Until this spring, California–and particularly Southern California–had been in a water crisis. It is likely that this will again be true unless Southern Californians learn to be water wise. Here are some things you can do to be more sustainable in your water usage:
- Change to low flow showerheads and aerators on the faucets. These low flow options use about a gallon per minute (gpm) less than standard units; some use 0.5-1.5 gpm instead of 2.0-2.5 gpm. Additionally, there are some low flow showerheads available that also have a temperature sensor inside and reduce the flow to a trickle when the water reaches a certain temperature until a button or chain is activated to resume water flow.
- While not popular, you may be surprised how many fewer showers you can get by with. Your skin may even thank you. Obviously if you have a dirty, stinky, or sweaty job, you will need to take frequent showers, but the rest could probably skip one here and there. If you take more than eight showers per week, see if you can skip one or more and take a “dry shower” instead (using deodorant only).
- If reducing the number of showers you take is not an option, take shorter showers. Turn the water off while you lather or shave; some showerheads have a shut off option for this purpose. I am appalled by the recent trend in the home improvement/construction industry to install multiple shower heads–some having ten or more!
- If you have older, 2.5+ gallon per flush (gpf) toilets, consider changing out to high efficiency toilets, which use 0.8-1.6 gpf.
- Instead of running the kitchen sink (or any other sink for that matter) at full force, reduce the flow to the minimum needed for the task. Use a basin or bowl to catch spill over and use this to water plants.
- Wash full loads, but not overfull, in the dishwasher and washing machine.
- Energy Star horizontal axis washing machines use significantly less water than their traditional vertical axis counterparts. Additionally, the horizontal units are rated with a drying factor, which reduces the amount of drying needed.
Indoors & Outdoors
- Fix drips, dribbles, and leaks. Wasted water is wasted money as well as potentially inviting damage to the home or equipment as well as creating unhealthy or unsafe conditions. It may surprise you how quickly these drops add up–5 gallons per day per faucet if there is one drip per second (see the calculator at http://ga.water.usgs.gov/edu/sc4.html).
- Turn faucets off when not in use, including while washing your hair, the car, or dog and brushing your teeth.
- See available rebates at http://socalgas.com/for-your-home/rebates/, http://www.riversideca.gov/utilities/residents.asp, or your water provider’s website.
- Ensure sprinklers are properly adjusted so you are not watering the sidewalk, driveway, street, or other unintended areas.
- Adjust sprinklers when the weather changes. Some sprinkler controllers have a percent adjustment feature. Using July/August as 100% you simply dial in the percent desired. Using the watering index and calculator at http://www.bewaterwise.com/ makes it easy.
- Grass is one of the thirstiest plant types around. Anywhere you can replace grass with hardscape (e.g., concrete, gravel, decorative stones), synthetic turf, or hardier plants, you have an opportunity to save water.
- Use a broom instead of the hose to sweep off patios, driveways, sidewalks, etcetera.
- Replace pop-up sprinklers with spray rotators. Instead of using 2-3 gpm each, the rotating spray (not be confused with rotating stream) sprinklers use 0.5-1.5 gpm.
- Group plants with similar watering needs on the same sprinkler zone (e.g., taking into account exposure to sun/shade and other conditions); separate those having differing needs.
- If moss or mold is present or if the ground is soggy, it could be an indication that the ground is being over watered.
- For clay or sandy soils, it is usually best to water more frequently for shorter periods of time (e.g., during the summer 3-5 minutes maximum, 2-3 times/day instead of 10-15 minutes all at once).
- Consider using native or drought tolerant plants. See http://www.bewaterwise.com/Gardensoft/browser04.aspx?SearchType=Characteristic and http://www.ehow.com/list_6760955_xeriscape-california-plant-list.html for some ideas.
- Catch precious rain water in a rain barrel and use for watering plants later.