How Californians Can Save Water During Historic Drought

California is suffering from one of the worst droughts on record. For the fourth straight year, residents of the golden state have been hearing about the meager rainfall and snowpack. Many state residents think fellow Californians can do much more to conserve water. A poll by the Public Policy Institute of California found that two-thirds (66 percent) of Californians surveyed think people in their area of the state are not doing enough to respond to the drought. 

Some California towns are doing more to conserve water than others. The San Joaquin Valley is one of the hardest hit regions of California when it comes to drought. The Valley is one of the world’s great agricultural areas. It is also an area that is arid in a good rain year when 10 inches of rain is considered abundant. One small Valley town is really doing something to conserve water. Located in the south Valley, Woodlake has reduced its overall water use by 38 percent. The statewide urban water conservation rate in December was 22 percent. Not bad for a city of nearly 8,000. 

Last May, the Woodlake City Council approved stage four water restrictions, which included  restricting irrigation of outdoor landscaping to before 6 a.m. and after 8 p.m. for two days a week. Depending on whether a resident has odd or even numbered addresses, the allowed outdoor irrigation days vary. Other restrictions include: 

  • Only washing vehicles at commercial car washes.
  • A ban on washing driveways and sidewalks.
  • A ban on fountains, waterfalls and other ornamental water features.
  • A ban on draining and refilling swimming pools.

Water conservation: from landscaping to bathrooms

Severe water restrictions are not the only way to reduce water use. There are ways that residents can reduce water use both inside and outside their homes. Home builder KB Home built a house in the southern California desert town of Lancaster. The Lancaster house’s landscaping does not need to be irrigated with freshwater as it uses graywater. The graywater recycling system from Nexus eWater is able to treat up to 40,000 gallons of water annually to irrigate landscaping. 

Americans use a staggering amount of water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that the average family of four uses 400 gallons of water a day. Much of that water is used in the bathroom, with toilets using about 110 gallons a day. California became the first state last year to legislate bathroom water conservation by requiring that all buildings have low-flow toilets, shower heads and faucets. 

EPA’s partner program, WaterSense estimates that if every American household installed water efficient bathroom faucets or accessories, over 60 billion gallons of water would be saved every year. Products with the WaterSense label are 20 percent more water efficient than standard products. Faucets with the WaterSense label are about 30 percent more efficient than standard ones. Toilets with the WaterSense label use 20 percent less water per flush.

Combine water efficiency in the bathroom with grey water recycling for landscaping, and  California's residents could save much more water than they are currently doing. 

Photo: Eric Norris