10593474266?profile=RESIZE_710xAsk a home performance professional what energy measures you should take to maximize comfort and efficiency, and you will probably hear, “It depends.” It depends on the characteristics of the house, the behavior of the people inside it, and, of course, your climate. Your goals may be to use less energy, be more comfortable, or push the edge of what is possible. It’s pretty easy these days to replace incandescent and CFL lighting with LEDs and immediately impact your energy use for lighting. To drastically reduce your carbon footprint, you can convert your home to all-electric, add solar panels to your roof, and buy whatever electricity you need from the grid from renewable sources.

Water use and energy use are intricately connected—ten percent of all the energy used in California goes to move, heat, or treat water. It is good to see that per capita water use in California has gone down, even with the population rise. In the early 2000s, thousands of people died during scorching temperatures in Europe. The power plants that created energy for their air conditioners and ceiling fans were offline because the plants did not have enough water for cooling. River levels were too low to allow water intake. And when you save water from showering, you also save on the gas or electricity you use to heat the water.

The average U.S. household uses 300 gallons of water daily, with about 30% of that going to lawns and gardens. In hot, dry areas like the Bay Area, the percentage of household water that is used outdoors is well over 50%. This varies widely by region and type of housing, of course. So when you ask the water-saving experts how to use less water, you may get the response, “It depends.” Let them know that you want to save water and energy. Here are some questions to ask yourselves and your households and some actions you can take now, by the end of the summer, or in the next year or so.

  • Do you still water a lawn? Take all or most of it out and replace it with a drought-tolerant landscape. Use a drip system and water in the evening or the early morning when the sun will not evaporate the water before it can feed the plants—water no more than three times per week. 
  • Remember the toilet flushing wisdom back in the day during the first Brown administration, “If it’s brown, flush it down; if it’s yellow, let it mellow”? Well, that still works. Another alternative is to replace your toilet with a dual flush model that uses much less water to flush Number 1 than Number 2, according to the scientific data on waste numbers. Any upgrade of an older model toilet installed before low-flow requirements went into effect will save considerably!
  • Since so many of us have been working at home for the last few years, it’s a great time to skip showering every day. Your family will let you know when enough is enough. Or take a 5-minute shower. The average length of a shower is closer to 10 minutes. Use less water if you like to bathe. Taking a cold shower is supposed to be good for your health. Just saying.
  • Do you have low-flow showerheads? Get them as soon as you can. Faucet aerators? Get them. All modern shower-head replacements must meet a federal standard of 2.5 GPM (gallons per minute), and many models do better than this.

The Contra Costa Water District (CCWD) is here to help. With the county experiencing extreme drought conditions over the last three years, the water district wants all of us to save at least 15% of our water use compared to 2020. You can get rebates of $1 per square foot of lawn you replace with a drought-tolerant landscape. CCWD will connect you with a landscape designer who will come to your home and provide a two-hour consult. You pay the designer $150, and CCWD will reimburse you the whole amount once you complete your project. For information about the rebates and a ton of helpful information on saving water, check our CCWD’s “Water Efficiency” page.

East Bay MUD is also working to tackle some of the challenges associated with watershed and fresh water supply and conveyance and serves many of the homes and businesses in our County. They also offer rebates and information on residential and commercial water use. Find out what happens to the water after it goes down the drain—unless you have a greywater system, in which case your water ends up watering your garden. You can set up a tour of the wastewater treatment plant, online or in person.

And SCOCO is always here to provide support and friendship through its community programs, including the Cleaner Contra Costa Challenge, which includes water-saving measures you can do right now. Be Water Wise!


Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

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