The drought in California is now entering its fourth year. Since the summer of 2011, rainfall seasons have had precipitation levels far below normal, and winter snowfall, which feeds many reservoirs, has been inadequate. Most cities throughout California have deficits of at least one full year of rainfall, and some cities are close to deficits of two years’ worth of rain.
Even if two years of higher-than-average rainfall occur, it’s doubtful the state could fully recover from the drought in that time period. Reservoirs are low, farmland lies fallow, and 2014 is shaping up as the driest year on record since 1977.
Learning to conserve water at home is important during severe droughts like the one in California, but there are other reasons to avoid using water in the home when it’s not necessary. For one thing, it can lead to lower water bills every month. And it’s not difficult to conserve water. Simply turning off the tap while brushing your teeth can save over 100 gallons of water per month. Here are seven other ways you can conserve water at home.
1. Only Run Water-Using Appliances When They’re Full
Clothes washers built before 2011 use around 40 gallons of water per load, but you can now get washers that use as little as 15 gallons per load. Adjust the water level in the washing machine to the size of the load, but if possible, wait and run one large load rather than two small loads, because it will conserve water. Dishwashers can actually conserve water over hand washing if they’re run when fully loaded and when dishes aren’t pre-rinsed unnecessarily. Scraping dishes rather than rinsing is sufficient with most of today’s dishwashers.
2. Fix Drips By Replacing Worn Tap Washers
A single leaky faucet that drips 10 times per minute wastes nearly 350 gallons of water a year, according to the US Geological Survey. That may not sound like much, but it’s 350 gallons of water you’re paying for (along with sewer charges), and every gallon counts in a drought situation. Fixing a leaky tap by replacing a worn washer is a simple task that many homeowners can do themselves using basic tools.
3. Incorporate Water Conservation Into Your Landscaping
Mulch use can help retain moisture in soil, reducing the need for irrigation. Leaving lawn clippings on the lawn after mowing also reduces water requirements, and grass clippings decompose quickly to return nutrients to the soil. Leaving grass clippings in place also reduces fertilizer runoff during rain showers. Using native plants in your landscaping cuts down on water requirements, as do watering in the morning to minimize evaporation and using “gray water” from your washing machine to water landscaping.
4. Reduce the Amount of Water Used by Toilets
Replacing older toilets with high-efficiency toilets can save nearly 5,000 gallons of water per year. Some people choose to displace water in their toilet tank in order to cut down on the amount of water used per flush. You can do this by placing a brick in the toilet tank, but bricks can break down in the tank and cause plumbing problems. A better way is to fill a plastic water bottle with sand or small pebbles and place that in the tank.
5. Consider a WaterSense Labeled Shower Head
If you’re not sure of the flow rate of your shower head, you can catch the water at the pressure you normally shower with in a one-gallon bucket. If the bucket fills in less than 24 seconds, you could conserve water by switching to an EPA WaterSense labeled shower head. These shower heads use a maximum of 2 gallons of water per minute. Technology has advanced considerably since early low-flow shower heads, and with today’s models, you would probably not be able to tell the difference between a WaterSense shower head and an ordinary one.
6. Install a Rain Barrel
If you enjoy gardening, you can do so while using considerably less water by installing a rain barrel. A rain barrel is connected to a downspout on your house so that rather than flowing heavily into your driveway or yard during a storm or shower, rain water is collected in the barrel. This water can be tapped for watering your garden, trees, or lawn without ever turning on your hose or sprinkler.
7. Compost Food Waste Instead of Using Your Garbage Disposal
The garbage disposal in your kitchen sink can use up to 4 gallons of water every minute. If you choose to compost kitchen waste instead, you not only save considerable amounts of water, you can recycle these scraps like nature does, create nutritious organic material for your lawn or garden, and cut household waste by up to 25%.
Last of all, if you own a water softener or conditioner, check with your local water treatment professional to find out how your softener’s valve settings can be adjusted to conserve water.
Also, keep in mind that in some parts of the country currently experiencing water rationing or drought conditions, salt-free water conditioning is a good option since this method does not require backwashing.
WaterTech’s salt-free water conditioner, the SaltFreeMax has the ability to effectively reduce and prevent hard water scale from accumulating on pipes, water heaters, tubs, showers and sinks–similar to conventional water softeners. Other benefits include no electrical connections, no salt bags, requires no drain connection, is easy to install and is virtually maintenance free. Your local WaterTech dealer can tell you more.