Californians: How to Conserve Water to Weather the Drought
With California’s drought in its fourth year, water conservation has become more urgent than ever. Following Governor Brown’s order to reduce statewide water consumption by 25 percent between June and February compared to 2013 levels, Californians rose to the occasion and cut usage 31 percent in July. State residents are saving billions of gallons of water daily by taking steps such as letting their lawns die and using buckets to collect shower water. These extra efforts dramatize how committed residents are to conserving water; but even if you don’t want to let your lawn turn brown, there are some simple, everyday steps you can take to cut your water consumption.
Landscape, Lawn and Garden
Outdoor landscaping accounts for the largest water consumption of a typical California home, according to the California Department of Water Resources. The Department’s Save Our Water website recommends a number of tips for cutting outdoor water usage.
First, find out how much water your landscape actually needs. This will let you water more deeply but less frequently so you’re less inclined to overwater. The University of California provides links to online calculators you can use to make accurate estimates. You can reduce the amount of water you need by selecting drought-resistant plants, which can save 30 to 60 gallons per 1,000 square feet each time you water. Planting mulch around trees and plants will reduce evaporation and keep the soil cool, saving 20 to 30 gallons per 1,000 square feet.
Using water-efficient irrigation methods such as a drip irrigation system will cut your consumption by 15 gallons per watering. Adjust your sprinklers so you’re only watering your lawn and not your house, driveway, or sidewalk, saving you 12 to 15 gallons. Watering early in the morning or late in the evening when temperatures are cooler can save 25 gallons. Finally, if you really want to cut down on the amount of water your yard consumes, some companies are now offering to replace your lawn with drought-tolerant landscaping for free.
Other Outdoor Issues: Driveways, Cars and Swimming Pools
Adopting different methods to clean your driveway, sidewalks, and patio is another way to save water. Using a broom will save 8 to 18 gallons per minute. A water broom, which attaches to your hose but uses air power to reduce water usage, will only use 2.8 gallons of water per minute, compared to 5 to 20 for a typical hose.
You can also cut water usage when washing your car. Instead of using a regular hose, use a bucket and sponge or a hose with a self-closing nozzle, saving 8 to 18 gallons per minute.
Good swimming pool management can also cut your water usage. Properly-maintained swimming pool water can last five years or more before needing replacement, according to the Bakersfield Californian. Energy Star provides a guide to energy-efficient pool pumps that can extend the lifespan of your water when paired with a good filtering system. Using energy-efficient pool accessories such as solar blankets can reduce evaporation as well as help your pool water conserve heat energy.
Bathroom and Laundry
Toilets, showers, and faucets account for two-thirds of indoor water use, with toilets alone representing 40 percent of indoor consumption, according to the EPA. Replacing an old pre-1990 toilet with an energy-efficient one can save up to 38 gallons of water per toilet daily, says the San Jose Mercury News. If your toilet is leaky, a new flapper can save 7,000 gallons per month. Cutting shower time from 10 minutes down to 5 can save 12.5 to 25 gallons per day depending on whether your showerhead is low-flow or standard. Turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth saves 10 gallons a day, while fixing a leaky faucet can save anywhere from 350 to 2,000 gallons a month.
You can also reduce your water consumption when doing your laundry. A water-efficient washing machine can save 16 gallons per washload.
Cutting the water you use in the kitchen is another way you can reduce your overall consumption. Dishwashers made before 1994 waste 10 gallons of water more per cycle more than newer models, so make sure you have an energy-efficient dishwasher. Other ways to save water in the kitchen include installing aerators to reduce faucet flow, avoiding using running water to thaw food, and soaking pots and pans instead of letting the water run.