California experienced both drought and flooding in the past five years, a reflection of the wildly changing weather patterns seen across the United States. During the drought years, lakes, rivers, and reservoirs dried up while crops, landscapes, and wildlife suffered. In 2015, Governor Jerry Brown called for a 25% reduction in urban water use and Californians rose to the challenge, saving an average of 24%. While the drought in California is officially over (for now), the state will continue to benefit from its water conservation efforts. Some of those efforts have recently been codified in two new water laws.
Extreme weather patterns affect nearly everyone, with four out of five people across the United States saying they were personally impacted. These patterns are thought to be exacerbated by climate change, resulting in stronger heat waves and longer droughts. More than 30% of the United States has experienced at least a moderate drought, with nine states impacted most severely. A survey of state water managers around the nation predicts freshwater shortages in 40 states over the next decade. So, before turning faucets on with reckless abandon, consider 9 ways to conserve water, drought or not.
9 Ways to Conserve Water
1. Stop using drinkable water when unnecessary
Don’t hose off sidewalks and driveways, but if you must, use non-potable water. Always recirculate water in outdoor decorative water fountains. Remember to turn the faucet off while you’re brushing your teeth.
2. Be extra cautious of leaks
One drop per second wastes 2,082 gallons of water per year. Repair visible leaks as soon as possible and install a leak monitoring system to detect leaks you can’t see. Flow monitoring services immediately report leaks to the occupant or site manager. A typical device clamps onto your existing water meter and tracks water usage by monitoring the flow.
3. Install hands-free faucets
While a faucet overhaul can be costly, it may be worth it. A single faucet left running overnight can significantly impact your water bills. Hands-free faucets only run when their hands are detected underneath, so you are guaranteed to avoid careless waste. Hands-free faucets are also more sanitary, which can benefit the overall hygiene of people in your building.
4. Upgrade to low-volume toilets
In some areas, low-volume toilets are legally required. But even if they aren’t required in your area, you may still want to upgrade. Toilets installed before the 1990s use about three to five gallons per flush, which is twice the amount of a low-volume toilet and needlessly drives up water costs. For commercial toilets, a cost-effective way to upgrade is changing flush valves. Many manufacturers make flush valves that bring the water usage down to one gallon per flush. A flush valve allows you to reduce your water usage and keep our same toilets for a minimal overall cost.
Families have saved around $170 and 11,000 gallons of water a year by installing efficient toilets and faucets in the bathroom.1
5. Increase use of recycled, greywater for outdoor irrigation
Greywater is non-drinkable, non-toxic water used in washing machines, tubs, showers, and sinks. If your system allows this water to be diverted, treated, and stored, you can reuse it. While greywater systems have some upfront costs, they typically reduce potable water use by 25%. Some local water agencies even offer rebates for greywater systems.
6. Invest in smart irrigation
These devices automatically adjust watering schedules based on weather or soil moisture data. Weather-based controllers take humidity, solar radiation, temperature, and wind into account to determine whether and when to water your property. Smart irrigation systems typically reduce water use by 25-50% and pay for themselves within 2 years.
Other water-efficient irrigation systems such as drip irrigation is kinder to your shrubs, trees, and flowers. Test your sprinkler systems and irrigation devices regularly to make sure they are in good working order. In the fall, turn down your irrigation systems, and in winter you could turn them off completely.
7. Consider turf removal
Less lawn not only saves you water, it saves time and money on labor. If you decide to maintain lawn landscaping, organic mulch improves soil quality and prevents weeds, and also keeps the soil cool. You should also investigate your fertilizer. Fertilizer increases the need for water, so a fertilizer with slow-release nitrogen is more efficient. Your sprinklers should all be positioned so they only water lawn and shrubs, and not paved areas. If you cover all of these bases on your landscape, you won’t need as much mowing, watering, and replanting.
8. Add drought-tolerant plants to your landscape
Generally, plants that are native to your region require less water. Certain succulents, grasses, shrubs, and trees are more drought-tolerant. Drought-resistant lawn seed, for example, can also come in handy. Here’s a list of native plants by state. These plants will more easily adapt to your climate and can survive longer without watering. Make sure to group plants with similar water needs together.
Food for thought: the City of Santa Monica commissioned a comparison of two 1900 square foot yards – one with traditional lawn and plants, the other with native plants and drip irrigation. After nine years, the natives-and-drip landscape wasted 573,375 gallons less water and took 167 less hours to maintain.
9. Harvest rainwater
If you have a large roof on your building, consider a commercial rainwater harvesting system. They’re easy to use and have low operating costs, especially in areas with a lot of rainfall. Calculate the estimated availability and demand of rainfall to guide your choice of systems. In general, a commercial harvester will need to separate oil and refuse from the water prior to storage, which may require plumbers and civil engineers. You also may need approval from local authorities to include a harvesting system at your building. An effective harvesting system also reduces rainwater runoff into the municipal sewer system.
HydroPoint develops smart water management solutions to reduce water waste and save time and money. See how some of our customers have benefitted from our solutions.