Save Water - Bay Area Water Rationing & Water Conservation
In 2008, EBMUD -- East Bay Municipal Utility District -- began water rationing to conserve short supplies after two dry years. The mandatory rationing affected Alameda and East Bay counties. But given the global state of water quality and potential water shortages, the tips below are excellent ways to reduce your usage, rationing or not.
- Use Water-Smart Toilets
- Install a toilet water displacement device: Step by step instructions from About.com's Green Living site.
- Recycle sink water:Treehugger.com talks about devices that recycle sink water for toilet usage.
- Install a low-flow toilet: Seattle-area plumber Terry Love reviews low-flow toilets.
- Install a Controllable Flush Mechanism on the Toilet
If you rent or can't afford to replace the toilet, consider a device that allows for different water volume, flush by flush (about $30). Here's an example of this device, made by Athena: Controllable Flush
- Repair Drips or Leaks
Dripping faucets can waste gallons of water a day. A leak of one drip per second can waste more than 3000 gallons of water each year. Do a house check and make sure all leaks are repaired, washers replaced, and plumbing well-maintained. To check for toilet leaks, put a drop of food coloring into the tank. If the color shows in the bowl without flushing, there's a leak.
- Install Low-Flow Shower Heads
According to EBMUD, a low-flow shower head should use no more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute -- versus a standard shower head that can use 5 to 10 gallons. (A full bath uses up 70 gallons.) You can find low-flow models at almost any home repair shop.
Bob Formisano (About Home Repair) tells you how to easily measure the flow rate for your shower or shower head.
- Always Turn Off the Faucet
According to the EPA, the average bathroom faucet flows at two gallons per minute. Turn off faucets when not in use -- especially when brushing teeth and shaving.
- Collect Excess Shower Water
You can waste gallons of water, waiting for the shower to heat up. Use a bucket or other receptacle in the shower, to collect the water you'll otherwise waste. Reuse the water in your toilet tank or in the garden.
- Use a Water-Efficient Dishwasher
If you rent, you may have no choice about your dishwashing method. But if you have the freedom to choose between an efficient dishwasher or hand washing dishes, opt for the dishwasher. Load it to capacity to maximize water usage, don't use the pre-rinse cycle, and don't fully rinse under a running tap before loading. As with all appliances look for the Energy Star certification.
If you wash dishes by hand, fill sinks or dish tubs to wash and rinse instead of running the faucet. A study at the University of Bonn in Germany showed that manually washing dishes could waste almost 30 gallons for 12 place settings, whereas dishwashers will use up to half that much.
- Choose a High-Efficiency Washing Machine
A washing machine uses 30 to 45 gallons per load according to the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. Be sure to run only full loads, and if you can, invest in a water-saving model. Both the SFPUC and EBMUD offer rebates if you buy an approved water-smart clothes washer.
- Install Instant Water Heaters
More common in Europe than they are here, instant (or tankless) water heaters can reduce the amount of water you use by producing hot water on demand -- without the wait and the running water. If you're a homeowner, or landlord, an instant water heater can cut back on the gallons per minute that flow out of the average tap.
- Recycle Greywater from the Garden
By far the greatest residential water use happens outdoors. SFPUC claims that average landscape water usage amounts to 350 gallons per day, per household. Using greywater means reusing water from home and appliances, for irrigation and other use in your garden and landscaping.
Art Ludwig penned a helpful manual on this topic, available at Amazon: The New Create an Oasis With Greywater: Choosing, Building and Using Greywater Systems.
- Invest in Permaculture
Permaculture is obviously about more than just conserving water. It's about creating an earth and landscapes within that earth which are sustainable for generations to come.
San Francisco is home to the Urban Permaculture Guild which has an extensive list of resources, including beginners' guides to permaculture as well as links to greywater resources.
- Xeriscaping - Drought-Resistant Gardening
- David Beaulieu (About Landscaping) has a list of 10 Full-Sun Plants that are known for their drought tolerance.
- Stopwaste.org has a list of demonstration gardens in the East Bay where you can view and learn about native plants and drought-tolerant species
- Stopwaste.org also has a guide to Choosing Bay-Friendly Plants
- The San Francisco Chronicle ran a piece in 2006 on desert plants that do well in the Bay Area
- Sunset Magazine has resources on how to Lose Your Lawn and create native landscapes in its place
EBMUD offers rebates to single-family residences that convert gardens from high-water-usage landscapes to water-conserving gardens. See EBMUD's Guidelines and Eligibility Requirements.