September 24th, 2015 by Joe Van Fossen
California is now in its 4th year of one of the worst droughts in the state’s history. While we may be getting some short-term relief with the impending El Niño, it’s a good idea to consider investing (time and/or money) in some more long term conservation solutions. While it may sound daunting to change your habits and possibly your plumbing fixtures or appliances, there are a number of relatively painless options out there.
Let’s start with the free options. There are plenty of things we could all be doing around the house to help conserve our water usage. Most of us already know of the easy stuff, like not constantly running the sink while brushing our teeth, shaving, washing your face, or washing the dishes. There’s also the good ol’ party standby, “if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown flush it down.” If your family is anything like mine and you cook rice several times a week, the residual starch/waste water can be used to water plants around the house and yard — some people suggest the nutrients and minerals in the water are also beneficial to the plants, but I don’t know of any evidence to back this up.
There are also some lower cost options for reducing your water usage around the house. A big one is making sure to fix any plumbing leaks you might have. Installing water saving fixtures like low flow shower heads and sink aerators can have a great impact as well. Installing an instant, on demand water heaters in the kitchen and bathroom or installing a water recirculating pump on your existing tank-style water heater, can save gallons upon gallons of waste by providing instant hot water.
Retrofitting your home to be more water efficient can get costly, but there are a lot of rebate programs designed to help with some of the more expensive upgrades. One of the smartest moves you can make is upgrading an old toilet to a new WaterSense design. Along with having a shiny new toilet, you can get up to $250 (possibly more). So Cal WaterSmart offers a $150 rebate per toilet in Chino Hills (for example), on up to 9 toilets. You can combine that with the California department of water resources rebate for up to $100 per household. Additionally, there are rebates available for high efficiency clothes washers, weather-based irrigation controllers, high efficiency sprinkler nozzles, rain barrels, and soil sensor moisture systems. Rebates are available until funding runs out. Check socalwatersmart.com and saveourwaterrebates.com for more information on qualifying purchases and rebate availability. Unfortunately, the much discussed turf removal rebates have run out. However, there may be more funds dedicated to that program in the future.
Not everyone is going to be able to retrofit their homes, but there are plenty of options that just require changing a few bad habits. In the long run, we’ll be saving money in addition to helping our state. If we all do our part, however big or small, we can keep California an amazing and beautiful place to live.