Tips for cutting water use by 15% during California’s drought
Gov. Gavin Newsom asked California residents this month to voluntarily reduce their water use by 15%. What does this number mean for an average Bay Area household?
Based on 2020 estimates, an average Bay Area household of three individuals spends about 206 gallons of water per day. Reducing water use by 15% would mean using about 30 gallons less water per day.
Tia Fleming, executive director, external affairs at California Water Efficiency Partnership and Heather Cooley, director of research at Pacific Institute, offered some easy ways to meet the recommendation:
Check for leaks in faucets and toilets: A toilet leak can amount to 30 gallons per day
The amount of leak can vary considerably, but an average toilet leak will waste about 30 gallons per day. In extreme cases, a running toilet can leak as much as 4,800 gallons per day — more than 23 times daily average household usage. Other possible sources of leaks are shower heads, sinks, sprinklers, and even pipes.
Large leaks are easier to detect — you might notice it if you get an extraordinarily large water bill or if you hear any dripping noises or "ghost flushes" (in which a toilet makes a flushing noise but no one is using it). For smaller leaks, you could also turn off all running water and check the water meter to see if it still changes.
Water your garden one fewer time a week: This could save about 27 gallons of water
Watering a yard for an average Bay Area household takes about 27 gallons. Hotter regions or larger lawns may require more water. Avoiding the hotter times of the day could also make watering your garden more efficient.
Reduce shower time by two minutes: This could save 12 to 15 gallons of water a day
An average California shower head spews out 2 to 2.5 gallons of water per minute, which amounts to more than 20 gallons of water during a 10-minute shower. If each person in the household could shorten their showers by two minutes, an average household would save around 12 to 15 gallons per day.
Turn off the sink tap while brushing your teeth or shaving: This could save around 24 to 30 gallons of water a day
Water from sink faucets is generally known to flow at 2.5 gallons per minute. If you spend about a minute and a half brushing your teeth, leaving water running the whole time can waste around 4 gallons. If you brush your teeth twice a day and keep the sink faucet closed, you could save around 8 gallons. Similarly, turning off the tap while shaving can save 10 gallons of water per shave, assuming that shaving takes about four minutes. Multiply these numbers by three for the entire household.
Wash full loads of dishes using a dishwasher: This could save around 50 gallons per wash
Letting the water run while doing your dishes would use 2 to 2.5 gallons of water per minute, which would amount to more than 60 gallons if the task takes half an hour. On the other hand, experts say a dishwasher generally uses 6 to 10 gallons of water per load, although it can vary widely depending on the type. Therefore, washing a full load of dishes with a dishwasher could save 50 gallons per wash. If you don't have a dishwasher, you could conserve water by turning off the faucet when you don't need the water running.
Wash full loads of clothes: One fewer load a week could save 5 gallons of water per day
While the number is different for each machine, an average washing machine in the U.S. market uses about 36 gallons of water per load. By reducing one load of laundry per week, you could save approximately 5 gallons of water per day.
Upgrade your utilities: For example, a newer toilet could save 33 gallons a day
A more efficient shower head, which has been required in California since 2018, spews out 1.8 gallons of water per minute — which is less than older ones that release 2 or 2.5 gallons per minute. That means one person could save up to 7 gallons of water each day, even if they take the same length of shower. Changing your old, pre-1990s toilet to a newer one could also save around 33 gallons per day.
Replace plants in your garden with California native plants or other water-wise plants
It's hard to find out how much exactly you can save with water-efficient plants. But planting California native plants or other water-wise plants are recommended, according to the state's "Save Our Water" program. Experts also recommend planting in the fall or winter, when it rains more often.