I live in California, and as you might have heard, we are in the midst of a pretty severe drought. Fresh water isn't just scarce in California; it's very important, regardless of where we live, to conserve this vital resource which makes all life on this planet possible.
According to the EPA, the average American family of 4 uses approximately 400 gallons of water per day. The average person living in the U.K. only uses 150 liters of water per day (39.62 gallons). Wow--we are extremely wasteful in the United States!!! We need to collectively reduce water consumption, and the ways to do so are extremely straightforward--everyone can participate.
1. Reduce meat & dairy consumption. Animal agriculture uses an insane amount of water. For example, it takes 660 gallons of water just to produce 1 hamburger patty. Yikes! I recently went vegetarian purely for environmental reasons, as animal agriculture is the leading cause of climate change.
2. Eat fewer water intensive foods that are grown in California. "The average American consumes more than 300 gallons of California water each week by eating food that was produced there." Almonds, walnuts, lettuce, broccoli, asparagus, tomatoes, grapes, strawberries, peaches, oranges, and corn are just some of the water intensive crops grown in California to supply most of the United States.
a. Lettuce Vs. Chard. More than half of the lettuce consumed in the United States is grown in California. Swiss chard has really deep roots unlike lettuce and is more resilient in hot weather. It takes 3.5 gallons of water to grow one head of lettuce. Chard wins!
b. Almonds & Walnuts Vs. Hazelnuts. It takes 4.9 gallons of water to grow one walnut, and 1.1 gallons of water to grow a single almond. Opt for hazelnuts which are drought resistant due to extensive root systems. They are also grown in Oregon where rainfall is abundant. Hazelnuts win!
d. Asparagus Vs. Cauliflower & Broccoli. It takes 258 gallons of water to grow 1 lb. of asparagus. Meanwhile, it only takes 34 gallons of water to grow 1 lb. of cauliflower and/or 1 lb. of broccoli. These brassicas are still water intensive, and given that shit tons of broccoli is grown in California--Cauliflower wins!
e. Grapes Vs. Hops It takes .03 gallons of water to grow one grape and 872 gallons of water to produce just one gallon of wine. To produce one gallon of beer it takes 296 gallons of water. I slightly panicked when finding this out because I drink more wine than beer; however, when it comes to a serving size, it actually takes about 28 gallons of water to produce a 12oz. beer, and 35 gallons for a 5 oz. glass of wine. Beer wins!
f. Oranges: It takes 13.8 gallons of water to grow a single orange. Opt for organic oranges that are grown in Florida instead of California.
g. Strawberries: .04 gallons of water per berry to grow in California.
h. Stone Fruit: My favorite fruit has an insanely high water footprint. 1 lb. of nectarines takes 142 gallons of water to grow. Skip the nectarine, and opt for peaches that are grown in Georgia or Missouri to help combat the California drought.
3. Pick a low water dishwashing technique. Dishwashing vs. hand washing--let's dish. First off, it's a good idea to scrape our plates of any excess food into the compost, leaving less possibility for food to congeal or dry up like a piece of hard plaster that is just the effin WORST to scrub off later. Second, after some reading about dishwashers and how some are super efficient at saving water, I have come to this conclusion: Don't wash each dish individually as this wastes an extraordinary amount of water, and if you have an energy efficient dishwasher, use it only when it's full. I don't have a dishwasher, so I get my sponge wet, add a dollop of eco-soap, and scrub all the dishes without running the water. Then I fill the sink up half way and rinse all the dishes. Because I use an earth safe dish soap, it's possible to dump the grey water outside to give the ground and plants a little lift.
4. If it's yellow, let it mellow. I know many people are not down with this practice, but it saves so much water. Newer efficient toilets use about 1.6 gallons per flush, while older toilets can waste anywhere from 3.5 - 7 gallons per flush. A low flow toilet and bidet will also save resources (less water, less toilet paper). Letting it mellow simply requires a little extra scrubbing when you do eventually flush just to keep the toilet bowl sparkly--seriously no big deal. Some might recommend putting a brick in the toilet tank to save water. I do not, as the brick will slowly break down and the sediment can damage the tank.
5. Shut off the water in the shower. Turn off the water while washing body, hair, and when shaving. I keep my showers around 5 minutes long. An 8.2 minute shower uses 17.2 gallons of water. We don't own a bathtub (which I miss), and it's a good thing because they are super water suckers ranging, from 40 gallons per small bathtub fill to 100 gallons per large bathtub fill. Low flow water shower heads are also a good idea and pretty affordable. Showering less-- like every other day as opposed to every day --will significantly cut water use. My hair is very long, and in order to save water and keep it healthy, I only wash it a couple times a week. I use my DIY dry shampoo when it gets oily in between shower days.
6. Reduce outdoor water use. Let that lawn turn brown, and if you just have to plant something, then pick native and drought resistant plants that require less water and are more resilient against diseases. I personally love succulents, and they are abundant in Nor Cal. If you have a garden, it's best to water in the early morning or evening when the outside temperature is cool. This allows the plants to absorb all the moisture before the sun's light evaporates it. Mulching around your plants can prevent further evaporation. Instead of using the hose to wash down driveways and walkways, it's possible to use a broom to sweep debris instead.
7. Turn off the water when washing hands & brushing teeth. The average bathroom water faucet uses approximately 2 gallons per minute, making it super important to shut the water off while brushing our teeth and while soaping up our hands before rinsing them.
8. Use Less electricity. Power plants use thousands of gallons of water for cooling. By conserving electricity, we also conserve water.
9. Check for leaks. It's a good idea to look at your water bill to check for spikes in cost that can indicate a water leak. It's equally important to check faucets and hoses for leaks. A slow drip can waste anywhere from 7-10 gallons per day. That's a lot of water, and a lot of money down the drain.
10. Laundry. It's important to wear clothes more than once before washing them. I think we can get away with this especially with jeans (we wash ours every two weeks provided that we weren't having mud fights or something). Wash your clothes with cold water. Most of the energy in washing clothes comes from heating the water. In the summer months it's easy to hang dry clothes instead of using the dryer.
11. Don't wash your car at home. If you just have to wash your car, even in the midst of a drought, take it to a carwash. Running the hose at home to wash a car can waste upwards of 150 gallons of water. Plus, if you are using chemical soaps, they will run into the storm drain and pollute, as opposed to a car wash whose waste water goes to the water treatment plant. Car washes also use recycled water! If you don't want to take your car to the car wash per the gross chemical soaps they use, but absolutely have to wash your car, use an eco-friendly soap that will not pollute the environment. Save water in buckets from your showers to wash and rinse your car.
12. Reuse water whenever possible. Just boiled water and cooked pasta for dinner? Perfect. Instead of pouring the water down the drain, strain your pasta over another pot, let it cool 100%, and water your plants with it. If you don't use chemical soaps for washing dishes, you can save your grey water to also water your plants. Or, keep a bucket in the shower to catch water, which can also be used for mopping the floor, flushing the toilet, etc...