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Saving Water

If you are living in California right now, you know this: water is scarce. But there are things that YOU can do – right now – to help the situation for all. Just go on Google, and you’ll find a ton of tips for you – and your neighbors – to do to save water. If everyone did that, the problem wouldn’t be as severe.

Here’s an article that makes 100 water savings suggestions. My own suggestion? Print out a copy and post it on your refrigerator door. Look at it every day. Tell your neighbors. Here are some of the best tips:

1. Check your house for water leaks, indoors and outdoors.

2. Don’t let the water flow when washing dishes, shaving, brushing your teeth or otherwise. Keep your hand on the tap.

3. Run your dishwasher and clothes washer only when full.

4. Don’t run water to cool it. Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge to use.

5. Avoid flushing the toilet (only flush it to get rid of poop, not pee). Install low volume toilets if you can. 

6. Wash produce in a pan. Use the water afterwards for plants.

7. Clean your driveway with a broom, not a hose.

8. Put food coloring in your toilet tank. If the color seeps into the toilet bowl, you have a leak. So fix it.

9. Designate one glass each day for drinking. You won’t have to wash that many glasses.

10. Soak your pots and pans instead of letting the water run while you scrape them clean.

11. Make sure your toilet flapper doesn't stick open after flushing, if it does, replace it.

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12. Bathe your young children together.

13. Turn off the shower while you are soaping yourself.

14. When the kids want to cool off, use the sprinkler in an area where your lawn needs it the most.

15. Cook food in as little water as possible. This will also retain more of the nutrients.

16. If you must take a bath instead of a shower, fill the tub only 1/2 way and save up to 10-15 gallons each time. If you can bathe in the backyard, then you can use the water afterwards for your plants.

17. Encourage your friends and neighbors to be part of a water-conscious community.

The Japanese avoid some of that by having bathroom sink water drain into the toilet tank, thereby reusing the water from the sink.

This is just scratching the surface. Just think of the water wasting things we do in our society. The invention of the flush toilet immediately increased the wasting of water. The Japanese avoid some of that by having bathroom sink water drain into the toilet tank, thereby reusing the water from the sink. But we should really go back to using dry toilets. Dry toilets and excreta management without sewers can offer more flexibility in construction than flush toilet and sewer-based systems. It can be a suitable system to adapt to climate change, particularly in desert-like areas. But California may have to move towards this solution.

In Fresno, a very hot and dry area of California, people are getting rid of lawns. Now, there’s an idea! Why do we have lawns, anyway? Turns out, the grass lawn as a status symbol has its origins in European aristocracy. The very first lawns were grassy fields that surrounded English and French castles. Castle grounds had to be kept clear of trees so that the soldiers protecting them had a clear view of their surroundings. Lawns are indicative of success; they are a physical manifestation of the American Dream of home ownership. But they waste a ton of water.

I am presently living in San Miguel de Allende, which is a lovely Mexican town but one that has a lot of water problems. When I first moved here, I stopped flushing the toilet a lot; I do it once daily. Recently, I put in a water catchment system (plus solar panels). 

A big part of the water problem in SMA is the amount of water used for agriculture. Something like 85% of the water used goes to water succulent plants, like broccoli. And the broccoli is mostly exported to the U.S. The locals tend to each things like nopales (cactus) which use a lot less water. Cactus may be part of our future.

Why don’t we grow millet? Millets on one acre saves six million liters of water. Millets are far superior nutritionally to rice and wheat. They have more protein, iron, calcium and fibre. As against rice, where the standing water produces greenhouse gases like methane, millets that are grown with legumes fix carbon in the soil.

To help reduce your water footprint, one recommendation is for diet-related changes including eating less processed foods, wasting less food, choosing organic, eating locally, and eating less meat. If you do eat meat, pasture-raised is considered the better option; while both conventional and pastured meat use the same amount of water, their impact on water resources are different. However, cutting out meat is the best way to lower dietary water footprints. Beef has a particularly high water footprint at about 1,800 gallons per pound, while pork follows at 578 gallons and chicken with 468 gallons. On average, the water footprint of a vegan or vegetarian is around half that of a meat eater. By eating less meat and replacing it with less water-intensive plant-based alternatives, water footprints will shrink. Our future may well be vegan. 

michael hertz

The government in California says: “By making conservation a way of life in California, we save water, minimize water waste, rebuild our underground aquifers, prepare for the uncertainties of climate change, and minimize the harmful effects of drought.” The rest of the country should start listening, too.

Michael Hertz