I was watching an episode of The Simpsons the other night and in the opening scene, Marge is nagging Homer to fix a leaky faucet. Of course, Homer puts it off and his laziness has dire consequences: the wasted water causes a huge sinkhole under the city of Springfield. While a leaky faucet isn’t likely to cause a giant sinkhole—those are more typically caused by aging, poorly maintained water infrastructure (much like the massive water main break last week in Los Angeles where 20 million gallons of water was lost in less than 24 hours)—leaky faucets, showerheads, toilets, and irrigations systems waste over one trillion gallons of water each year in the United States. Unlike dripping faucets and showerheads, leaking toilets can easily go unnoticed. Wondering how to figure out if your toilet is leaking? Just check out this tip from two of my favorite water experts, Conan O’Brien & Andy Richter, AKA #TeamCocoH2O.
Today, they joined NRDC and the State’s Save Our Water drought awareness campaign to ask Californians an important question: “What’s your 20 percent?” With #TeamCocoH2O, we’re inspiring water conservation with the launch of six new comedic public service announcements. So, are you as water smart as Conan? Quiz yourself to find out!
If you are still wondering how this drought affects you and why you need to act now, you’re not alone. It can be tough to realize the severity of this historic California drought when most of us haven’t directly experienced water shortages. Every time we turn on our tap, clean water continues to flow out, and water is still highly subsidized and therefore reasonably inexpensive compared to other water scarce places around the world.
The stark reality is that we don’t know how long this drought will last or if our reserves will hold out until California gets some much-needed rain. And we’ve got to do a lot more than just hope for rain. We need to be water smart about how we use our limited supply of this precious resource. The good news is that each of us can start right now—every single person can do their part to save water.
In my last blog post on nrdc.org, I shared how we can reduce our individual water footprints with some easy water saving tips. The most important thing is to be conscientious about our water use and find creative ways to use water more efficiently.
In January, Governor Brown asked all Californians reduce water use by 20 percent, but to-date we’ve only reduced our water use by about five percent. While we’ve got a long way to go, this collective water use reduction is possible. Looking to other places like Australia that have successfully dealt with severe drought with robust collective conservation and efficiency measures, we know there is much more we can do to stretch our water supplies.
At home, it’s helpful to know where you use most of your water when looking for ways to save. This pie chart shows average daily indoor household water use for the most common plumbing fixtures and appliances. What you don’t see on this chart is outdoor water use, which for a single family home is usually equivalent to all the water used indoors—or about half of all residential water use. Lawns, trees, and other plants don’t require drinking water to thrive, so finding alternative ways to irrigate (like using graywater) is a great place to start saving. Even better, tear out your old-fashioned grass and replace it with a beautiful, drought-tolerant garden that doesn’t require you to water at all.
I know other people out there are finding innovative ways to conserve water and I’d love to hear more from you. I asked some friends and co-workers how they were reducing their water footprints, and this is what they said.
So how are you using water more wisely? Did you start taking shorter showers? Did you convince your landlord to replace the old, inefficient clothes washers in your apartment building with new, water and energy efficient washers? Send us your creative water saving tips with a short video or picture by tweeting @TracyQuinn_NRDC @NRDCWater @SunsetMag and using #my20percent. Tell us how you are doing your part to reduce water use by 20 percent! After all, friends don’t let friends waste water.
Tracy Quinn is a water policy analyst and urban water efficiency expert for the Natural Resources Defense Council. Tomorrow, she will be a panelist on Sunset‘s Twitter drought chat, starting at 11 a.m. PDT.