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Little Things Californians Are Doing To Conserve During The Drought

04/13/2015 10:38 pm ET | Updated Apr 14, 2015
Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

Conserving water isn’t optional anymore in drought-stricken California. Earlier this month, Gov. Jerry Brown announced the first-ever mandatory statewide water restrictions, so we asked readers to share how they’re helping cut water use by 25 percent. Here are some of the ideas.

They're rethinking how they flush.

When it comes to toilets -- the single greatest use of household water -- conserving water doesn’t just mean flushing less. It also means flushing differently.

“From turf to toilet we use really, really clean water to do dirty work,” John McFadden told The Huffington Post. “Think about that for a moment. We piss and crap in water that we can drink.”

Water we use in baths, showers, sinks and washing machines, reader Stuart Kelso wrote to HuffPost, can be recycled as “grey water” and used to flush toilets. While local regulations dictate how this water can be used, the San Francisco Chronicle reported, people who want to “go grey” can install a new system themselves.

Brown’s executive order on the drought introduced a rebate program that rewards people for upgrading to water-efficient appliances. But some Californians have found a quick way to upgrade.

“For the past 2-3 years, not only have I had a ‘low flush’ toilet, I've had a HUGE rock in the tank to displace water, so I use less,” Los Angeles reader Kimberly-Ann Talbert wrote.

Because rocks won’t fit easily in all toilet tanks and bricks dissolve in the tank over time, the volunteer-run Drop-A-Brick Project is selling rubber and hydrogel bricks that promise to save a half-gallon of water per flush, or about 3,000 gallons per year for the average household.

They're using recycled water on plants.

While flushing with grey water requires some handiwork, watering houseplants and yards can be done with just a bucket.

Ida Santos-Vissiere told HuffPost that she keeps a bucket in her shower to catch the clean, cold water that would otherwise go down the drain while she waits for the water to heat up and uses it on her potted plants.

“Leftover dishwashing water … can be used to water gardens or household plants,” McFadden noted. “As a server in one of San Francisco's many popular restaurants, I am witness to the horrifying amount of untouched water being thrown down the drain.”

If the dishwater is soapy, the University of California, Davis, notes, it’s okay to use on plants in a drought emergency, but water recyclers should check their dish soap for harmful ingredients, such as chlorine or boron.

They ditch their lawns.

Lawns, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates, account for 30 percent to 60 percent of residential water use, and Californians who let their water-guzzling grass die are now protected from fines from homeowners’ associations.

“We did not water our front or back lawns but a very few times last year and let it go brown,” reader Sandra Graham said. “We haven’t put in a garden in a couple of years.”

Ditching your lawn, however, doesn’t always mean dead grass. Plenty of plants native to California will thrive with little water or upkeep, many residents are finding.

“We live in Salinas, the salad bowl capital of the world,” Maureen McKee wrote. Our farmers need the available water, not our grass.

“We have replaced our lawn with redwood bark mulch and stone pavers,” Salinas resident Maureen McKee wrote. “The savings in water has been remarkable and it is not a problem to maintain … We are currently growing vegetables, bushes with edible berries, fruit trees and olives instead of ornamentals. What we water, we eat.”

That doesn’t have to be an expensive project. Some conservation-minded landscaping companies are now offering to both remove lawns for free and replace them with drought-tolerant terrain for free or discounted rates.

They're skipping washes.

Several readers said they’re washing themselves, their clothes and their cars less often.

“I no longer wash my truck,” Talbert said.

“We cut back on showers, taking maybe 3-4 a week instead of every day,” Graham wrote. “We do laundry 2 times a week and put the water level as low as we can.”

HuffPost reader Pamela McGhee suggested Californians consider alternatives to running water for washing.

“Do the veggies have to be washed or can they be wiped down with a wet cloth?” she wrote. “Do we have to use as much water to take a bath, or to bathe the children? … Perhaps for sedentary older persons a shower every other day will do the job just as well, and be gentler on the skin.”

Also on HuffPost:

California Drought
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