Category Archives: Water Savings

Save Every Drop

Sustainable Danville Area – Tip of the Month – August 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi

I’m optimistic! The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported a 90 percent chance of El Niño lasting through the winter. I don’t want to appear insensitive to the hardship of severe weather, but a moderate to strong El Niño usually means a ‘wetter’ California. In case my ‘rain dance’ delivers, the National Weather Service says it’s best to be prepared, so I’m getting ready to save every drop!

I’m ready to catch that rain right out of the airor at least off my roof. Previously, our small house had five downspouts funneling rainwater from the gutters away from our foundation and into pipes leading to the storm water drain at the end of our street.

No More! Over five years ago, I purchased a 75 gallon rain barrel. The simple installation included:

1. Choosing a downspout close to the area where I would use the collected water

2. Placing the rain barrel where the overflow would be able to soak into the ground in my yard. Working with the grading of your property will avoid drainage problems affecting your foundation or your neighbor

3. Balancing the rain barrel on concrete blocks to give extra clearance for my bucket under the spigot and gravity to move water through a hose

4. Preparing my downspout meant disconnecting the line where it leads to the storm drain and sawing above the top of the rain barrel. Leave room for the elbow to be attached. The elbow is a flexible plastic or metal sleeve that goes over the metal of the remaining downspout directing water into the top of the barrel. A few screws or glue between the elbow and downspout and I was ready to put the barrel in place.

Please don’t drink the water from your rain barrel I use the collected water on flowers, trees, shrubs and before I replaced my thirsty grass that too.

A visit to Bend, Oregon was the inspiration for replacing the other downspouts at our house. Many homes in Bend have large chains hanging from their roofline. Instead of trying to hide ugly, noisy downspouts, these rain chains move water from their gutter to the ground in lovely cascading waterfalls. Some folks let the water fall into basins that trickle over pebbles, minimizing the splash and creating Zen-like sounds. Most home had large, rustic chains, but others used copper cups that let the drops fall from one cup to another, creative an entertaining visual on a rainy day. Back at home, I found more inspiration on Pinterest and Houzz,my go-to Internet sites for all things home décor.

Rain chains or Kusari doi’ have been used for hundreds of years in Japan to transfer rainwater to large barrels for household water usage. The philosophy of feug-shui implies that rain chains can bring a positive energy flow into your home by transporting the water element with a sense of tranquility. If this energy is the calmness I feel listening to the gentle sounds through my window, then I agree that rain chains are a wonderful way to add an outdoor ambiance to your home.

Rain chains are not only pleasing to the eye and ear, but they are also environmental friendly. Retaining water on your property helps to reduce soil erosion and water pollution and may even help reduce uneven house settling. Local clay soils are prone to ‘shrinkage’ due to lack of moisture. Dry spells, like the current drought, can cause soils to contract causing uneven settling of building infrastructure which leads to cracks in foundations and walls. Wonder if this explains the hairline cracks in the newly ‘re-stucco-ed’ walls of our home? Either way, I’m saving every drop for a non-rainy day.

What about you? Join us at http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea or http://www.sustainabledanville.com

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

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Winter Water Saving Tips: The Summer is Over, But Not the Drought

By Loren McDonald

As winter approaches for residents of Diablo Valley, now is not the time to lose sight that California continues to experience one of its worst droughts in recorded history.

Governor Brown declared a state of emergency in January, which included a voluntary request that citizens reduce water usage by 20%. Locally, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) asked customers to reduce usage by 10%, and while they have met the goal, it really isn’t enough.

Hopefully, winter will bring plenty of snow and rain to Northern California, but we can’t count on it and residents must continue to reduce our use of water both inside and outside of our homes.

The average person living in a single-family home within the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), used 175 gallons per day in 2013. That’s a lot of water, but there are several ways, many costing nothing or very little, that can reduce your water usage significantly.

Get a Handle on Your Current Water Usage

The first step in saving water is to understand your current usage and where opportunities exist to cut back. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Read your water bill and compare previous years and billing periods.
  • Are your summer months off the charts? Have you reduced or increased your usage in the past year?
  • Compare winter months’ bills to summer months to get a handle on your irrigation usage.
  • Test for leaks. Place a toothpick on your water meter and then don’t use any water for 30 minutes and look to see if the needle moves. If it does, you have one or more leaks inside or outside your home. If you have separate valves for the yard and house, turn off one so you can isolate if the leaks are inside or outside and then watch again to see if the meter needle still moves.
  • Test your toilets for leaks. A kit with a blue die tablet is available from EBMUD.

Once you have a sense of your water usage and if you have any leaks, create a game plan to reduce your consumption. Tackle bad family habits first, such as taking long showers and overwatering your yard. Depending on your budget, replace inefficient appliances, showerheads and toilets.

In your yard

Thirty percent of residential water usage in the United States is devoted to outdoor uses, with the majority of this used for irrigation, according to the EPA. And half of outdoor water use is typically wasted according to the EBMUD.

To reduce your winter outdoor water usage, consider the following tips:

  • Turn off sprinklers and use your manual mode to turn them on for a day here or there during any lengthy winter dry spells.
  • Replace inefficient sprinklers with drip irrigation.
  • Upgrade a conventional irrigation controller to a smart system – either weather- or soil moisture-based.
  • Fix leaks and any broken pipes. Dig up those buried sprinklers and cap them off if not needed.
  • Replace thirsty lawns with drought-resistant trees and plants.
  • Give rain barrels a try – perhaps for a winter vegetable garden or raised bed near your rain gutters.
  • Cover your garden with mulch and put that compost you’ve been brewing to good use to improve soil condition.

Inside the Home

About half of the water used indoors is from the bathroom, according to the American Water Works Association Research Foundation. Here are a few tips to cut back water use inside your house:

  • Toilets are typically the highest user of water inside the home, from 28% to 40%, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Replace older toilets that might use 3 to 6 gallons per flush (GPF) with models that use 1.28 to 1.6 GPF. Don’t worry, many of these low GPF toilets flush better than your older, water guzzlers.
  • Replace older showerheads that typically flow at 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) with a newer low-flow type that emits as low as 1.5 GPM. Many use aerating techniques to make the water flow feel just as powerful as the older, higher GPM models.
  • Capture the cold water flowing to your showerhead in a bucket or jug. Use this “warming-up water” in the winter to water houseplants, outdoor containers and winter gardens.
  • Wash clothes and dishes using full loads. If your appliances are old, consider replacing them with more energy and water-efficient models.
  • Install low-flow water faucet aerators in bathrooms and kitchen sinks.
  • Turn off the tap when hand washing dishes and brushing your teeth.
  • Use this winter to get your water usage under control by changing family habits and replacing inefficient toilets, showerheads and water-sapping lawns. Many of these purchases also qualify for rebates from EBMUD. (www.ebmud.com)

Reducing your water usage is not only becoming a necessity in California, but also saves you money on your water bill. So get started and start saving!

Loren McDonald is a Danville resident, member of the Sustainable Danville Area organization and blogs about green issues at Loren-Green.com

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

Brown is the New Green

Tip of the Month – August 2014

By Cynthia Ruzzi, Sustainable Danville Area 

Homeowner associations can no longer fine residents who stop watering their lawns or take other conservation measures during droughts under state legislation passed recently.  While yards must still be maintained and neat – eliminate dry grass and weeds that might be flammable – there’s no requirement to keep a lawn green or even to keep the lawn. We ‘lost our lawn’ the last time a 20 percent water reduction was required to preserve this very limited and precious resource. Although the earth is comprised of over 70% water, 97% of that is salt water, 2% is frozen in ice caps and glaciers, which means only about 1% is fresh water available for human use. My husband and I still chuckle whenever we see somebody spending their weekend mowing their lawn.  And, while the drought has made it acceptable and even trendy to be ‘Brown’, going ‘lawn-less’- doesn’t have to mean being colorless.  Check out this lovely gallery of native and drought tolerant gardens posted by the East Bay Municipal Water Utility District (EBMUD) https://www.ebmud.com/water-and-wastewater/water-conservation/lawn-goodbye-landscape-gallery.

EBMUD drought tolerant gardenEarn ‘Cash for Grass’ from EBMUD’s landscape and irrigation equipment rebates.  Upgrade your yard, replacing grass with California native and climate-appropriate plants, or permeable hardscapes with materials that allow water to pass through.  A single residence can earn up to $2,500 to create low water use landscaping, improve irrigation efficiency and LOWER your water bill.  Commercial properties and multi-unit residences with more than 5 units can earn up to $20,000. Get all the details by visiting https://www.ebmud.com/for-customers/water-conservation-rebates-and-services/lawn-conversion-irrigation-upgrade-rebates

We found the EBMUD publication Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry climates of the San Francisco Bay Region an invaluable resource during the plant selection process.  EBMUD also has a resource list http://www.ebmud.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/LRP%20resources.pdf of local nurseries, demonstration gardens, classes and events, and books where you can learn about and view native plants.  Additionally, some local nurseries will design a lawn conversion planting plan for a fee and then rebate the fee as credit toward plants purchased.

Looking for other ways to lower the water impact of your yard? Instead of using fresh, drinking water in your yard, consider a gray water system – safely and legally.  Reusing the water that usually goes down the drain after bathing or laundry can keep your landscape healthy and   recharge our depleted groundwater sources. Up to 80 percent of indoor water can be captured and reused as gray water.  EBMUD offers rebates to offset the costs of installing hardware, equipment and systems that result in predictable water savings.    Learn how you can save water and dollars, regulations, health and safety, soaps and products at a Gray water workshop sponsored by EBMUD on Wednesday, August 13th or Wednesday, September 10th.

Even if you’re not ready to go native, you can save dollars by watering your lawn deeply instead of daily.  It’s also best to water in the early morning hours before dawn to give the soil and plant roots adequate time to absorb the water instead of being evaporated by the sun first.  However, it’s best not to water at night to prevent fungus and disease that is encouraged in the wet of foggy nights. For more helpful instructions, check out this helpful guide from EBMUD.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and East Bay Mud (EBMUD) have many more water conservation resources on their websites. To learn more about how you and your family can conserve water, please visit EPA and EBMUD, respectively.

Let us know if you have questions, write to us at sustainabledanville@gmail.com or join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook:  @greendanville and www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville.com  Post a picture of your ‘lose the lawn’ project and tips you have for our followers.

For more information, visit: Save Water and Energy with a Lawn Conversion  and Reasons to Convert Your Lawn

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News