I have to admit, I have been a poor water conservator for most of my life. I have run the water while brushing my teeth, run the water while washing dishes, run the water while leisurely taking showers, and watered the flowers and grass during the day when a larger percentage evaporated before landing on anything.

OK, so now I have come clean; I am a recovering wateraholic.

I'm not perfect — I still have moments of "needing" to hear that water run.

In all seriousness, I am reformed in my attitude and practices of conserving water. I have experienced droughts in different parts of the country over my lifetime, some worse than others, and California's current situation is probably up there in the top two or three. But even having the capacity to understand the impacts of a drought, I never actively attempted to help by changing my habits — until now.

I take shorter showers (no brushing teeth in the shower). I don't let the water run while doing dishes (most of the time). I only water in the early morning or late evening, and instead of standing and spraying my targets, I bend over and hold the nozzle at the base of the plants and flowers so the ground get maximum absorption (the plants tell me they like this).

I have also taken up a practice taught by my dear mother-in-law. We now have dish-washing tubs in our kitchen sinks, and 5-gallon buckets in our showers. Running water to heat it up for showers no longer goes down the drain, but into the buckets; a good portion of the gray water from the showers also gets captured as well. What to do with these buckets-o'-water? Carry them out and water the plants, flowers, bushes and trees. Same with washing dishes; running water only goes into the dish-washing tubs, and they in turn are carried outside to recycle the water in the yards.

It is both an exercise in mental awareness and physical exertion. A gallon of water weighs 8.33 pounds, a 5-gallon bucket is between 40 and 41 pounds, and carrying the full tubs and buckets requires your full attention, or you will have five gallons of gray water (sometimes dark gray) spilling onto your carpet, hardwood floor or dog.

There are moments when the tubs are full and there are more dishes to do, and I simply want to dump the water down the drain; in those moments I now look at the quantity of water and think of its valuable use, or re-use. I pick them up and carefully carry them out, sometimes in the dark of night, or even early morning.

I'm not sure in the whole scheme of things these efforts have an impact on the overall water shortage, but I feel the efforts being made contribute to a higher level of awareness, and the need to conserve water, all the time, as the precious resource that it is.

<i>Steve Miksis is a resident of Santa Rosa.</i>