This is an important topic to all of us. The reason is very simple: Most people don’t realize that less than 3 percent of the world’s water is potable – i.e. drinkable. As a chemical engineer, I’ve spent nearly 10 years focused on “sustainability” related projects and more specifically projects designed at water conservation. Two issues are indisputable: (1) Southern Californians live in what ostensibly amounts to a desert, and (2) Clean water is a finite resource. To drive the point home, consider the following: People can generally live between 30-40 days without food whereas, under normal conditions, we can only survive between 3 to 5 days without clean drinking water.
The lack of measurable rain fall this winter season has brought discussions of drought conditions and governmental measures taken to the forefront of the news again. Barring any significant rainfall in the next couple months, we will again be far short of average rainfall numbers. There are a number of things that we can do as homeowners to do our part in contributing to the water conservation solution. This article will touch on two main areas, first, where we as homeowners waste the most water as well as what measures could be implemented to help us reduce our usages, and second, some ideas as to how to make your home landscape more water usage friendly.
The California Association of Realtors (CAR) conducted a survey focusing on water usages in homes and where we waste the most water. A summary of these results can be found below:
As can be seen, a three-bedroom single family home, uses roughly 174,000 gallons annually. Extrapolate that out for the roughly 3,000 homes in Rossmoor alone, that is 522 million gallons of water used annually. Include Los Alamitos and Seal Beach homes in this extrapolation and now your are well in excess of 1.5 billion gallons annually.
As can also be seen in the graphic, the largest sources of water use (and waste) in our homes are sinks and faucets, showers and landscaping. When it comes to use inside of the house, there are simple water conservation measures that can be implemented. Try not to run faucets and showers unnecessarily. Installing flow-restricting fixtures as outlined in the graphic will also help a great deal in state wide conservation efforts as a whole. You can be a major help in attacking the greatest wastes of water. Estimates suggest that 57% of our water use is for landscaping. This does not include the additional 9% of our water use that is attributed to the over-watering of our landscapes (i.e. the infamous sprinklers running while it is raining). Roughly 66% of our water is use is thus for landscaping rather than human consumption! The Orange County Register had an article last week that provided recommendations on how to develop a greener and more drought-tolerant landscape without sacrificing appeal:
- Make permeable spaces — By utilizing concrete pavers that are mulched with gravel, runoff is reduced, which allows rain to soak into the soil more efficiently, as opposed to draining onto the curb, into the gutter and out to the ocean;
- Use low-flow sprinkler heads — Use rotating sprinkler heads that deliver water slowly like raindrops or drips. Delivering water in this manner allows drops to soak deeper into the soil in a more efficient manner, as less water is lost through evaporation;
- Mulch — By using two to three inches of mulch, the soil is kept more moist, while weeds are suppressed and evaporation is reduced. Utilizing mulch in your beds and planters will substantially cut down on your water usages;
- Use drought-tolerant plants — This does not necessarily mean replacing all your plants with native plant species. The truth is that almost all plants found in a nursery can survive on less water than we provide them. Specific drought-tolerant plants are often identified by their fuzzy leaves that prevent evaporation, or succulent leaves that retain and store water;
- Lose the lawn — As the article states, it is silly to grow your grass as fast as you can, only to have it cut back each week. A beautiful, lawn-less landscape can be just as attractive as lawn if done properly;
- Mimic your interior design — You want your landscape design to flow and mimic the interior design, feel and colors of your home to maintain the overall feel and attractiveness of your property.
Not only will many of these water conservation measures put you in compliance with legislation slated for implementation in 2017 targeted at water conservation, it will dramatically cut your water bill. With water rates only set to increase moving into the future, especially if drought conditions continue, the “greening” of your home by making it more water efficient ultimately adds value to your property.
Have more questions? Looking for help? Don’t hesitate to give me a call,