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Protect and Save Water
Individuals and families can make a huge difference in the state of the Bay Area's water resources by avoiding waste and pollution. Here are some simple ways you can help.

Steps for conserving water

  • Use less water. Turn off the water while you brush your teeth and shave. Take shorter showers. Run the clothes washer and dishwasher only when they're full. If you wash dishes by hand, fill the sink or dishpan with water, rather than running the tap continuously as you scrub. Wash your car by hand, and sweep, rather than hose down, your sidewalk and driveway.

  • Keep harmful substances out of the water. Don't put hazardous materials, pesticides, oil, prescription drugs, or personal care products down the drain or toilet -- they'll wind up in the bay and other local waterways. To find out how and where to dispose safely of pesticides, motor oil, and other household chemicals, call (800) CLEANUP. Of course, it's better to use nontoxic products when you can. For examples of safe substitutes for toxic household products, check the U.S. EPA's EnviroSense website. Animal waste also causes pollution in stormwater runoff, so it's important to clean up after your pets. Dispose of their waste in the garbage.

  • Keep pipes and appliances in good condition. Fix leaks and drips. Even a small drip can waste hundreds of gallons a month. Maintain your septic system -- fecal matter from malfunctioning systems can contaminate beaches or groundwater. Have the septic tank cleaned out every three to five years.

  • Use water-efficient appliances. Call your local water supplier and ask whether it offers a rebate program for ultra-low-flush toilets, or even a toilet exchange program. If you're stretching the life of an old toilet, you can save more than a gallon of water per flush if you put a plastic milk jug filled with water or pebbles in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of water used. And next time you buy a clothes washer, choose a high-efficiency model, which uses up to 20 gallons less water per load. Some water suppliers offer rebates for such washers. Quick but effective fixes include low-flow showerheads (showers account for 32 percent of home water use) and flow restrictor aerators, which can save three to four gallons per minute when you turn on the tap (but still keep the water pressure feeling strong).

  • Have your water supplier do a residential audit of your home -- many will come for free, and make specific recommendations.

  • Use water efficiently outdoors. Landscape your yard with native and drought-tolerant plants. Plants native to the Bay Area are likely to be able to get by with little or minimal watering. You'll find more information on plants that are local to our area and the effects of invasive species at the California Native Plant Society. And direct water runoff from your roof to strategic spots of your lawn or garden.

  • Drive less. Yes, even driving affects water quality. That's because exhaust eventually settles out of the air, often into the Bay. By choosing alternatives to driving (public transit, biking, walking, carpooling) and bundling your errands, you'll reduce vehicle emissions and help protect our waters. Keeping your car in good shape helps too: a well-maintained vehicle is more efficient. And remember: Never pour used motor oil down the drain -- that's a huge source of water pollution. Call (800) CLEANUP for the nearest recycling facility.