With summer in swing, it’s time to get outside and enjoy some fun in the sun. This year, summer heat and ongoing drought are prompting Californians to rethink the ways we use water. Here are 5 tips to keep you going through the summer and beyond. Based on lessons drawn from both our sustainable design practice at WDA and the 2015 Water Conservation Showcase at PG&E’s Pacific Energy Center in San Francisco, here are 5 tips to help you conserve water:
One of the simplest and immediate things you can do is get a bucket. A lot of water is wasted while we wait for tap water to heat. Collecting this water for plants or flushing toilets is quick and easy–just throw your bucket under the faucet. You don’t have to stop at the kitchen sink. You can also take your bucket(s) into the shower with you. Just be sure to use non‐toxic soaps, and your garden will still love you.
As your water collection increases, you’ll need storage space. You don’t have to go fancy–even a trash barrel will work. However, there are numerous receptacles specifically designed for water storage, so you can easily find one tailored to your needs. Some are narrow or designed to be buried, and come in an array of aesthetic options. Of course, these barrels are most commonly used for rainwater collection, so it’s never too late to connect them to your downspouts.
While collected water will help keep your garden green, it might not last the entire summer (unless you’ve budgeted for lots of storage). If you already have or are considering installing an irrigation system, it can easily connect to a smart meter. These meters rely on weather reports and/or moisture sensors so you water only when it’s needed, and not during an unexpected summer rain storm.
What if you don’t want to bother collecting water? Try a recirculator. These pumps send your not-yet-heated water back to the water heater rather than down the drain. Once the water is up to temperature a valve switches and sends it to the sink or shower for use.
The ultimate step in household water conservation would be to convert collected rainwater and grey water into drinking water. But to be safe, this water must be properly filtered of contaminants. These systems are currently cost-prohibitive for home use (and involve many regulatory hurdles), but smaller filtration systems under development will become more common and available for the everyday consumer.