Am I a Funny Girl?

Drought in California: Easy ways to conserve water

– Posted in: Green, Lists

I’ve lived in California my entire life, and while I love the benefits (hello, weather!) there is one big thing that is something that comes up regularly, and is never not a concern.
No, not earthquakes.
While most of the country was freezing with sub-zero polar vortex temps, we were firmly entrenched in the mid-60s. Wearing a cardigan and skirt to work, while other people threw pots of boiling water into the air and watched them vaporize into ice mist.

Since Gov. Brown declared a state of emergency due to lack of rainfall, I wanted to share some tips to help you conserve water at home; the state has asked everyone to reduce consumption by 20%

For those who don’t get all the local California news at home, I think this image (from NASA/NOAA) demonstrates pretty well just how desperate the water situation is in my beloved state.
california-snow-drought-extreme-critical-fire-risk-los-angeles-san-francisco-oakland-january-2014-620x350When I asked my friends on Facebook for their favorite water saving tips (Drink more beer!), I realized that I’ve done many of them for my entire life. California was in a significant drought for a good part of my childhood (1985-1991) so many of these things are so ingrained in me, I don’t even think about it.


  1. Use a timer to limit the amount of time spent in the shower; you really only need about five minutes. Get in, get clean, get out. This shower timer makes it really easy to keep track of that five minute limit.
  2. Install low-flow heads on faucets and showers to help reduce the amount of water you’re using for daily tasks.
  3. Encourage your kids to shower instead of taking baths. An average bathtub, filled about halfway, takes roughly 35-40 gallons of water, while a five minute shower will use only about 10-20 gallons. (Source). I’m not suggesting you stick your 1 year old in the shower, of course, but kids on the border may have luck in the shower. We had good luck with Max in the shower when we installed a handheld showerhead, so he wasn’t inundated with water in his face.
  4. Don’t leave the water running to brush your teeth. You really only need a cup of water; fill it, wet your brush, brush and then rinse. With the water shut off. Easy.
  5. Use less water per flush;  you can install a fancy low-flow toilet, or this dual flush converter kit, but I said this list would be easy thing. You can also put something in your toilet tank to help displace water and reduce the amount per flush. Something as simple as a brick or a 2-liter bottle filled with sand or water will take up space in the tank and help use less per flush.
  6. “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” Not gonna lie. I have trouble doing this one. It works for lots of people, and I vividly remember the signs at outdoor ed camp in sixth grade, pinned in every toilet stall, but still. (Please note: Max has no problems with letting it “mellow”)
  7. Put a bucket in your shower to collect the water that runs while you’re waiting for it to warm up. You can then use that to water plants and pets. Similarly, if you find a half-full water bottle or cup in the house, use it for something, don’t just pour it down the drain! Water plants, use it to soak a dirty dish.
  8. Rip out your lawn and install xeriscaping instead. If that’s to hardcore, you can use an extra layer of 3″-4″ of mulch around the base of your landscaping plants; it will help reduce evaporation when you water, and help keep the plants healthier with less water. Also raising the level on your lawnmower from 1.5″ to 2″ will help reduce evaporation as well, since the extra shade of the longer blades of grass will protect the soil.
  9. Get a drip system for your veggie garden and other plants, and adjust the scheduling based on current temps, so you aren’t over or underwatering.
  10. Set your sprinklers to so off early in the morning or in the evening, watering in the middle of the day isn’t as efficient because of evaporation.
  11. Install insulation on your water pipes. It’s easy to install pipe wrap insulation to help keep your warm water warm, so you need less water while waiting for it to get to the desired temperature.
  12. Don’t wash your car, or just spot wash (I’m not saying you should drive around with a bird crap dotted car! LOL) If you do need to wash your car, take it to a commercial carwash that recycles the water instead of washing it at home.
  13. Only run your dishwasher when it’s full. Same goes for the washing machine.
  14. Get your kids on board. The book “Why Should I Save Water?” is one way that you can help explain to your kids what’s going on, and encourage them to do their part to help.

Faucet photo credit: Easa Shamih (iZZo)

7 Comments… add one

Sara January 20, 2014, 8:45 am

Great summary Lizz! Will definitely share this out!

Lizz January 20, 2014, 10:07 am

Thanks, Sara!

Stephanie Burrage January 20, 2014, 12:50 pm

Those pictures are really frightening! Around here everything is so dry and bleak – it’s just sad.

Here’s to hoping for some good California rain soon.

Jen January 20, 2014, 7:54 pm

Thanks! We do all of this too. But the bucket of water saved in the shower is used to flush the toilet when they ask us to cut back on water usage. Just pour it in the bowl and it will force it to flush.

My dad runs attaches a garden hose to his washing machine drain and runs it out to his yard to water the yard every time you run the washer. Just move the hose around between loads.

Roxanne January 22, 2014, 4:33 pm

I grew up in CA during a drought. And now there’s a drought. It’s my belief that CA is just constantly in a drought. True story.

Also: yay for saving water! Save water: shower with a friend! (ok, so I shower with my kid sometimes…not quite as exciting…)

Jon Seed March 7, 2014, 9:37 pm

Great list! I’ve been water conscious most of my life and I do just about all this already. I’ve also made a list of other ways to save on water supplies here. I hope the good people of California enjoy some rain soon. Don’t forget to harvest the rain!

Becky H April 24, 2015, 3:49 pm

Wonderful list. Thank you for putting it together!

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