How We Reduce Water Use at Home
Updated: Jun 13
Californians are no strangers to drought. Here's what we do to reduce our water use at home.
Californians are no strangers to drought. California’s climate naturally tends towards dry years interspersed with wet years. However, since the 1980s, California has experienced four long droughts, including the current drought that started in 2020 (Tarroja, 2021). It is estimated that approximately 47.4% of the state is currently experiencing “Exceptional Drought” which leads to significant, negative effects on agriculture, wildlife, vegetation, water quality, and drastically increases the risk of wildfire. Climate change, which is driving rising temperatures and causing more extreme, unpredictable weather patterns, is exacerbating the situation.
As a born and raised Californian, minimizing personal water use is deeply ingrained in me. Of course, truly solving the water crisis will require meaningful action to combat climate change, as well as other complex, large-scale policy changes. In the meantime, doing our part to reduce water use at home is a smart choice for our state and our checkbook. Read on for my tips on how to reduce water use at home!
1. Capture Shower Water
My husband and I keep a large bucket in the tub in our master bath. Whenever we run the tub faucet to heat the water up for a shower, we capture that excess water in the large bucket. Once the water is captured, it’s easy to carry the bucket to the backyard where we use it to water our ornamental plants. Standard tub faucets release about 4 to 7 gallons per minute, so even if it only takes 15 to 30 seconds for your water to heat up you could capture and repurpose up to 3.5 gallons of water.
In addition to our indoor shower, my husband and I recently built an outdoor shower for our backyard. We constructed the outdoor shower so that all the water used during a shower runs into a hidden basin beneath the floor of the shower. After a shower, we can easily slide the basin out from beneath the floor and fill our watering can. We use only natural, biodegradable soap in the outdoor shower so that it’s safe to use on our various gardens.
2. Take Short Showers
While we’re on the topic of showers, taking short showers is one of the best ways to reduce water use at home. Regular shower heads typically flow at about 4 gallons per minute, while low-flow shower heads flow at about 2.5 gallons per minute. No matter what shower head you have, the shorter your shower, the less water used.
One easy way to shorten the length of your shower is to turn off the water while you shampoo your hair, shave your legs, apply conditioner, etc. Another great trick is to embrace the “quick rinse.” I typically only wash my hair twice per week, meaning I can make do with a daily “quick rinse” after my workout. My “quick rinse” routine takes me approximately 30 seconds - get wet, soap up, rinse off, and done!
Finally, if you’re working to shorten your showers but have trouble keeping track of time, try installing one of these cute little 5-minute timers in your shower. I had one for years and it helped me become aware of how much time I actually spent in the shower.
3. Plant Native and Drought-Tolerant Plants
When my husband and I bought our house, the front yard was constructed entirely of river rocks. While rocks make for very drought-tolerant landscaping, they also absorb and retain heat - not ideal in a place where summer temperatures frequently reach the high 90s! We knew we wanted to redo the front yard with vegetated landscaping, however, we didn’t want to drastically increase our water use. After a lot of research and reading, I designed a drought-tolerant front yard with a focus on native and pollinator-friendly plants. Our once sweltering rock yard is now full of blooming ceanothus, feathery grasses, and hundreds of happy, buzzing bees.
If you’re looking located in California and looking to redo your landscaping, I recommend checking out the Calscape tool provided by the California Native Plant Society. If you’re located in Sonoma or Marin County, take a look at these incredibly detailed landscape design templates.
4. Install Low-Flow Devices
If you haven’t replaced your shower heads, faucets, washing machine, dishwasher, or toilets recently, it might be worth checking to see whether or not you have water efficient, low-flow devices installed. Low-flow, aerating shower heads and faucets can cut the water flow by approximately half. Newer, more efficient washing machines, dishwashers, and toilets can save thousands of gallons of water per year per household. If you’re looking to upgrade your appliances, look for the WaterSense label and learn more about the program sponsored by the EPA.
Every drop counts, so I love to find ways to repurpose even the smallest bits of excess water. I love finding excess water in unexpected places - the half-full water bottle you left sitting in the car for weeks, the water in a vase of flowers past their prime, the water you use to rinse fruits and veggies in the sink. I use these little bits of leftover H20 to water our indoor or outdoor plants. Sure, you’re not saving huge quantities of water but it feels a lot better to give my lavender an extra drink than to simply pour the leftover water down the drain.
What are your favorite water-saving techniques? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!
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