How We Saved 50% Water in Response to California Record Drought

It has been clear since last year that California drought condition has reached a dangerous level.  I brought my parents and Isa's parents to visit Shasta Lake.  The scene was appalling.

The drying Shasta Lake in California

Our lawn sprinkler system malfunctioned twice from the period August to November that it watered without stopping.  As we have not been able find the steps to reproduce this sporadic problem, we have decided to stop watering the lawn with sprinklers.  We also change our water-usage habit since January 2015.  The experience is fun and looks good; we used about 11 HCF for the month of January and February of 2015, compared to 28 HCF in August of 2014.  

What We Did:
  • Sprinkler system is disabled for both lawn and garden;  save water, forget the lawn during dry seasons
  • Water flower garden with used water from washing rice, vegetables during home cooking preparation.  (I would like to protect Isa's flower garden)
  • Water flower garden twice a week two minutes each time using hose to aim the roots, not leafs, before 7am or after 9 pm.
  • Whenever it rains, I put out all buckets we have in the backyard to collect rainwater.
  • Lower water volume needed to wash dishes,
    • remove oil from plates using used towel paper (I use a separate bag to keep used towel paper); that is the first step restaurants clean the dirty dishes.
    • fill a bowl with hot water and a few drops of detergent. Use a sponge soaked with this detergent water to clean dishes without kitchen faucet on.

11 HCF (~8000 gallons) of water used in our household for two months or 67 gallons of water used per person (capita) per day.  We saved 17 HCF or 12,000 gallons of water over a period of two months.  That is a lot of water.  We may be able to do better.  Our next target is 4 HCF per month or 8 HCF for two months, or 50 gallons of water usage per person per day.
Our target seems achievable.

Our Next Steps:
  • Estimate our household water usage via this website tool to identify weak spots.
  • Free Water Usage Estimate Tool
  • Limit length of shower to 5 minutes.
  • Store used shower water to flush toilet.
  • Build an affordable rainwater storage system. (I am still researching about this ...).
There is a CNN post about why California historic drought will impact not just only Californians.   It reports that California produces 1/3 portion of US vegetables, and 2/3 portion of fruits.  The drought also poses a serious risk to the future of Silicon Valley.

NYTimes posts a water-usage map of California.  There is definitely many rooms for improvement.

I will post our next water usage result in early May.

It takes time to change habit.  Start practicing now.  Good luck to all of us to save water.

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