There’s a new gold rush in California, but this time the search is on for something infinitely more valuable: we’re searching for water. Droughts in California are common since much of the state is desert. But rapid population growth over the last century has left the state waiting for the inevitable time when our finite water supply runs out.
Now that Governor Brown has declared a State of Emergency amid reports suggesting California’s surface reservoirs have only a year’s water supply left, homeowners in the Golden State are catching up with a promise that’s been in the news for quite some time. But don’t despair or flee the wonderful West Coast just yet. There are plenty of simple things you can do to help conserve water and protect your home in the dry conditions, no matter where you live.
5 water-saving tactics for your home
We all use a lot of water in our homes. But much of it goes to waste or isn’t used as well as it could be. Here are 5 things you can do to save water at home.
1. Start outdoors
Of course, anyone living in a drought shouldn’t be watering the lawn. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have outside plants during a dry spell. By simply planting less thirsty, native, drought-tolerant grasses and trees, you’ll use less water and your new “localized” garden will survive future dry spells with ease.
You could also consider using mulch while renovating your landscape. Not only will it retain moisture in the soil, but it’ll also help control the weeds that compete with your plants for water. And if you absolutely must water your lawn, try parking your car on it when it needs a wash. This way, the waste water gets recycled instead of just pouring down the drain.
2. Look for leaks
It’s always a good idea to see if your home has been losing water. To find those well-hidden leaks, simply take a reading of your water meter, wait 30-45 minutes without using any water, and then see if the meter reading has changed. If it has, you’ve probably got a leak.
If you have a well at home, you can check your pump in a similar way. Turn off the water in your home for a while and if your pump continues to turn on and off, you’ve likely got a leak.
3. Upgrade your bathroom routine
Even if you’ve stopped letting the water run while you’re shaving or brushing your teeth, there’s still more you can do to save some sweet, sweet water. While you’re in the shower, try turning the water off while you soap up, shampoo, and condition, and then turn it on again just to rinse off. I know, we all like to linger in a cozy shower but the water saved will add up and the effect will be clear when your next water bill arrives.
It’s always good to periodically check your toilet for leaks as it’s often hard to tell if your tank is slowly leaking water into the toilet bowl. An easy way to identify a leak is by adding some food coloring to the tank. If there’s a leak, the coloring will slowly start appearing in the bowl. If after 30 minutes or so you spot a leak, it’ll be time to fix your flushing mechanism’s faulty flapper. Sounds odd, I know, but they’ll understand what you mean at the hardware store.
4. Change up your kitchen style
Unless people are installing pools in their living rooms and not telling me, the other room to keep an eye on when conserving water is the kitchen. One great way is to start a compost pile of leftover food and cooking waste. Kitchen sink disposals use a surprising amount of water draining waste that could easily be used in the garden instead of chemical-based pesticides and fertilizers. Keep your water usage efficient by running dishwashers when they’re full (and most new dishwasher can clean soiled dishes very well these days, so you might not even have to rinse them before washing). Simply scrape the waste into your new compost pile. If you’re washing up the traditional way, save water by filling 2 containers with water: one soapy and one for rinsing.
5. Outsmart side effects
Droughts can also bring a number of other hazards that affect your home. After 4 years of little rainfall, California is now suffering from severe wildfires up and down the state and dwindling water supplies are leaving the emergency services struggling. If you live in a rural or wooded area, make sure the trees and brush around your home have been cleared to create a sound, defensible space. Wildfires can start at any time and move pretty fast, so always keep an escape plan ready during the dry season and know the best routes to safety should a fire break out. Homeowners should also be wary of flash floods that could occur when the winter rains do come. Keep an eye on conditions as they change and make sure the drains near your home are clear of leaves and broken branches before the rains do decide to return. It’s always wise to make sure your homeowners insurance covers these events where they’re likely to occur.
No matter where we live, water will always be our most precious resource. Drought or not, we should all be striving to conserve water, whatever the weather.