Did you know that each time you take a 10-minute shower, you’re using approximately 20 gallons of water? If you prefer a bath, you use at least 30 gallons with each soak. And though new toilets are allowed to use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush, older toilets still in use can expend more than 3.5 gallons.
While you may not have thought much about these amounts before, California officials now say all Golden State residents should take immediate measures to conserve water at home. This comes as water supplies across the state reach dangerously low levels.
New water conservation mandate announced
In April, a Southern California water district that serves areas of Los Angeles, San Bernadino and Ventura declared a water shortage emergency and is mandating drastic cuts in water use. All residents in these areas must restrict outdoor watering to no more than one day per week.
While San Diego County is not currently included in the mandated cuts, California Governor Gavin Newsom’s office is asking all Southern California residents to immediately reduce their water use by 20 to 30%. Officials warn if enough water isn’t conserved, or if supply conditions worsen, outdoor watering could be eliminated altogether, and limitations could be placed on indoor use.
“California experienced the driest January, February and March on record — the typical wet season is no longer the norm,” says Dr. Angie Neison, a board-certified family medicine doctor with Sharp Rees-Stealy Medical Group and member of the Public Health Advisory Council for the Climate Action Campaign. “By not having a wet season, our risk for wildfires increases and our water sources are depleted. We need to adapt to our new environment as if we are living in a desert.”
Three tips to save water at home
With these recent announcements, Californians have been warned that now is the time to drastically reduce water use. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California offers three tips for how you can conserve water at home:
- Use high-efficiency toilets and appliances. High-efficiency toilets save 8,000 gallons, washing machines save 11,000 gallons, and dishwashers save nearly 5,000 gallons per year. Additionally, waiting to run your dishwasher until it’s full saves an additional 4.5 gallons of water each load you run.
- Be aware of water use in the bathroom. Shorter showers and equipping your showers with water-efficient showerheads are also great ways to save. Replacing older showerheads with low-flat showerheads saves 2 gallons per minute, and shorter showers save an additional 2.5 gallons each minute. And don’t forget to turn off the water when brushing your teeth — you can save yet another 2 gallons per minute!
- Don’t overuse water outdoors. Whether you have a green thumb or not, being green is still crucial. You can save thousands of gallons of water each year by updating equipment and planting drought-resistant plants. In fact, you can save:
* Up to 500 gallons per week by watering your landscape just one or two days a week; and an additional 5 gallons each time you water plants in the early morning or evening, which reduces evaporation and ineffective watering
* 500 gallons per month by checking your sprinkler system for leaks, overspray and broken sprinkler heads; an additional 40 gallons per day by installing a smart sprinkler controller that adjusts watering based on weather, soil type and amount of shade; and 1,400 more gallons each year by using high-efficiency sprinkler nozzles
* 100 gallons each time you clean your driveway and sidewalks by using a broom instead of a hose
* 44 gallons per year, per square foot, by replacing your lawn with artificial turf, groundcover, native plants, drought-tolerant grasses and shrubs, and desert plants
“The next generation is much more conscious of the effects of the climate crisis,” Dr. Neison says. “Knowing I'm doing my best to make their future habitable – and encouraging others to do the same – is vital for both the health of the planet and our children’s health.”