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Being Water-Wise - Saving Water at Home

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Being Water-Wise

Saving Water at Home

By Alessandra Bolger and David Wills

We are the water planet, with 72 percent surface water, but of that, 96.5 percent is ocean salt water. The other 2.5 percent is freshwater, with two-thirds of that in ice and only one-third in lakes and rivers. That doesn’t leave much left for human consumption.

In California, urban water use is 10 percent, compared to 40 percent for agriculture and 50 percent for environmental use. Unfortunately, Governor Brown has only legislated to reduce urban usage This reduction varies from 15 percent (San Franciso) to 35 percent (Hillsborough) over the next 9 months.

Most grapes, about 95 percent, are now grown using drip sprinklers, but in Sonoma Valley the aquifer can supply enough water for the old ‘dry farm’ way, and some growers are reverting to this. Depending on who you ask, it takes from 3.5 to 39-gallons to make a glass of wine. 

Livestock water use is especially high: One pound of beef uses 1,799 gallons, one pound of pork takes over 600. A head of broccoli takes 5.4 gallons, a walnut 4.9 gallons, a head of lettuce 3.5 gallons, a tomato 3.5 gallons and an almond 1.1 gallons. Being a conscious consumer is now more important than ever.

What can we do as individuals to save our precious water? Rumi says it well, “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Saving water at home

  • Fix leaks in your home - nationally, leaks waste over 1 trillion gallons
  • Turn off the faucet to brush your teeth - save 8 gallons daily.  
  • An old faucet uses 2.2 gallons a minute, a low-flow uses only 1.5 gallons. 
  • A bath uses up to 70 gallons - a five-minute shower uses only 10 to 25 gallons. Water efficient shower heads limit the flow. Place buckets in the shower to collect water and use in the toilet or to water plants. 
  • Modern toilets use 1.28 gallons - while older toilets guzzle from 3.5 to 7
  • gallons. (Use water from the sink to fill the tank.) Using perfectly clean
  • water is a total waste. “If it’s yellow let it mellow” or try the brick in the tank method. 
  • In the kitchen, most water is used washing dishes. An automatic
  • dishwasher is best - if you must wash by hand, lightly dampen and soak the china first - then just use a dribble to wash. Hand washing dishes also saves electricity.
  • An old clothes washing machine uses 40 gallons per load, efficient front
  • loaders use 15-30 gallons  Cut the number of loads and fill the washer.
  • Line dry your clothes. 
  • Laundry detergent phosphorus pollutes our rivers - cut back. 
  • Watering lawns is a huge waste. Lawns were used on the 18th century to show how many sheep you owned, no need for that now. Replace lawns with wood chips, let leaves go to mulch or use gravel. 
  • Dish, shower, sink, and laundry water comprise 50-80 percent of residential ‘gray water’ - use it in the garden. Fit a syphon to to a bath tap and drain the bath - run a hose to the garden out the window. 
  • Collect rainwater for your garden - reroute your gutters to fill barrels. The average roof collects 600 gallons per inch of rain. 

* Numbers for water and use based on many and varying, estimates, take with a pinch of salt. 


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