Today is Blog Action Day and the focus is Water. I live in Los Angeles, where water conservation is a big deal. California is in yet another drought, and Los Angeles has had our water supply drastically reduced due to court orders. Although reduced yard watering schedules, increased use of native plants, and low-flow appliances and fixtures have brought our water usage down to 1970s levels, we still have a ways to go. Here are my five tips for monitoring and improving your water footprint, even if you don’t live in a drought region.

Modify Your Outdoor Watering Schedule
Recently, DWP changed my watering schedule from Monday and Thursday to Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. We had a heat wave coming, so I reprogrammed the watering schedule. However, now that we’re heading fully into fall, I’m going to set it back to twice a week. Once I’ve pulled my tomato plants, I’ll set it to once a week. When we had heavy rain last winter, I turned off the timers for two months, but that sort of rain only happens every 5-7 years so I expect to water more this winter.

Regardless of where you live, you should readjust your watering schedule in the fall and winter. Most lawns and other plants go dormant. Those that survive are designed for the harsher winter conditions. And remember to turn off the timer when rain is coming, or buy a timer with a rain detector and automatic rain delay feature.

Install Low-Flow Appliances
Most areas now require low-flow showerheads and toilets. With advances in the technology, these really aren’t that different from regular showerheads and toilets, except that they save water. You can go further than that, though, and opt for a water-saving dishwasher or washing machine.

When we bought our washer, I looked at the water efficiency to find one that would save money. The washer I chose has a sensor that detects the load size and auto-fills to that point. It also lets me choose Cold, Tap, and Cool water temperatures to save on gas use. In addition, the washer I chose doesn’t have a central agitator, which helps the clothes move around more and get cleaner with less water. I didn’t opt for a front-load washer, which is the most water-efficient, because they’re too deep and I needed to be able to open the laundry room door!

Reduce Your Wash Loads
At risk of grossing people out, we only change our sheets once every two weeks. We also only wash towels once every two weeks (we change them once a week, but only have enough for a full load every two weeks.) It also takes us about two weeks to build up enough clothes for white, light, dark, and red loads. By amassing a large load every time, I’m able to reduce my water use significantly. Sure, occasionally I’ll have toss in a small load, such as when the cat vomited on the blanket, but most of the time I can get by less frequently.

Don’t Buy Bottled Water
Unless you live in an area where the water is contaminated, most tap water is safe. I used to not like LA water, but now that I live in a home with copper pipes, the water tastes fine. Before that we used a faucet water filter. We rarely buy bottled water because not only is it expensive, but it takes water to make the plastic for the bottles that hold the water! Why not just fill a glass from the tap and skip the wasteful middle man?

Opt for Native Plants
No, you don’t have to pull up your prized rose bushes, but try to plant some plants that are native to your region. These plants will be the most adapted to your local rainfall and groundwater levels, and will therefore thrive, whether you live in a desert or in a hurricane region. Try to avoid bringing in plants from other regions that require a lot of water to survive in yours. A big one for this is lawns. Many people in the west have lawns more suited for the rain-heavy northeast. Instead, opt for a California native lawn. It may not have that well-manicured expanse of green, but it will still look nice and reduce your water bill.

Interestingly, most of these water-saving tips aren’t expensive to implement, and most will actually save you money. Most of us pay for water, so every gallon you save is a few cents off your bill. It quickly adds up.

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