Friends Don't Let Friends Waste Water


I was watching an episode of The Simpsons the other night and in the opening scene, Marge is nagging Homer to fix a leaky faucet. Of course, Homer puts it off and his laziness has dire consequences as the wasted water causes a huge sinkhole under the city of Springfield. 

While a leaky faucet isn’t likely to cause a giant sinkhole – those are more typically caused by aging, poorly maintained water infrastructure (much like the massive water main break last week in Los Angeles where 20 million gallons of water was lost in less than 24 hours) – leaky faucets, showerheads, toilets, and irrigations systems waste over one trillion gallons of water each year in the U.S.  And unlike dripping faucets and showerheads, leaking toilets can easily go unnoticed.  Wondering how to figure out if your toilet is leaking? Just check out this tip from two of my favorite water experts, Conan O’Brien & Andy Richter, AKA #TeamCocoH2O.

Today, Conan and Andy joined NRDC and the State’s Save Our Water drought awareness campaign to ask Californians an important question: “What’s your 20 percent?” With #TeamCocoH2O, we’re inspiring water conservation with the launch of six new comedic public service announcements. So, are you as water smart as Conan? Quiz yourself to find out!

If you are still wondering how this drought affects you and why you need to act now, you’re not alone. It can be tough to realize the severity of this historic California drought when most of us haven’t directly experienced water shortages. Every time we turn on our tap, clean water continues to flow out, and water is still highly subsidized and therefore reasonably inexpensive compared to other water scarce places around the world.

But what if that wasn’t the case? What if you had to have water trucked to your house and had to stretch that limited supply? It’s already happening in some parts of the state. Or what if you could only afford enough clean water for basic necessities like bathing and cooking? It’s not out of the question if we don’t act now.

The stark reality is that we don’t know how long this drought will last or if our reserves will hold out until California gets some much-needed rain. And we’ve got to do a lot more than just hope for rain. We need to be water smart about how we use our limited supply of this precious resource. The good news is that each of us can start right now – every single person can do their part to save water.

In my last blog post, I shared how we can reduce our individual water footprints with some easy water saving tips. The most important thing is to be conscientious about our water use and find creative ways to use water more efficiently.

In January, Governor Brown asked all Californians reduce water use by 20 percent, but to-date we’ve only reduced our water use by about 5 percent. While we’ve got a long way to go, this collective water use reduction is possible. Looking to other places like Australia that have successfully dealt with severe drought with robust collective conservation and efficiency measures, we know there is much more we can do to stretch our water supplies. 

At home, it’s helpful to know where you use most of your water when looking for ways to save. This pie chart shows average daily indoor household water use for the most common plumbing fixtures and appliances. What you don’t see on this chart is outdoor water use, which for a single family home is usually equivalent to all the water used indoors – or about half of all residential water use. Lawns, trees, and other plants don’t require drinking water to thrive, so finding alternative ways to irrigate – like using graywater - is a great place to start saving.  Even better, tear out your old-fashioned grass and replace it with a beautiful, drought-tolerant garden that doesn’t require you to water at all.

And don’t just look for ways to save inside your home, try to find opportunities at work, at the gym, in restaurants, or anywhere else you find yourself interacting with water. For example, one of my pet peeves is getting up from a table at a restaurant and leaving behind half full glasses of water. I used to try to drink all the water before I left, but you can’t always do that. Then I realized: you take leftover food to go, so why not water? Now I carry an empty reusable water bottle with me so that when I am out at a restaurant and I don’t finish my water, I can take it with me. Sometimes I even take my friends’ leftover water and use it to water my plants.

I know other people out there are finding innovative ways to conserve water and I’d love to hear more from you.  I asked some friends and co-workers how they were reducing their water footprints, and this is what they said.


So how are you using water more wisely? Did you start taking shorter showers? Did you convince your landlord to replace the old, inefficient clothes washers in your apartment building with new, water and energy efficient washers

Send us your creative water saving tips with a short video or picture on Twitter @TracyQuinn_NRDC @NRDCWater @SunsetMag using #my20percent and share how you are doing your part to reduce water use by 20 percent! After all, friends don’t let friends waste water.

On Twitter? Don't forget to tune into our #sunsetchat on the #CADrought this Wednesday at 11am.  I'll be joined by these @SunsetMag panelists.