water-efficient landscaping rebates are. It’s not because they aren’t as beneficial, because they are. It’s just that code compliance and on-bill financing are usually behind the scenes and a bit more intangible with most of the major benefits, via kilowatt hours saved, happening over time. In Aesop’s fable, our crow friend kicked his wits into high gear when his life was on the line. He looked around him, found something he could use, developed a strategy, and implemented a life-saving solution. If his innovation weren’t so imperative though, would it ever have happened?

California’s drought has forced water conservation measures to become the norm. I am thrilled to see energy efficiency included in the conversation because really, water leak detection and most other water conservation measures are inherently energy efficiency measures – two birds, one stone. Or in the case of our fine, feathered friend – one bird, many stones.

Through a combination of necessity and innovative spirit, two things the Sierra has in spades, we too can find solutions to the issues looming over our beloved region. The Nevada Irrigation District is well on their way to doing their part by offering the following events and vouchers:

Mulch Magic Voucher:

When: April 1, 2016 – June 30, 2016 or while supplies last

What: Partnership between Nevada Irrigation District (NID) and Nevada County Resource Conservation District (NCRCD) to educate the community of the multiple benefits of mulch and to give away approximately 160 cubic yards of shredded cedar or redwood bark via a voucher for __ cubic yard per resident that can be redeemed at either Rare Earth Landscaping or Four Seasons Landscaping. Vouchers will be available at NID’s main office and the NCRCD office beginning Friday, April 1, 2016.


  • Adding 2 to 3 inches of mulch around trees and plants can save more than 60 gallons of water per week for every 1,000 square feet of irrigated landscape. 
  • Mulch keeps soil moist and slows evaporation allowing water to sink into the soil. 
  • Mulch breaks down into the soil providing nutrients for plants. 
  • Mulch moderates soil temperature. 
  • Mulch suppresses weeds.

Fruit & Vegetable Growers Irrigation Workshop:

When: Saturday, April 23, 2016 from 9 am to Noon

What: This workshop is intended to help commercial growers conserve water while improving soil and crop production. This workshop features indoor and outdoor presentations. Topics include: 

  • Low volume irrigation systems—what works for fruits and vegetables 
  • Estimating soil moisture by feel 
  • Using soil moisture monitoring tools 
  • Techniques such as mulching and cover crops to help conserve water and keep crops healthy

Featuring presenter Cindy Fake, UCCE Horticulture and Small Farms Advisor. Bring a chair, walking shoes and sunscreen. Light refreshments will be provided. Workshop will be held at Sweet Roots Farm South Nevada County. Call for details. Space is limited. Participants Must Preregister at:

For information please contact: 530-273-6185 Ext 286 or