Back from a brief hiatus from blogging to focus on other projects I’m back to fill your inboxes and thought-boxes with new blog updates. Today will just be a brief guide for my fellow Californians on how to conserve water. While this will be a short post it may be one of the most important things I post given that California is in its worse drought in 500 years. If it wasn’t bad enough it not appears to be getting worse. Things are so bad that the Governor and many cities are calling for voluntary rationing. The life or death question is – why the bloody hell hasn’t anyone made rationing mandatory? Hellooooo guys, worst drought ever, what about that isn’t scaring you into imposing mandatory rationing? My current city and hometown of San Francisco leads the state, using 49 gallons per person per day on average versus 100.
1. If it is yellow leave it mellow, if it is brown flush it down. We probably all heard this as kids from environmentally conscious parents, I know I heard it enough were it became rote. I would imagine that is a result of growing up in California and dealing with near constant droughts all my life. We Californians should be used to drought conditions by now. This is a major one since your average toilet flush uses over 2.5 gallons of water and is flushed over 5 times a day. That’s over 12 gallons a day for most toilets.
2. Shower less. No really, shower less. If you currently shower daily, shower ever other day, if you already shower less often than daily cut back to less. I’m showering twice a week now and no one has said a peep, it’s amazing what deodorant and changing your shirt daily can do. At Burning Man I went a solid ten days without a shower, that is pretty close to my maximum limit in the dusty context of the Playa. No shower for ten days does not mean not bathing, you can do wonders wiping yourself down with baby wipes (even your hair). Showers account for 17% of residential water use. Most showers average 7-10 gallons a minute, but there are ways to reduce that. Think about that next time you extend that morning shower just because it ‘feels nice.’ BTW, despite that ten days of dusty no-showers I still consider myself a clean freak, just less OCD than I used to be.
3. Develop a system for washing dishes. I’m working on implementing a system in my house with a soaking tub to reuse water for soaking and minimize the use of new water for rinsing. Using cast iron is also immensely helpful since you hardly ever use water to clean cast iron.
4. Cook things that use less water. I love making soup, but soup is half water. Now is not the best time to be making soup if you can opt for cooking things that use less water. Rice and pasta are also pretty water intense. You can always use cooked in pasta water as grey-water for watering plants once it has cooled!
5. Use your grey water. Whenever possible find ways to reuse your water. One thing I often do is use the same water to rinse out multiple bottles to put in the recycling. Oh yea, did you know you’re supposed to wash out your recycling and not leave it filled with food remains? Common courtesy folks and it makes the somewhat inefficient recycling process slightly more cost effective. You can use any water without chemicals in it to water plants; I would not recommend using dish water unless you are using a totally biodegradable/organic/all natural soap. The food waste could be an issue, or compost?
6. Set up a rain capture system. There are various ways to do this but most are variants on a barrel design. You can even pull water out of thin air using a fog capture system, something I am considering for my home in San Francisco.
7. Let your lawn die. Just stop watering it, let it go fallow, then plough that crap under and make a garden. If you are going to use water to maintain plants at least make sure they are drought resistant plants or useful things like food-baring plants/herbs.
8. Stop washing your car. I don’t even have a car anymore so I stopped this years ago. Thankfully cleaning a bike is much more water efficient than washing a car too. At the least create a more efficient system to wash your car, efficiency is the name of the game.
9. Gamify saving water, especially with kids. I like to use gamification to turn mundane things into fun games I can play with myself and the world. One game I am big on right now is “how little water can I use today?” For children you can try rewarding them for positive behavior, such as praise for taking a shorter shower or remembering to leave yellow mellow. I leave the games up to the individual as only the individual will know what properly motivates them to right action.
10. Group showers? What happens in San Francisco stays in San Francisco…
[EDIT]11. Transform sewer water into drinking water. Yep, it’s possible and here is the DIY guide on how to make what you need to do it. I’m ready for the apocalypse.