California is officially in a drought. What’s more, experts are calling it the worst drought in the state’s history. While declaring a statewide drought emergency last week, Governor Jerry Brown reminded citizens to be aware of impending water shortages in the coming months.
While Brown is not currently enforcing a mandatory water reduction (although he recommends cutting down by 20 percent), it is critical to mitigate the situation before the worst comes. Even if you don’t live in California, dry years may hit your region of the world unexpectedly. Knowing how to prepare ahead of time and during the emergency will benefit you and, more importantly, the environment.
Here are ten practices you can take on to use water more efficiently:
1. Take Shorter Showers
Bathrooms account for 50 percent of a household’s total water use. This practice sounds easy enough to do, but you’d be surprised at how much water an extra few minutes in the shower uses up. Reducing your ten minute shower down to five could save as much as 12.5 gallons a day. For even more savings, consider installing a low-flow shower head. Compared to “standard” shower heads which swallow upwards of four gallons a minute, low flows use only about two.
2. Repair Dripping Faucets
Broken, dripping faucets should be fixed as soon as possible, regardless of a drought. Each bit of water counts: one drop per second consumes 2,700 gallons of water per year.
3. Go to the Car Wash
Most commercial car washes operate using recycled water. If you prefer to wash your own car though, rinse it during the coolest time of day, and try to park it on the grass.
4. Start Composting
Composting yields healthier soil, nutrient-rich plants and cleaner water. Instead of using your water-hungry kitchen sink disposal to get rid of food waste, start a compost pile.
5. Capture Water and Reuse it Later
Don’t just let cold water go down the drain as you wait for it to warm up. Capture it in a bowl and rest some flowers on it, or heat it up on the stove for a pot of tea.
6. Plant a Drought-Friendly Garden
Gardens are wonderful to maintain, and water is essential for growth. To cut back on water without sacrificing landscaping, try drought-friendly plants that can withstand dry elements. These include the tree poppy, golden yarrow, apricot mallow and many others.
7. Hand Wash Your Dishes
Keep a bucket of rinse water and a bucket of soapy water so you don’t have to keep shutting the faucet on and off. If dishwashers are a must for you, keep in mind that they can use up to 14 gallons per load. Try loading it up and turning it on only when it’s reached full capacity to minimize usage.
8. Check Your Sprinkler System
Make sure your sprinklers are set so that they only water the lawn and don’t splash onto other parts of the home unnecessarily. Also, avoid leaving sprinklers and hoses unattended — they can pour out as much as 600 gallons within a few hours.
9. Thaw Frozen Foods Overnight
It may be faster to run frozen foods under hot water, but thawing it out overnight is the more eco-friendly option. If time is of the essence, use the defrost option on your microwave.
10. Wash Full Loads of Laundry
Whether or not you have an energy-efficient front-loading washer, washing only full loads of laundry instead of smaller batches will cut water usage tremendously. It’s also best to use cold or warm water when washing loads as well.
It’s not expected to rain in California for the next several weeks, so adopting these habits early on can make a big difference in the long run. Plus, there are many other ways to use water efficiently. What are some of your favorite water-saving techniques?
All Photos: Thinkstock