Battling Water Conservation Fatigue

by Chris Bjorklund


A good water-saving measure is to replace your lawn with drought-resistant plants, like these decorative artichokes installed by Reilly Designs.

We’ve been encouraged to cut back on our water use for many months now, yet we’re still not conserving enough. So now the governor is ordering mandatory water use reductions with the specifics yet to be worked out by the individual water agencies.

Why have we been so slow to make changes in our water consumption habits? They say, “Replace your lawn with drought-resistant plants. Take shorter showers. Only do full loads of laundry. Get a rebate for a water-efficient toilet.” At some point, you wonder if we won’t change our behavior until our water bills skyrocket. The truth might be that most of us (myself included) are suffering from water conservation fatigue.

To overcome my own inertia, I decided to see if I could reinvigorate my water conservation efforts at home by having a free “Water-Wise” evaluation offered by the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission. The water conservation inspector, Al Ujcic, spent 45 minutes with me looking for leaks, making small changes and suggesting ways to save more water in my home.

I was surprised to see how easy it is to replace your regular faucet aerator with a water-saving aerator, which reduces the gallons flowing per minute (gpm) from 2.2 to 1.5. Everyone should do this—it’s a no-brainer. Mr. Ujcic also installed a more efficient (and free) showerhead that saves about .5 gallons per minute. The water pressure is still about the same for both the faucets and the shower, which also came as a surprise.

The inspector put a blue dye into both toilet tanks, and sure enough, he found a slow leak in one and suggested replacing a flap. He was enthusiastic about our “newish” water-efficient washing machine and dishwasher, and he recommended replacing my 2.25 gpm kitchen faucet with a 1.8 gpm faucet.

While our irrigation system is well-maintained and efficient, Mr. Ujcic suggested removing more of the lawn and adding mulch to the plant beds to retain moisture and reduce watering. We have a lot more work to do on the yard, and when we make these changes, they’ll have the biggest impact on our water usage.

Many Bay Area counties offer free water conservation audits, so if you need a little inspiration, I suggest calling your local water department and scheduling an appointment soon. Trust me, you won’t regret it!

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