Be Water Wise

It’s now official: California is in a state of emergency regarding this most precious resource, water. There are behavioral changes you can make for no cost, there are appliance changes you can make for a small to medium investment, and local utilities will help you out with rebates.

1. Toilets are the number one water user in most households. I know the old toilets look great in our older homes, but you need to do something to reduce water consumption. Those old toilets may be using 3.5 gallons per flush. For some years the standard has been 1.6 gallons for newer toilets. You now have two superior options: HET (High Efficiency Toilets) rated at 1.2 gallons/flush or dual flush toilets. They are not horribly expensive, especially when you factor in the amount of water and energy saved. So. . .

  • Replace high-flow plumbing fixtures with efficient versions. Today’s high efficiency plumbing fixtures (toilets, shower heads, etc) not only save water and energy, but also perform as well or better their water-guzzling predecessors. You may be wasting 20-30 gallons per day if you live in an older house with old fixtures.
  • If you are intent on keeping the older, cool toilets, EBMUD suggest filling a half-gallon milk jug with pebbles, and placing that in the toilet tank. That’s a much better low-tech solution than putting bricks in like we used to. The bricks deteriorate over time, producing sediment that clogs your plumbing. You can also pick up Toilet Tummies at the EBMUD offices. They displace about 0.8 gallon, for use only in toilets that use 3.5 gallons.
  • EBMUD’s Waterwise Self-Survey Kit can help you find and fix leaks, check water flow rates, and save water both indoors and in the landscape at your home or business. The kit is free of charge, and when you return the audit form included in the kit, EBMUD will mail you, free of charge, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, and other water-saving devices and information. Visit the EBMUD site for this and other residential conservation rebates and services.

2. Replace old clothes washers and dishwashers with Energy Star versions. The main benefit of most Energy Star appliances is that they save energy. But, most also save significant amounts of water at the same time. And be sure to buy a front-loading washer. By design they are much more efficient with water, and they are kinder to your clothes. Low-Impact Living has ratings and reviews for energy- and water-efficient clothes washers and dishwashers.

Pacific Gas and Electric Company is offering a $35 rebate for ENERGY STAR qualified clothes washers with a Modified Energy Factor (MEF) of 2.0 or higher and a Water Factor (WF) of 6.0 or lower; and a $75 rebate for models with an MEF of 2.2 or higher and a WF of 4.5 or lower. The Energy Star website—a great resource—has more information, including a list of qualified models.

To find out about current rebates available in our area, visit the Flex Your Power website, which has a wealth of information.

3. Evaluate and fix leaks. This might come as a surprise, but over 10% of an average household’s water use can come from leaks. These are often undetected because they are small, hidden in water fixtures, walls and basements, or happen underground. But, drop by drop every minute of the day they add up. EBMUD will give you free dye tablets to check if your toilet is leaking. Check your water meter to see if you have any leaks (shut off all water uses in your house for an hour, then see if your meter still moves).

There are many wonderful websites that give lots of water and energy saving tips that are easy to implement. Here are some of my favorites:

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