(By Rosemary Hartman) When the Governor Brown recently announced that we are in a drought, and that we should look to reduce our water consumption by 20%, I immediately assumed that this did not apply to me.

I am an ecologist so I clearly already do my part; when asking for a 20% reduction, of course the governor is talking to others who don’t live by my vaulted code of conservation ethics. I turn off the water when I brush my teeth, water plants only when necessary, put aerators on all of my faucets, and fix leaks already.  What more could I possibly do?

Here are some ideas to cut water usage even more

Use less electricity: It turns out that more than half of water extractions from our rivers go to cooling electric generators. Shockingly, the biggest way that you can save water is to use less electricity, especially during peak periods. Run energy-intensive appliances (dishwasher, washing machine, etc.) at night after peak energy usage. Go the extra mile and plug all of your appliances/chargers into power strips and then turn those off when not in use.

  • Use dishwasher if you have one, and only run when full. If you don’t have a dishwasher, use the 2 tub/2 sink method. Fill one with hot soapy water and wash all your dirty dishes in that. Fill the other one up with hot not soapy water and rinse the recently washed dishes in that one.
  • Do not dump water you cooked with down the drain, use it to water your plants or flush your toilet
  • Use the minimum amount of water necessary to boil/steam your food.
  • For the Kitchen Ninjas among us: steam veggies on top of things you are boiling (ex. Pasta, potatos, rice)
  • Wash your veggies in a bowl of water instead of running the faucet over them
  • Clean dishes that are not dishwasher safe immediately, instead of letting them sit until they are dry and need to be soaked
  • Don’t run your garbage disposal unless you absolutely have to ie when the sink is no longer draining)
  • Don’t use water to defrost food, plan ahead and let it defrost in the refrigerator or on the counter


  • If its yellow let it mellow AND/OR flush with “grey water” (water that you already used for something else such as cooking or doing dishes) How to flush your toilet with grey water: It requires about a gallon of water: Start slowly at first, then quickly add the rest of the water into the bowl. The shape of the toilet and the pressure from the water in the bucket pushes everything through the pipes.
  • For those without low flow toilets, put a plastic bottle filled with water in your toilet tank, so not as much water gets flushed
  • Do not flush things down the toilet to dispose of them
  • Turn the faucet off while you are brushing your teeth, shaving etc
  • Take a shower not a bath. Don’t shower every day if you don’t need to
  • Shower with a buddy and/or Turn the water off in the shower while you are soapign up and/or take shorter showers
  • Fix leaky faucets.If you have the money or are replacing broken ones invest in low flow faucets, showerheads and toilets
  • Catch the water that runs in the shower (or elsewhere) in a bucket while you are waiting for the water to warm up and use it to water your plants, flush your toilet etc.


  • Do not water and if possible strip out your lawn
  • Do not wash your car
  • If you have plants that absolutely need water, water them with grey water (not water with soap in it though)
  • If you have a vegetable garden set up a drip irrigation system
  • Only water plants when they need water (i.e. the soil around them is dry)
  • Collect rain water (haha) and use it to water your plants
  • If you are redoing your yard consider xericscaping
  • Cover pools and hot tubes while not in use, and keep them at lower temperatures to avoid evaporation.

There are many other ways to save water but these ideas target our largest household uses of water. If you own your home, of course it is easier to change fixtures, appliances, and landscaping. As a renter, perhaps the best thing that you can do to save water is to lobby your landlord to make those changes. Drought is in everyone’s mind right now and reminding your landlord of his/her civic and environmental duties in your pad are likely to fall on receptive ears.

This drought will end eventually, but California’s water woes will not. Growing populations and climate change don’t bode well for our water future in California. A good water shortage now is a great way to make us think about our consumption and to think creatively about how we can mitigate our impending water shortage. So, as conservation-minded folk already, let’s take the extra step to conserve water.

*Rosemary Hartman is a fourth-year PhD student at UC Davis studying the effects of introduced trout on mountain lakes.