Three big ways to use less water

DOWNEY - In an article on Downey water rate increases last week, I pointed out that by far the biggest water guzzler for the individual homeowner is landscape irrigation. In other words, your lawn drinks up from 30 to 70% of your water use. So, in the interest of saving money, you're going to want to reduce the amount of water you use to irrigate your lawn.But this raises a couple of other questions related to water conservation: First, aside from saving money, why reduce water consumption? And second, in what other ways can a homeowner or an individual cut down on his or her water use? The first question points to a fascinating "La Ni?±a" weather pattern in southern California which normally causes heavy rain south of the equator (as it did in Australia this past winter) and dry weather in California and the southern U.S. Atypically, La Ni?±a missed southern California this year while bringing scorching drought to the rest of the southern United States. Also uncharacteristically, winter precipitation provided enough water to fill most of California's reservoirs, ending the drought and leaving us with the best water outlook in years. The problem is simply that weather is quirky and unpredictable, and you simply can't trust it. Southern California, compared to much of the rest of the U.S., just got lucky. And this situation could begin to reverse itself within a few short months. So the best thing to do is to develop the habit of conserving water all the time. Which leads to the second question: "How, besides watering your lawn less, can you further reduce water use?" Water agencies everywhere are constantly offering useful and meaningful suggestions, and they all add up. Here is a recap of some of them: 1) Avoid leaving the water running whenever you can, whether it's brushing your teeth, shaving, cleaning vegetables, hand washing dishes, or washing the car; and no playing in the sprinklers. 2) Use water more efficiently: fix leaks anywhere you find them; use a low-flow shower head; wash only full loads of laundry, or better yet, if you can afford it, get a new low-water washing machine or a high-efficiency dual-flush toilet. (Many public agencies have subsidy programs for this type of purchase.) 3) Back to landscaping, besides watering a lawn less and eliminating overspray and run-off, you can add mulch around trees and plants, which retains water. Lastly, you can begin to think about shifting towards drought-resistant native landscaping. Lars Clutterham is a Downey resident and charter member of the city of Downey's Green Task Force and Downey Chamber of Commerce's Green Committee.

********** Published: July 14, 2011 - Volume 10 - Issue 13