When I was an itty bitty thing, California went through a terrible drought. Since I was so little, my memories are few and mostly involve not being allowed to play in the sprinkler when it was hot outside, but it made a major impression on me. My formative years were during a time of water scarcity, and I have striven to never take it for granted.
Once again, California is experiencing crippling drought. In fact, this is the driest it has ever been on record. Having grown up in the arid West, I have many water-conserving habits and try to incorporate more all the time. Some of the things on this list may be a little controversial, but hey, being a Northern Californian, I’m used to controversy. I still remember the last water wars and how they threatened to tear our state in two.
1. Let your lawn die. California is a Mediterranean and/or desert climate. While there are a few micro-climates where lawns can live naturally, for the majority of California, it requires way too much water to have one of those lush, green rectangles. Instead, look into drought tolerant and native plants and landscaping fit for a dry environment. Of course, if you have HOA requirements, this can be a no-go, but if you can, go for something that doesn’t require watering.
2. Turn off the water when it’s not being actively used. What do I mean by that? Don’t let the water run while brushing your teeth, washing the dishes, shaving, etc.
3. Fix any leaks right away. One leaky faucet can waste 1,000 gallons of water a year.
4. Only do laundry when you have a full load. Because of this rule, I’ve had delicates languishing in the hamper for quite some time, but eventually, I’ll have enough to justify a cycle in the washer.
5. Invest in high efficiency appliances. We’re almost there. We have a high efficiency washing machine (and dryer). While our dishwasher is somewhat new, we’re planning on investing in something even more efficient this year. Something to keep in mind – dishwashers typically use less water than washing by hand.
6. Use low flow attachments – faucets, shower heads, etc. I’ve been using a shower head that I turn to drip when I’m not actively rinsing since I moved out on my own. (So um, just under two decades now.) It saves a considerable amount of water. Since we’re experiencing a water hardship, I’m now going to go a step further and turn off the shower completely while I lather up and soap, shave my legs, etc. Keep your shower to under five minutes, and you’ll save up to 1,000 gallons a month!
7. Collect the water that you use to rinse veggies, that is running while you wait for the tap to warm up, etc. and use it to water your houseplants.
8. If your county/city codes allow it, have a plumber reroute your greywater to trees and outdoor plants instead of it going into the sewer, and collect the rain water from your gutters for use in the yard.
9. Install a water-saving toilet. If that’s out of reach, install a dual-flush system in your current toilet until you can upgrade. Young House Love has an awesome tutorial on how to switch out the old handle for a dual-flush system.
10. Use a drip irrigation system for your garden. Fresh veggies are good. Losing water to evaporation… not so much.
Only 2 percent of the world’s water is fresh water. It’s a very precious resource. While you may not be able to implement everything on this list, every little bit helps so much. More resources are available at bewatersmart.info, wateruseitwisely.com, and epa.gov/oaintrnt/water.
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