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Drops in the Bucket: Easy Ways To Save Water and Money
People began fighting about water in the West pretty much from the moment they arrived here. But even with the massive feats of hydraulic engineering it took to pump water into Southern California, there’s bound to be much more conflict—along with higher costs—as the population grows and the climate warms. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to make the most of a precious resource. And water agencies like the DWP are doing more than ever to help. Here are some tips to get you going.
Modify Your Faucet
An aerator is a little device that attaches to the end of your faucet and reduces the amount of water you use by sending what was one stream of water out into multiple little sieves—sort of like a mini shower head. Installing an aerator to your kitchen or bathroom faucet can save up to 900 gallons of water a year each, while installing a more efficient showerhead can reduce your water usage by up to 5,300 gallons a year. The Los Angeles Department of Water Power offers both for free. 800-544-4498.
By installing high efficiency toilets and washers, rotating nozzles for pop-up spray heads, and weather-based irrigation controllers, you can score additional rebates from the LADWP and PWP. If your area does not offer rebates, you may also be able to receive compensation through SoCal Water$mart.
When in Doubt, Mulch
Adding mulch around plants not only helps keeps weeds in check; it can reduce the amount you need to irrigate. To make a good thing even better, you can get it for free from Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation.
Save the Rain
Cities around the region are restricting how often and when you can water gardens and yards. For instance, in Los Angeles, you’re restricted to three days a week. You can boost your supply, save some money, and earn some karmic points by capturing rainwater with rain barrels. (They also provide a supply of emergency drinking water, in case of an earthquake.) A quick calculation of your roof’s square footage divided by two yields an estimate of how much water you can catch. Bonus: Santa Monica citizens can receive a rebate of up to $200 per rain barrel. The City of Pasadena even offers a wee video on making your own rain barrel.
Let It Drip
Take a tip from vineyards and replace mister sprinkler systems in your garden with drip irrigation. Drip irrigation can cut your usage in the landscape by 60 percent, according to the City of Santa Monica, which happens to offer rebates to residents who install them.
How to recycle your water
Even if you use an efficient washing machine or low-flow showerhead, you’re still sending thousands of gallons of what’s called gray water down the drain each year. California and local municipalities have altered regulations so that you can recycle the water on your yard. The laundry-to-landscape gray water system does not require permitting as long as you follow 12 guidelines outlined in the plumbing code. The keys are these: You need to use a laundry soap without synthetic chemicals, you need to install a three-way-valve to allow for the diversion of water containing bleach or chemicals, and you need to make sure the irrigating is done below the ground’s surface. In other words, the landscape plumbing is pretty much the same—underground pipes—but the water comes out under ground as well, in a mulch basin by the plants that need watering. It’s ideal for water-loving trees, bamboo, and gardens. Gray water systems aren’t permitted for lawns. The average cost for a system that uses just washing machine water is $800 to $1,200, depending on labor, according to Allan Haskell, the owner of EnviroMeasures, an L.A.-based company that specializes in gray water retrofits. An alternate system, which recycles shower, bathtub, and bathroom sink water can also be installed for around $1,500 to $2,000, but requires permitting. Either way, But you’ll also be saving money on your water bill from the get-go.