This article got much play last week:
Outside her two-story tract home in this working-class town, Debbie Alberts, a part-time food service worker, has torn out most of the lawn. She has given up daily showers and cut her family’s water use nearly in half, to just 178 gallons per person each day.
A little more than 100 miles west, a resident of the fashionable Los Angeles hills has been labeled “the Wet Prince of Bel Air” after drinking up more than 30,000 gallons of water each day — the equivalent of 400 toilet flushes each hour with two showers running constantly, with enough water left over to keep the lawn perfectly green.
Only one of them has been fined for excessive water use: Alberts.
There is no excuse for letting that LA asshole skate free. But I’m not about to shed a tear for Debbie Alberts, either.
Her use is 178 gallons per day, per person, after supposedly tearing out most of her yard, washing clothes just once per week, and flushing after every third use. And you know what? 178 gallons per person is still an insane amount of water use.
In the U.S., the average water use is 80-100 gallons per person. So Alberts is already using up double the national average. But it’s easy to go below that, even. In my household, our average water use is 171 gallons per day, and we have four adults and two children living here, for a per-person total of 29 gallons per day. In my water district’s service area (Alameda and Contra Costa counties, in the SF East Bay), the average household uses 220 gallons per day.
So how is our usage so low? We have low-flush toilets, like this one, which use just one gallon per flush. And it’s … effective at cleaning up. And we flush after every use. I don’t appreciate a stinky house.
I got low-flow shower heads, these cheap ones (about $8), which only use 1.25 gallons per minute. The average home shower uses 17 gallons and lasts about eight minutes. In addition to one of these shower timers, set to five minutes, the average shower in our house now uses just six gallons. Well, the ladies get some extra time during hair-shampoo days (thick Puerto Rican hair needs extra time allowances), but generally speaking, the showers have gotten much, much faster (which also significantly cuts down on water heating costs).
Oh, and all of us, except for my 8 year-old, shower every single day. No skipping showers in this household.
On all bathroom faucets I installed these adapters, which restrict flow to one-half gallon per minute. They are downright miserly. Maybe too much. I’ve considered replacing them with something with a little more flow, but we’ve actually adjusted okay to them, so they’ve remained.
We wash all our dishes via dishwasher, which offers significant water savings over hand-washing.
We have a super high-efficiency clothes washer, which uses less than 10 gallons of water per load.
Half our yard has artificial turf, which obviously needs no water. But we do have a garden, and it’s not particularly water efficient, either. At some point I may put in a more drought resistant garden, but I don’t work too hard to save water there. And I water every other day.
I have two aquariums totaling about 110 gallons of water, and that gets swapped out at least once monthly.
So yeah, I’ve done some work to limit our water consumption, but nothing exotic like greywater systems or rainwater collection or anything beyond limiting the flow of most of our pipes and some relatively new appliances (the dishwasher and clothes washer).
Could we do more? Sure, but we’re already significantly below average, particularly for a household as large as ours. And as opportunities arise, I’ll continue to squeeze water savings where possible.
But if you’re using 170 gallons, per person, per day? There’s something wrong. Either you are doing it wrong, or there’s a leaky pipe. And this is where the water agencies need to be able to step in, let people know when their usage is abnormal, and look for broken or leaky pipes if all other explanations have been exhausted.
I don’t feel sorry for someone using 170 gallons of water per day, but I sure would like someone to help her find out where all that water is going.