California is in the midst of an historic drought with no end in sight. Last year, the state experienced its driest year in recorded history with reservoirs and snow packs, which are normally an important water source during the summer months, at less than 20% of their normal levels. Less than 25% of average precipitation fell on California, only exacerbating an already 3 year long streak of record high temps and dryness. At this point, even a year of above average precipitation won’t be enough to pull the Golden State out of its troubles which is why California Governor Brown declared a state of emergency to address shortages with conservation, regulation, and awareness campaigns. That’s where you come in.
Water conservation might sound intimidating and can conjure up Hollywood images of strained and struggling communities coping with desert desperation, but the reality is far less dramatic for our intents and purposes. As it turns out, all it takes is a few quick and painless adjustments to save gallons of water a day and dollars of your water bill. Here’s how.
1) Turn off the faucet: If you don’t have a dishwasher, don’t run the water while you’re washing the dishes. At that point you’re mostly just letting good, fresh water down the drain. Instead, fill up the two basins – one for wash/ one for rinse. If you only have one basin, use a large pot or a rinse bucket.
2) Recycle grey water: Even after you’ve used the dishwater, you don’t have to drain it. Why not repurpose it? If you’re using an organic “garden friendly” soup you could always use the leftover dish water to water the plants or your garden outside. The wash water will probably be too greasy, but you could fill up buckets with rinse water, run it through a strainer, and put it directly into a watering container to give to your green friends. While you’re at it, anytime you drop an ice cube, instead of tossing it in the sink, throw it in a house plant.
3) Don’t thaw frozen food by running water over the package: Let it defrost in the fridge overnight. It takes longer, but it won’t be a waste and it’s actually more hygienic and allows food to thaw slowly rather than in uneven chunks in the sink which could lead to bacteria contamination.
4) Clean fruits in veggies in a pan: Instead of running the water to clean off fruits and veggies, simply fill up a pot or pan and wash them in there. Again, you can – and should – use the leftover water to water plants.
5) Use the right pan and pot size for the job: when cooking, use the proper sized cooking items, and only fill them up with water as much as you have to. Not only will it save on water, but it will help keep more flavor and nutrients in your food.
6) Consider purchasing a high efficiency toilet: They save an average of 19 gallons of water per person per day. They tend to pay for themselves overtime by cutting down your water bill significantly.
7) Plug the sink/ turn off the faucet: If you’re shaving, plug the sink and rinse off your razor that way instead of running the water. Doing that will save up to a whopping 300 gallons a month. If you turn off the faucet while you brush, you’ll save up to 10 gallons per day.
8) Cut back on your shower time: for every minute less you shower, you’ll save 5 gallons of water.
9) Use drought resistant vegetation: Some plants do far better with less water than others. Consider investing in plants and trees that use less. In addition, in cities like Los Angeles, you could earn tax rebates for doing things like replacing your grass with dirt or decorative rocks.
10) Use mulch around trees and plants: mulch reduces evaporation making watering more efficient, and it also improves the soil around the plant and prevents weeds.
11) Use a broom to clean driveways and sidewalks: If you sweep surfaces rather than spray them down you’ll save 8-18 gallons a minute.
Most of these simple tips require little effort, but they’ll save you hundreds of gallons every single month. If everyone does their part, we can keep things relatively comfortable even as we navigate the worst years the drought has to offer.