Water conservation a way of life for Healdsburg family
It’s rare to see someone regard a household fixture with the kind of absorption, let alone enthusiasm, that Don McEnhill exhibits while endorsing lever-handle faucets like the one at his kitchen sink in Healdsburg.
But then McEnhill, guardian of the Russian River watershed through the Russian Riverkeeper program, has an especially heightened relationship with water, and anything that helps him avoid wasting it merits his praise.
Take the kitchen faucet: Its one-touch, on-off capability means a person washing his or her hands can soap up with the water off and easily flip it back on to rinse — a move that’s too difficult with slippery hands and twisty faucet knobs.
“With double twisters, you’re going to use more water every time,” McEnhill said earnestly, moving on to the bathroom and the tiny shut-off valve on his low-flow shower that allows him to reduce the flow to a trickle while he shampoos and lathers.
On the floor nearby, a partly filled 2½-gallon bucket held water collected earlier in the day while the shower was warming up. A plastic pitcher stood nearby, one of more than a half-dozen basins and receptacles scattered through the house to harvest water that might otherwise go to waste. Instead it will be used to water the plants, rinse dishes or flush the toilet.
McEnhill — and by extension his wife, Vicky, and twins Jack and Emma, 13 — has turned water conservation into a way of life, moving well beyond what most Californians have managed in the way of household efficiency, for an extended period of time.
A recent report out of the State Water Resources Control Board shows Californians are finally getting serious about water conservation. Under orders since April 1 to reduce water use by 25 percent compared with 2013, urban residents cut domestic consumption by nearly 29 percent in May, compared to the same month in 2013.
But until now, many have demonstrated little effort to reduce water use, despite an ongoing drought now in its fourth year.
Though the numbers are highly variable house-to-house and city-to-city, state residents got their water use down to an average of 87.5 gallons per person, per day in May, the state board said.
In Sonoma County, residents consumed an average 75 gallons per day, with a low of 52.4 in Rohnert Park and a high of 108.9 in Sonoma.
State water officials say Californians should be using no more than 55 gallons per person, per day indoors.
By comparison, the McEnhills have used an average of 47 gallons total per person, per day over the past 12 months, with a high just under 57 gallons in January. Don McEnhill, 52, said he doubts his family has ever used much more than 70 gallons per person, per day over the past 15 years.
“We use every trick in the book,” he said. “Every time we turn on the faucet, we think, ‘Do I need it on this high? Do I need it this long?’ ”
It helps that his family’s Healdsburg home, nestled amid live oaks and other woodland species above a seasonal creekbed near Tayman Park Golf Course, has next to no landscaping or lawn to water. State officials estimate that, on average, half of Californians’ residential water is used for outdoor irrigation.