The reservoirs are full and we enjoyed heavy rains last winter. While the threat of drought isn’t currently as dire as it was before, climate change isn’t going away, and water isn’t a limitless resource. (By the way, when you heat water for your shower or laundry, you are using another non-renewable resource – energy.) There are many common sense actions you may already be taking to save water such as turning the faucet off while you shave or brush your teeth, running your dishwasher or washing machine only when it is full, or using a shower bucket while waiting for the water to warm up. But there are some simple and inexpensive gadgets you can use in your home to up the ante on your water conservation efforts even more!
For a more in-depth, down and dirty look at water saving tactics, sign up for SCOCO’s next workshop, “Beyond the Shower Bucket: Water Smart Living,” coming to Rodgers Ranch Heritage Center in Pleasant Hill on July 12. Contra Costa Water District Water Conservation Supervisor Chris Dundon is chock-full of tips for home water conservation, ranging from fixtures to simple behavioral modifications that will increase your water-wise IQ! You can register HERE.
You may remember an old SNL skit in which Chevy Chase mischievously suggests that one way to save water is by showering with a friend. Another technique is installing a low-flow showerhead. A typical long, hot shower can guzzle 5 to 10 gallons a minute, but a low-flow showerhead reduces that to 2.5 gallons per minute without lowering water pressure. Water Sense labeled consumer products, which are certified by the EPA, can lower that amount even more and still get the job done. https://www.epa.gov/watersense For example, a water-saving showerhead with a Water Sense label must use no more than 2.0 gallons per minute. According to the EPA, when you switch your showerhead, your home could save 2,900 of gallons per year, which translates to over 260 billion gallons of water annually if every home in the United States installed them. A low-flow showerhead runs about $8-50, depending on style and features, so it’s a relatively inexpensive sustainable remedy. Bump up the savings (in water and dollars) by decreasing shower time. Shortening your shower by even one minute can save 550 gallons of water per year. Bonus points for showering with a friend!
A low flow faucet aerator, which costs about $5 – 10, is a simple gizmo you screw on to your existing faucet head to make the flow rate more highly efficient by aerating, or mixing, air and water together while reducing the amount of water flowing out. It produces evenly pressured multiple mini-streams without splashing, and any change in speed or force is imperceptible to the average hand-washer.
Considering every toilet flush uses 3.5 – 7 gallons a flush, depending on when it was manufactured, flushing non-human waste (e.g. facial tissue) unnecessarily wastes water. Some people “trick” their toilet tank into using less water by displacing water with a brick. But bricks can flake and clog lines or grow bacteria. Anti-fungal Float boosters and tank banks (or even plastic soda bottles weighed down with sand) take up space in the tank that would otherwise be refilled with water after every flush, thereby decreasing water usage. Also, consider testing your toilet for leaks by putting five drops of food coloring in your tank. If after 10 minutes, the bowl changes color, there’s a leak you need to fix, most likely with inexpensive parts from the hardware store. https://www.thisoldhouse.com/how-to/how-to-fix-leaky-or-runny-toilet
If you’re in the market for a new dishwasher, look for a dishwasher with an Energy Saver label and water factor of 9.5 or lower. If your dishwasher was made before 1994, it is wasting 10 gallons of water per cycle more than an energy star certified one, which will save close to 4,000 gallons of water over its lifetime. For certified Energy Star appliances, visit https://www.energystar.gov/products.
These are just a sprinkling of suggestions; there are countless more, and coming to the workshop listed above will guide you further. By reducing water usage, you are not only being kind to the planet but to your wallet as well.