(There is no water to be seen at Black Butte Lake near Orland Buttes Recreation Area on Friday Jan. 17, 2014 in Orland, Calif. / AP Photo, Chico Enterprise-Record, Jason Halley)
As I was hosing off my driveway this weekend, I thought about Gov. Jerry Brown’s announcement Friday that California had a drought emergency. How could I do my part to help save water?
I’m joking about using a hose to clean my driveway, but this drought is no laughing matter. Last year was the driest year on record in California, and this year could be even drier.
“We’re facing perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago,” Brown said Friday.
The drought is already being felt throughout the state. Firefighters are battling a wildfire east of Los Angeles. The town of Willits has estimated it has a 100-day supply of water left. And Southern California has had no measurable rain so far in January, one of our wettest months.
(Related: Local perspective on water issues)
“We can’t make it rain, but we can be much better prepared for the terrible consequences that California’s drought now threatens, including dramatically less water for our farms and communities and increased fires in both urban and rural areas,” Brown said in his emergency declaration. “I’ve declared this emergency and I’m calling all Californians to conserve water in every way possible.”
How can Californians do that? For starters, please do not hose off your driveway. That’s an easy one. Below are tips from Ready.gov and the Federal Emergency Management Agency about how to conserve water during a drought.
- Avoid flushing the toilet unnecessarily. Dispose of tissues, insects, and other similar waste in the trash rather than the toilet.
- Avoid taking baths — take short showers — turn on water only to get wet and lather and then again to rinse off.
- Avoid letting the water run while brushing your teeth, washing your face or shaving.
Place a bucket in the shower to catch excess water for watering plants.
- Operate automatic dishwashers only when they are fully loaded. Use the “light wash” feature, if available, to use less water.
- Hand wash dishes by filling two containers — one with soapy water and the other with rinse water containing a small amount of chlorine bleach.
- Clean vegetables in a pan filled with water rather than running water from the tap.
Store drinking water in the refrigerator. Do not let the tap run while you are waiting for water to cool.
- Avoid wasting water waiting for it to get hot. Capture it for other uses such as plant watering or heat it on the stove or in a microwave.
- Avoid rinsing dishes before placing them in the dishwasher; just remove large particles of food. (Most dishwashers can clean soiled dishes very well, so dishes do not have to be rinsed before washing)
- Avoid using running water to thaw meat or other frozen foods. Defrost food overnight in the refrigerator or use the defrost setting on your microwave oven.
- Operate automatic clothes washers only when they are fully loaded or set the water level for the size of your load.
- Use a commercial car wash that recycles water. If you wash your own car, use a shut-off nozzle that can be adjusted down to a fine spray on your hose.
- Avoid over watering your lawn and water only when needed.
- A heavy rain eliminates the need for watering for up to two weeks. Most of the year, lawns only need one inch of water per week.
- Check the soil moisture levels with a soil probe, spade or large screwdriver. You don’t need to water if the soil is still moist. If your grass springs back when you step on it, it doesn’t need water yet.
- If your lawn does require watering, do so early in the morning or later in the evening, when temperatures are cooler.
- Check your sprinkler system frequently and adjust sprinklers so only your lawn is watered and not the house, sidewalk, or street.
- Water in several short sessions rather than one long one, in order for your lawn to better absorb moisture and avoid runoff.
- Use a broom or blower instead of a hose to clean leaves and other debris from your driveway or sidewalk.
- Avoid leaving sprinklers or hoses unattended. A garden hose can pour out 600 gallons or more in only a few hours.
- In extreme drought, allow lawns to die in favor of preserving trees and large shrubs.
- Install a new water-saving pool filter. A single back flushing with a traditional filter uses 180 to 250 gallons of water.
- Cover pools and spas to reduce evaporation of water.
For more tips and drought-related information, visit Ready.gov and FEMA’s Drought page.