Put a damper on the drought – Water conservation with style

Put a damper on the drought – Water conservation with style

So it is official! Governor Brown declared a drought emergency for the State of California. I know, we love our sunshine and we love to brag about our warm winters lounging at the beach, but we fail to see the hidden price we pay for our happy days frolicking in the eternal sunshine. And here is the drawback to our beautiful, blue skies …. our blue skies lack the clouds that bring the rain that we need to fill our reservoirs, streams and lakes. This years’ rainfall in Los Angeles clocks in at 3.5″ per year, which is way under the average of around 13 inches we need to keep us afloat. It is hard to imagine that there could ever be a time when the faucet runs dry, but why wait to find out?

My wake up call came when I traveled to Northern California this winter. I fully expected cold and rainy days, but instead I encountered beautiful, warm temperatures, blue skies and sunshine. So, one day I decided to hike around the Mendocino Lake. “What lake?” a local asked me sheepishly. “Oh, I saw this big lake on the map, it should be very pretty to hike around there”, I remarked. “Yes, maybe” came the answer, “..but, there used to be a lake, now it is gone.” How can this be, I thought, as I drove to the lake’s shoreline and I gazed out into an expanse of dry brown earth with a little puddle of water huddled in the middle. This is when I realized that I have seen this many times before. Wherever there used to be a stream, a lake or a river, one now can find dry, crackled earth. Alarmed, I felt compelled to jump into action. I compiled some sources and tips in order for you to start saving our precious resource. We all can pitch in and safe a gallon here or there to preserve and stretch what little water we have left.

1. Evaluate your water consumption

Sometimes, it is hard to wrap your head around where your household uses all the water. We are so accustomed to turn on the faucet, the hose or the shower without a second thought of its source or what happens to the water after it goes down the drain. There are a lot of water conservation tips out there, but which one really applies to you?  Here is a great website that encourages you to evaluate your water consumption first, so that you can take a focused next step to conserve where you need it most.  http://saveourh2o.org/content/home

2. Start out slow

A lot of times, we get overwhelmed by long lists of what to do to reduce the water use in the house. It is good to start out slow and move forward one step at a time. An easy way to start is in your kitchen. Wash dishes in the sink basin filled with water, instead of allowing for the faucet to run continuously. Soak heavy soiled pans and exchange leaking faucets. Your old style kitchen faucet uses a flow rate of 4 to 7 gallon per minute. When you buy a new fixture with a build in aerator, you can reduce the flow rate to 1.5 gallon per minute, which results in great water savings over time. Here is the tricky part, your local Home Depot or Lowe’s does not only sell the low flow models, but also ones that have a higher flow rate.  It is important to be be vigilant and read the label. The best way to go about it is to buy only the faucets that bear the Water Sense label. Water sense is an organization that seeks to protect our water supplies. They certify faucets and fixtures to meet their standards of water conservation. Water Sense website


kitchen faucet

Kitchen faucet

The good news is, that some companies have made an enormous effort to combine form and function and offer a variety of  kitchen faucets that are stylish and beautiful, as well as functional. Brizo has developed a great line that they call Green is beautiful. They have turned water conservation into a chic trend and you can go”happy shopping” while knowing that your new fixture conserves water as well.
Brizo green

3. ..and keep on rolling

After the first step, you are up and running to retrofit your home.  Once you understand the terminology and function behind Water Sense products, it is much easier to identify the fixtures that help you conserve water. Your first common sense step here of course is to train yourself to use less water. Shut your faucet off while brushing your teeth, while soaping your hands and while shampooing your hair. A fixture that has a low flow feature will be your best partner to achieve maximum results in conserving water.



Bathroom faucets

The Water Sense label applies to bathroom faucets as well. You can choose from such a wide variety of models, finishes and styles that you do not have to sacrifice your look. In fact, I only now present the Water Sense labeled options to my clients and we always find a beautiful fixture for any bathroom style. I really applaud the efforts of Kohler and Brizo. They have made a big effort to comply with water saving measures without compromising style and elegance. You can browse their websites for many great looks. Kohler Water Sense



Shower heads

I find that most clients are happy to comply with water conservation measures until we reach the subject of the low flow shower head. The common perception is that a low flow shower head will provide an unsatisfactory drizzle when most people rely on a luxurious wake up shower to start the day. The trend in showering has evolved more and more towards the pampered experience utilizing multiple shower heads and body sprays. This approach will deliver a wonderful showering experience, however it does not help with the efforts of water conservation. So, it is important to be sensible and understand that your water pressure is a key component to a well functioning shower head and that the low flow option can still award a great experience. Here is a nice tutorial on  how to pick a low flow shower head  and the Kohler webpage for happy shopping. Kohler Water sense shower heads


Toilets and urinals

Most building codes in California are now asking for the flow rate of a toilet to be 1.28 gal. Many of my clients frown at such a low water amount and fear that the toilets will not function properly. Toto is a company that has risen to the challenge of producing very functional low flow toilets. They have become  the leading innovators in designing water efficient toilets and even though most of their products lean towards the modern design, the Toto Promenade toilet is beautiful and functional as well. Here you can browse some of the  TOTO low flow toilets

Water conservation does not have to feel restricted or compromising. In fact, allow yourself to go shopping for a new stylish fixture that reduces your water consumption and therefore it also lowers your water bill. Starting the process of retrofitting your fixtures is a win/win situation for the look of your house and your pocket book.


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