Out on the West Coast, we are in a serious drought. Less than a year ago I helped film a documentary about the drought and how it has had severe effects on the small town of Porterville.
While filming, I got to see face-to-face just how bad the drought has become. More than half of the town has dry wells. The state trucks in some non-potable water that can be used to wash some clothes but you can’t drink it. The residents mostly rely on donated bottles of water to survive. The worst part about the drought in Porterville is that the city is about 3 hours away from LA and San Francisco, the two largest cities on the west coast, and it’s in California, one of the wealthiest places on the planet, AND yet; most people don’t even know about it.
I mention the people of Porterville because I am serious about saving water. There are a number of things people try to do in order to save water and spend a little less on their utility bills. Unfortunately, a few of these tips either don’t work or only seem to be saving water when they actually do not. If we are going to try to combat the drought it is important to follow the tips that actually work.
First let’s talk about the obvious tips to conserve water. Check all your plumbing for leaks. Take shorter showers.
Don’t run the sink while you brush your teeth. When washing your dishes by hand pile up a bunch of the clean scrubbed dishes and rinse them all at once. I’m sure this sort of stuff sounds familiar, it is all pretty good advice. If you have psychological reasons for needing the water running while you brush your teeth then take your toothbrush with you in the shower. At least that way you are sort of multitasking. While we are on the subject of shower multitasking, if you are not squeamish about shower urination, then you can save several gallons of water that otherwise would have gone down the toilet.
Some people choose to invest in low-flow showerheads. There is a memorable episode of Seinfeld called The Shower Head where Jerry, Kramer, and Newman have low-flow showerheads forced on them.
They hate these showerheads so much that they seek out some black market Yugoslavian showerheads. The idea of low-flow showerheads are sound but in practice it does not work for everyone. I have thick hair and lots of it. I need a powerful shower head with a lot of pressure.
Low-flow showerheads still use about 2 gallons of water per minute, so they are only saving you about a gallon of water per minute, sometimes less. If the pathetic drizzle of water from your low-flow showerhead requires you to take longer showers to effectively clean yourself then you will be wasting more water rather than conserving.
Many people will tell you that you should fill a jar full of pebbles and put it in the flush tank of your toilet to save water. By doing this you are tricking your toilet to use less water with each flush. You can also purchase a low-flow toilet to achieve the same results. Unfortunately, low-flow toilets share a similar problem as their showerhead cousins. Coincidentally this was also addressed in an episode of popular television. In the King of the Hill episode called Flush with Power, the Hill family has to deal with the problems of low-flow toilets. Although this is a comedic show, it properly illustrates the fact that some people tend to produce more excrement than others. If you need to flush your low flow toilet 2 or 3 times to accomplish the same results that a normal toilet gets with a single flush, then you are not saving water.
The best option is to get a new dual flush toilet. These toilets will give you a full proper flush when needed or you can flush with a fraction of the water in case you only needed to urinate.
I like to wash all my clothe together in big loads of laundry. Doing this will save you time and water. Be sure your washing machine is set to Cold/Cold water or your whites won’t be white for long. I’m sure there are a number of people out there who prefer not to wash this way but if you can do it, you will save water.
You can save a lot of water by landscaping your yard with rocks, pebbles, or wood chips rather than grass and plants. This is more popular in the desert but many people do it other climates as well. If you like plants and grass it is important to follow good watering practices. Don’t water your plants in the middle of the day when the water will just evaporate quickly.