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How to Be Wise About Water at Home—Inside and Outdoors

Being wise about water use never goes out of season. Most conservation steps are simple and inexpensive – and all will save you money in the long run.

Part three of three-part series

Being wise about water use never goes out of season.

We can all do it, whether we own or rent, have a backyard or just some potted plants. Most conservation steps are simple and inexpensive—and all will save you money in the long run. 

Before You Make Any Changes

Regardless of where you live or how many people share your home, it's good to start by knowing where your biggest uses occur so that you can focus your energy there.

  • Spend a few minutes with a water use calculator, a quick and easy online tool. 
  • Check for leaks. They're rarely obvious. Even a small one can drive your utility bill way up.

Making Wise Use of Water Indoors

Familiar with EnergyStar labels on appliances that use less electricity? Well, now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has a WaterSense label for all sorts of products that use water.

  • Swap out any old, high-water-use toilets.
  • When you replace your dishwasher or laundry washing machine, choose a water-efficient one.

Rebates for these upgrades are available from many of the Peninsula water agencies, including those serving Belmont, Burlingame, parts of the Coastside, Daly City, Foster City, East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Millbrae, Pacifica, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Carlos, South San Franisco and San Mateo.

Among the many simple conservation tips you might try, don't forget the two everyone can do:

  • Add an aerator to your showers and sink faucets to slow the flow.
  • Turn off the tap when you aren't using it, such as while you brush those pearly whites.

Making Wise Use of Water Outdoors

Whether you're ready to replace a whole lawn with drought-tolerant plantings, or just start replacing a few of the biggest water-suckers with California natives, there are free classes available to get you started. This March, April and May, the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency will teach a variety of water-wise lanscaping topics in Peninsula towns, including Belmont, Daly City, Hillsborough, Menlo Park, Portola Valley, Redwood City, San Bruno, San Mateo and South San Francisco.

Beyond the Tap

Once you've taken steps to reduce your water use, consider the sources available to you. In addition to buying our delicious, clean Hetch-Hetchy tap water from your local water agency, you can tap into the rain yourself for non-drinking uses. And whether or not you live in the parts of the Peninsula with recycled water available for landscaping, you can recycle some of your home's lightly-used water yourself.

If you read last February's Green Views article on how home rainwater and greywater systems work, and now want a class to learn how to install either one yourself, there are opportunities coming up again soon. Check the BAWSCA class page for free offerings on the Peninsula and the Oakland nonprofit Greywater Action for free or low-cost classes around the Bay Area.

A mild-mannered civil servant by day, Mary Bell Austin uses her time away from her environmental work for, well, environmental play. Her adventures in healthy eating and her explorations into the wider green world can be found at Bite-size Green. Her column appears biweekly on Saturdays. 

Phyllis McArthur February 20, 2012 at 02:44 AM
All very good suggestions! thanks.
Pretty Asian... February 20, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Ms. PHYLLIS: you are welcome. you may share these tips to your clients on your real estate business and will make a very good impression about you (adds another feather to your cup). more power to you! :-)
Phyllis McArthur February 21, 2012 at 12:32 AM
I actually did tell a client to read your post and she thought you had some awesome suggestions, like the toilet flushing issue, and not running the water while brushing your teeth....
Sarah H. February 21, 2012 at 01:40 AM
I would like to know more about that meadow mix lawn shown in the picture above. I have a very, very stubborn "lawn" of weeds and hard compacted soil My husband has tried in vain to bring it back to life, but we're really not willing to spend large amounts of time prepping and cultivaing the soil, and can practically hear the nickles and times spewing from our hose every time we water. So, what we're left with is a rather unsightly front yard that only looks somewhat decent in the wetter months. I'd love to find a simple and easy alternative, emphasis on the simple and easy part. Any suggestions?
Pretty Asian... February 21, 2012 at 10:57 PM
i see my mom putting empty "rice skins' on soil (after she cultivated it) to keep it from solidifying. gardening is a therapy for us and a means for bonding. we talk to our plants, birds, and fishes, too, in the garden. what a great joy indeed to see plants bear fruits, produce flowers, and birds hatched an egg.

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