Preserving the Environment

5 Ways Californians Have Changed Their Behavior Because of Drought

December 1, 2014
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5 Ways Californians Have Changed Their Behavior Because of Drought
A sign explaining reduced and restricted watering is posted on the dead lawn in front of the California State Capitol in Sacramento, California, June 18, 2014. Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
It goes beyond taking shorter showers.

With California experiencing its third year of a devastating drought, the state has come up with several ways to conserve this precious resource, from mild (conservation programs, rebates for high-efficiency appliances) to drastic (mandatory rationing in some areas). Encouragingly, individual residents are also taking part in this statewide effort.

The Golden State is now seeing improvement in water conservation: urban residents as a whole have lessened water usage by about 10 percent last month (short, however, of Gov. Jerry Brown’s request of 20 percent savings in January). In August, Californians used 27 billion fewer gallons of water compared to the same time last year  — an amount that would fill 41,000 Olympic swimming pools, the San Jose Mercury News notes.

Here are some of the ways that residents are conserving H2O:

1. Waving bye-bye to lawns
With its constant watering, weeding and fertilizing, lawns are no-good for the parched state (citizens can be fined up to $500 for using the scarce resource to shower grass or wash driveways). That’s why Los Angeles residents like Rosemary Plano ripped up her yard for a “low-maintenance desertscape of succulents, heather, and gravel” that’s maintained by drip irrigation, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Many Californian cities, Los Angeles included, pay residents money for tearing up their blades with “Cash for Grass” programs.

2. Not washing cars
California State University, Los Angeles student Heidi Cuett started a small movement in her classroom school after showing up with a dirt-encrusted Prius with a bumper sticker reading “Go Dirty for the Drought,” the Christian Science Monitor reports, inspiring 20 to 30 percent of her classmates to take part in the 60-day #DirtyCarPledge. The campaign, started by LA Waterkeeper, says that if 10,000 Southern Californians who normally wash their cars every two weeks took the two-month pledge to forgo car washes, they’d save about 3 million gallons of water.

3. From tub to landscape
With record-low rainfall, residents are using greywater to support flushing and watering plants. Brooktrails resident Stephanie Willcutt waters her indoor plants with the cold bath water she captures before it turns hot, USA TODAY writes. (In fact, the publication reports that the whole Willcutt family has made conservation efforts such as cutting shower time, and wearing pants a few times before washing, etc, dropping from using 220 gallons daily to just 66 to 96 gallons a day).

4. Drought watch
Yes, it might sound a little Big Brother, but residents can now report on their neighbors for incidents of water waste. There are apps that let residents upload and send photos of their neighbor’s overflown lawn, for example. And in San Jose, the East Bay Municipal Utility District has a website that allows users to report water violators.

5. Changing diets 
The water we use isn’t always in plain sight — it takes about 1.1 gallons of water to produce a single almond, for example. Meat production is much worse: the average meat-eating American uses up to 1,000 gallons of water per day. U.S. Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) wrote in an editorial that he and his staff are now taking part in Meatless Mondays to reduce their water footprint. “While we all must reduce our water usage at home to help the state survive the drought, we can also make small, but important lifestyle changes that will help,” he wrote. “I am talking about making a conscious decision to compare the large amount of water it takes to produce that steak or pork chop you’re eating, with the likely smaller amount of water needed to produce delicious meatless options.”

DON’T MISS: What’s Your Water Footprint? Find Out Here

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