Home & Garden

Water conservation: Coping with seasonal drought

SFPUC offers rebates for replacing old toilets with high-efficiency ones.

Due to our dry weather and below average rainfall over the last few months, the governor recently declared the dreaded “D” word: Drought. Unfortunately, because clean water is part of our everyday living, it is also easy to take for granted — we just turn the spigot and there it is. Though water conservation is always smart and saves us money, rationing is a whole other ballgame.


Look around the house to see what you can do to cut back on your water usage. Two of the highest indoor water guzzlers are toilets and clothes washers. Toilets account for one-third of all indoor water usage, and a leaking toilet (see below for how to detect leaks) can cost thousands of dollars in yearly water and sewer charges. Clothes washers account for nearly one-quarter of indoor water usage, with a conventional washing machine using more than 50 gallons per cycle, adding up to a stunning 16,000 gallons of water per year on laundry alone.

The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is a great resource for helping to conserve water. It offers cash rebates for replacing old, inefficient toilets with High Efficiency Toilets (flush volume of 1.28 gallons per flush or less), and for water-efficient clothes washers.

In addition, the SFPUC can help you find ways to detect leaks and reduce your water use and offers free Water Wise Evaluations. Trained specialists will visit your home and garden or business and provide you with an assessment tailored to meet your specific needs, including how to read your water meter as a tool for detecting silent leaks and assessing your water usage. Visit for more information on rebates or to schedule a Water Wise Evaluation.


For any remodeling or square footage additions to your home, a new California law requires your contractor to install brand-new water conserving plumping fixtures throughout your entire home. For example, if you are remodeling or making any permanent improvements to your home, your contractor must also install high-efficiency toilets and water-efficient showerheads and faucets, regardless of where the remodeling occurs. If you are planning a remodel, make sure you discuss this with your general contractor to avoid a surprise at the end of the job.


Make sure to keep these water-saving tips in mind around the house and office to help preserve one of our most precious resources:


Faucet: Install an aerator, a simple, inexpensive device, which adds air into the water flow.

Cold drinking water: Keep a water pitcher in the refrigerator for cold water instead of running the tap until the water is cold.

Pot size: Select the proper size pot when boiling water for pasta or other food — don’t boil unnecessary water. Save leftover boiled water for soup stock or to water plants. Steam vegetables when possible — you’ll also retain more nutrients.

Washing fruits and vegetables: Wash these foods in a bowl of water instead of running water for each fruit or vegetable.

Garbage disposal:
Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Composting food waste saves gallons
of water.


Laundry level: Use the proper water level for each load (if that is an option), and wash fewer large loads instead of more frequent small loads.

Water temperature: Wash clothes, especially darks colors, in cold water. It saves energy and helps clothes retain their color.


Faucet: Install an aerator on your faucet.

Showerheads: Install an energy-efficient, low-flow showerhead.

Toilet: Check for leaks by adding food coloring to your toilet tank. If it seeps into the bowl without flushing, chances are you have a leak.


Watering: Make maximum use of water by watering early in the morning.

Weeding: Keep weeds under control; they steal valuable water.

Mulch: Spread a layer of mulch around plants to retain moisture.

Finally, be sure to check the storm drains on the streets around your home. With no rainfall over the past few months, leaves and debris are likely piling up. If we are fortunate enough to get some good spring rain, the debris will be washed down to the nearest gutter, which may clog and cause flash flooding for the homes in their vicinity.

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Julia Strzesieski is the marketing coordinator for Cole Hardware and can be reached at [email protected].