SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Californians have been bombarded with pleas to save water during the drought.
Requests have popped up on freeway signs, restaurant tables and elsewhere, but it's still easy to lose track of how simple tasks such as washing fruit and shaving can guzzle gallons of water each day.
It's true that agriculture uses nearly 80 percent of the water humans take from reservoirs and groundwater basins. But farmers point out that Californians benefit from a bit of that water every time they eat an almond, apple or ice cream cone.
Here are some ways Californians can save water:
RIP OUT YOUR LAWN
That pretty green grass in front of your house is probably guzzling more than half the water used by your household. You can let the lawn go brown this summer until it's revived by winter rains (which hopefully aren't going the way of unicorns).
You could also kill the lawn outright. Many homeowners are opting for fake grass and drought-tolerant landscaping heavy on rocks and cacti with a dash of color from plants such as lavender and blue sage. Each square foot of classic grass replaced can save as much as 70 gallons of water a year.
EASIER (AND CHEAPER) SAID THAN DONE ...
New landscaping can cost thousands of dollars, but the drought has spawned discounts. Many cities and water wholesalers are offering or expanding rebates to those who ditch the grass. If you make the switch, don't let your homeowners association or code enforcement officers give you grief. California law protects residents trying to be good drought citizens.
TAKE SHORTER SHOWERS
Shorter showers are another go-to for Californians to boast water savings, but it's easy to lose track of time while relaxing under the spray. Setting a timer or using colder water helps maintain discipline. Each minute the shower runs is another five gallons of water down the drain — less if you have low-flow showerheads. Turning the water off when tending to your hair can save as much as 150 gallons every month.
WHY WASH THOSE DISHES?
You'll actually use less water in the dishwasher (full loads, of course) than washing pots and plates by hand. Buying efficient machines can save as much as eight gallons a load. If you don't have a dishwasher, minimize running water by filling up basins with water to soak and rinse. Using disposable plates won't necessarily save water because paper production is among the biggest industrial guzzlers.
ASK FOR THAT WATER
Restaurants and bars aren't allowed to give you a glass of water unless you ask. That might only save a couple of gallons a day in some establishments, and the state can't put a number on it. This rule really is about drilling home the conservation message everywhere you go, even when you're out for that nice meal. Tap water is still the most drought-friendly beverage to order: It takes 20 gallons of water to make a pint of beer and roughly two glasses of water goes into that glass of Diet Coke.
Sources: Department of Water Resources, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California