“Don’t let L.A. drip dry.” I still remember this water conservation commercial from the ’80’s that showed a man turning on his bathroom faucet, and only drips came out. At the time, with my childish gullibility, I believed that those drips were imminent – maybe the next time I tried to brush my teeth. Los Angeles survived that drought, and several since then, but it’s always on the horizon.
I have yet to live in place that wasn’t short on water. One place I lived (surprisingly not southern California) had a countdown report on the evening news regarding how many days until the city ran out of water.
All this to say, conserving water has always been in my consciousness, but I’m still looking for ways to keep tightening the belt.
Beginning steps to water conservation:
- Take shorter showers – Don’t use your shower to wake up. Turn the water off while soaping up or shaving.
- Turn off the water while brushing your teeth.
- Run only full loads in the dishwasher and washing machine. (Your clothes get cleaner with full loads in the washer because it relies partially on the agitation of the clothes against one another to clean.)
- To wash dishes, use a sink of soapy water and a sink or rinse water.
- In general, whatever you’re doing, don’t leave the water running.
- Install a dual-flush toilet, which gives you two flush options for, well, heavy or light loads. (And don’t use your toilet as a trashcan.)
- Find and fix leaks. I go out to the water meter at a time when I believe there is no water running. I note the numbers and then check again in 10 minutes. If they’ve moved, I’ve got a drip somewhere. Common spots in my house: hoses, faucets left on by kids, toilets which leak from the tank into the bowl, broken sprinkler heads.
Fine-tuning your conservation:
- Capture the water from the faucet as you’re waiting for the hot water to arrive. Keep an empty gallon jug or watering can under your sink for this purpose. Keep a bucket near your shower for the same. Water plants with it. Fill the dog’s water bowl. Use it to mop your floor, wash your car, wash your baseboards, add it to the bathtub, fill your toilet tank.
- Do you have a half a cup of water leftover? Dump it on a plant. Don’t have plants? Get some. Especially keep them by kitchen and bathroom sinks, where you often have excess water.
- Leftover cooking water. Let it cool and take it out to a thirsty plant. (You can’t do this with salted water.)
- Do you have acid loving plants? (Think azaleas, blue hydrangeas, blueberries.) Take that ½ cup of coffee left at the bottom of the pot, dilute it with water and pour it on the roots.
Long Term conservation:
- Landscape planning – Know your regional, low water plants. Sunset’s Western Garden Book is a great resource for west of the Rockies. Work with the climate and soil, rather than against it.
- Get to know your irrigation system. Implement drip systems where you can vary the flow to each plant, matching its needs. Chat with someone at an irrigation store for a quick crash course.
- Install rain barrels on your gutter downspouts – I haven’t done this yet, but I think about it every time we get a good rain (about twice a year). I sit there watching the water pour out of the gutters and think of the possibilities.
- Look into greywater irrigation systems, which capture the water from your bathroom sinks and tubs and use it to irrigate your non-edible landscaping. This just became legal in San Diego county, although it must be permitted.
Even if Niagara Falls feeds your local reservoir, and drought has never and will never be a locally used phrase, waste is still waste. Consider lessening your consumption.
Please share more conservation techniques in the comments below!