Adjusting to New Water Conservation Techniques in Sacramento After El Niño

blog-icon-plumbingThere are parts of the country that still see rain as a nuisance, but for those of us around Sacramento it’s been great to see a bit more of it so far this year. We’re more likely to look up like Andy in The Shawshank Redemption than to run inside. We can be thankful that snow levels in the Sierra Nevada were better than last year as well. The water situation in California has been tenuous for a while now, but we’ve seen some improvement lately.

The dire water situation of last year may be behind us, and water usage restrictions may have been loosened in some places, but in Sacramento, we’re not out of the woods yet. We’ll be maintaining the two-days-per-week watering schedule until November of this year. That has a big impact on our overall water usage – the average US family uses 50 gallons a day of water on their lawns, so reducing that by half is a big deal. But it’s not the only way residents can conserve water.

Water Usage and Continuing Restrictions

As residents of Sacramento, we should actually be proud of ourselves as we’ve seen water usage levels drop nearly 30% in the last few years. In April of 2016, we used 1.992 billion gallons of water, compared to 2.832 billion in 2013. That’s great, but we’re going to have to continue what we’ve been doing, and it wouldn’t hurt to find more ways to cut back.

We’re still not allowed to water our lawns or wash our cars on Mondays, Thursdays, or Fridays. And we’ll continue to alternate watering days according to address on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. But conserving water in small ways every day of the week is important and we’ve got some tips for how you can do that.

Creative Ways to Conserve Water

Cutting down on lawn watering and car washing is a good start, but there are many other ways you can trim your water usage. I think of these as divided up into two groups. There are short-term changes in behavior that might become habits, but are probably more like stop-gap measures that we force on ourselves when the water supply tightens. Then there are the long-term changes you can make to your home that will help you conserve water for as long as you live there. We can start with the short-term tips—some of which you may have heard of or already be using.

Short-Term Tips

Shorter Showers. Shower heads have improved over the years, but even modern shower heads use about two gallons of water per minute. If the song you’re singing into the detachable nozzle is a 5-minute power ballad, you’ve just wasted 10 gallons of water. Cutting down on your shower time can save a lot of water, so sing while drying.

Save the Cold Water for Other Uses. Another clever way to save water when showering or bathing is to capture the cold water coming out of the tap while you are waiting for the water to warm up. Don’t just throw that water down the drain. Keep a bucket on hand and catch it for use watering your indoor plants or filling your bird bath.

Cut Down on Laundry. Washing machines are also heavy water users. A good way to save water is to only wash full loads of laundry. You can also cut back on washing certain types of clothes. Jeans, for example, don’t need to be washed as often as socks. Hang them up to air out after you wear them, and see if you can go a little longer before you wash them again.

Long-Term Tips

Xeriscaping. We all know that watering our lawns uses up a lot of water, and for a fairly unimportant purpose. This is why water usage restrictions target lawn watering first and foremost. Still, this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a nice looking yard or pursue an interest in gardening and landscaping. Xeriscaping is a method of land management that emphasizes the use of plants that require little water. With a smart setup, you can have the greenest yard in the neighborhood, with beautiful plants, while everyone else is stuck with brown grass.

Check Your Plumbing. It’s easy for a home’s water system to develop issues over time, and these little problems can add up in a big way if they aren’t corrected. Even a slow drip from one faucet can add up to many gallons of water wasted over the long term. You don’t have to have a major plumbing overhaul to address this. A quick inspection by a plumbing professional and some minor repairs to your valves, joint seals, and faucets is all it takes.

Replace Old Appliances. Buying new appliances can be a bit of an investment, but a lot of that upfront cost is recouped over time as your water and electricity bills get reduced. An Energy Star washing machine, for example, can save over 3000 gallons of water a year. That’s 45% less water, with 25% less electricity used, saving you over $40 a year on bills. Appliances that are more than 10 years old may not offer the same level of water conservation as the most recent versions. Even if you aren’t looking for a major overhaul, a low-flow showerhead can reduce water use by 75%, while still providing a great and comfortable shower.

Given the recent climate trends, my guess is that water conservation will have to become a way of life for all of us in California for the foreseeable future. This may lead to a little inconvenience, but it doesn’t have to cause major disruptions to our way of living when we take some reasonable steps in both the short-term and the long-term. If you need some help getting your plumbing sealed up, or you’re looking for advice on how you can save a little extra water, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us.