Conservation Tips

There are a number of easy ways to save water, and they all start with YOU. When you save water, you save money on your utility bills. Here are just a few ways...

In The Kitchen

  • When washing dishes by hand, don't let the water run while rinsing. Fill one sink with wash water and the other with rinse water.
  • Some refrigerators, air conditioners and ice-makers are cooled with wasted flows of water. Consider upgrading with air-cooled appliances for significant water savings.
  • Never run the dishwasher without a full load. This practice will save water, energy, detergent, and money.
  • Use the garbage disposal sparingly. Compost vegetable food waste instead and save gallons every time.
  • For cold drinks keep a pitcher of water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap. This way, every drop goes down you and not the drain.
  • Use a small pan of cold water when cleaning vegetables, rather than letting the water run over them. Then, collect the water you use for rinsing fruits and vegetables, and reuse it to water house plants.
  • Use only a little water in the pot and put a lid on it for cooking most food. Not only does this method save water, but food is more nutritious since vitamins and minerals are not poured down the drain with the extra cooking water.
  • Designate one glass for your drinking water each day or refill a water bottle. This will cut down on the number of glasses to wash.
  • Don't use running water to thaw food. Defrost food in the refrigerator for water efficiency and food safety.
  • If your dishwasher is new, cut back on rinsing. Newer models clean more thoroughly than older ones.
  • If you accidentally drop ice cubes when filling your glass from the freezer or when you have ice left in your cup from a take-out restaurant, don't throw it in the trash, dump it on a plant, instead.

Always keep water conservation in mind, and think of other ways to save in the kitchen. Making too much coffee or letting ice cubes melt in the sink can add up over time. By making these small changes in the kitchen, you can count on bigger savings on your yearly water bill.

In The Bathroom

  • Shorten your shower by a minute or two and you'll save up to 150 gallons per month.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth and save 25 gallons a month.
  • Take a shower instead of taking a bath. Showers with low-flow shower heads use less water than taking a bath.
  • Turn off the water while you wash your hair to save up to 150 gallons a month.
  • Reduce the level of the water being used in a bathtub by one or two inches if a shower is not available.
  • When remodeling a bathroom, install a new low-volume flush toilet that uses only 1.6 gallons per flush.
  • Test toilets for leaks. Add a few drops of food coloring or a dye tablet to the water in the tank, but do not flush the toilet. Watch to see if the coloring appears in the bowl within a few minutes. If it does, the toilet has a silent leak that needs to be repaired.
  • Use a toilet tank displacement device such as a toilet dam or bag. Another alternative is filling a plastic bottle with stones or water, recapped, and placed in the toilet tank. These devices will reduce the volume of water in the tank but will still provide enough for flushing. Displacement devices are not recommended with new low-volume flush toilets.
  • Never use the toilet to dispose of cleansing tissues, cigarette butts, or other trash. This wastes a great deal of water and also places an unnecessary load on the sewage treatment plant or septic tank.
  • Do not use hot water when cold will do. Water and energy can be saved by washing hands with soap and cold water. Hot water should be added only when hands are especially dirty.
  • Do not let the water run when washing hands. Water should be turned off while washing and scrubbing and be turned on again to rinse. A cutoff valve may be installed on the faucet.
  • When shaving, fill the lavatory basin with hot water instead of letting the water run continuously.
  • Place water-saving aerators on all of your faucets.

In The Laundry

  • Use your clothes washer and dishwasher only when they are full. This will save up to 1,000 gallons a month.
  • Washing dark clothes in cold water saves both water and energy while it helps your clothes to keep their colors.
  • When doing laundry, match the water level to the size of the load.

Plumbing and Appliances

  • Check water requirements of various models and brands when considering purchasing any new appliances. Some use less water than others.
  • Check all waterline connections and faucets for leaks. A slow drip can waste as much as 170 gallons of water EACH DAY, or 5,000 gallons per month, and will add to the water bill.
  • Learn to repair faucets so that drips can be corrected promptly. It is easy to do, costs very little, and can mean a substantial savings in plumbing and water bills.
  • Check for hidden water leakage such as a leak between the water meter and the house. To check, turn off all indoor and outdoor faucets and water-using appliances. The water meter should be read at 10 to 20 minute intervals. If it continues to run or turn, a leak probably exists and needs to be located.
  • Insulate all hot water pipes to reduce the delays (and wasted water) experienced while waiting for the water to "run hot."
  • Be sure the water heater thermostat is not set too high. Extremely hot settings waste water and energy because the water often has to be cooled with cold water before it can be used.
  • Use a moisture meter to determine when house plants need water. More plants die from over-watering than from being on the dry side.
  • Winterize outdoor spigots and faucets when cold temperatures arrive to prevent pipes from freezing and bursting.

For Outdoor Use

  • Water only when needed. Look at the grass, feel the soil, or use a soil moisture meter to determine when to water.
  • Do not over-water. Soil can hold only so much moisture, and the rest simply runs off. A timer will help, and either a kitchen timer or an alarm clock will do. Apply only enough water to fill the plant’s root zone. Excess water beyond that is wasted. One and a half inches of water applied once a week in the summer will keep most grasses alive and healthy.
  • Water lawns early in the morning during the hotter summer months. Otherwise, much of the water used on the lawn can simply evaporate between the sprinkler and the grass.
  • To avoid excessive evaporation, use a sprinkler that produces large drops of water, rather than a fine mist. Sprinklers that send droplets out on a low angle also help control evaporation. Adjust sprinkler heads as necessary, to avoid waste, runoff and ensure proper coverage.
  • Set automatic sprinkler systems to provide thorough, but infrequent watering. Pressure-regulating devices should be set to design specifications. Rain shut-off devices can prevent watering in the rain.
  • Use drip irrigation systems for bedded plants, trees, or shrubs, or turn soaker hoses upside-down so the holes are on the bottom. This will help avoid evaporation.
  • Water slowly for better absorption, and never water on a windy day.
  • Forget about watering the streets or walks or driveways. They will never grow a thing.
  • Condition the soil with mulch or compost before planting grass or flowerbeds so that water will soak in rather than run off.
  • Fertilize lawns at least twice a year for root stimulation, but do not over-fertilize. Grass with a good root system makes better use of less water and is more drought-tolerant.
  • Do not scalp lawns when mowing during hot weather. Taller grass holds moisture better. Grass should be cut fairly often, so that only 1/2 to 3/4 inch is trimmed off. A better looking lawn will result.
  • Use a watering can or hand water with the hose in small areas of the lawn that need more frequent watering (those near walks or driveways or in especially hot, sunny spots.)
  • Use water-wise plants. Learn what types of grass, shrubbery, and plants do best in the area and in which parts of the lawn, and then plant accordingly. Choose plants that have low water requirements, are drought-tolerant, and are adapted to the area of the state where they are to be planted.
  • Consider decorating some areas of the lawn with wood chips, rocks, gravel, or other materials now available that require no water at all.
  • Do not "sweep" walks and driveways with the hose. Use a broom or rake instead.
  • When washing the car, use a bucket of soapy water and turn on the hose only for rinsing.
  • We're more likely to notice leaks indoors, but don't forget to check outdoor faucets, sprinklers and hoses for leaks.

Ten Ways to Avoid Water Waste

  1. Do not over-water plants and lawns. 
    Avoid water runoff into streets and gutters. 
  2. For best results, try morning watering. 
    Evaporation loss is at a minimum. 
  3. Avoid washing down paved areas. 
    Sweep driveway and sidewalks in garden cleanup. 
  4. When washing the car... 
    Use a bucket of water. Use the hose only to rinse. 
  5. Repair faucet leaks. 
    As much as 15 gallons of water can be lost each day with a slow drip. 
  6. Avoid toilet water waste. 
    Do not use toilet as a trash disposal. 
  7. Don't fall asleep in the shower. 
    An extra five minutes in the shower could mean another 50 gallons down the drain. Use a moderate stream. 
  8. The automatic dishwasher – use it wisely. 
    Half loads cheat you out of full water use. 
  9. Watch those laundry loads, too. 
    Some 50 gallons of water are used to wash a load of clothes. Make every load count. 
  10. Avoid the running faucet. 
    Don't run water continuously while shaving, brushing teeth, peeling vegetables, or washing dishes.

How to Check for Leaks

While you're carefully watching your water usage, it's important to make sure that water is not slipping away due to undetected leaks in your system. Here's a simple procedure that can tell you if you have a leak and how much water you're losing.

  1. Locate your water meter. It is usually located near the street in front of your home. 
  2. Read the meter twice – first at night after the day's water use has ended, and again in the morning before any water is used. 
  3. Subtract the first number from the second reading to tell how much water (if any) leaked out overnight. 
  4. If you suspect a leak, your pipes and connections should be checked and repaired quickly.

The toilet is a common source of unnoticed leaks. Undetected, hundreds of gallons of water can be wasted each day. Often leaks occur when the toilet is out of adjustment or parts are worn. Listening carefully for the sound of running water is a good way to detect a possible leak. Food coloring or a dye tablet added to the tank will also reveal water leaking into the toilet bowl. Drop it in the tank and don’t flush. If the water in the bowl turns color, you have a leak.

If you suspect a leak and need assistance in determining its location, please call our local office.

 Wise Water Use in the Kitchen and Laundry

More than 10% of all water used in the home is used in the washing machine. An automatic clothes washer, at full cycle and highest water level, uses 30-35 gallons of water. The dishwasher is also a potential heavy user, requiring 25 gallons for a full cycle. Dishwashing with the tap running takes five gallons per minute – approximately 30 gallons per average washing.

Here are some tips for saving water in your kitchen and laundry:

  • Instead of running water continuously, fill wash and rinse basins with water.
  • Run only full loads in the dishwasher. Avoid using the extra cycle.
  • Chill drinking water in the refrigerator instead of running the tap.
  • Use your garbage disposal sparingly, using a garbage can for most kitchen waste.
  • Wash only full loads of clothes on the short cycle in your washing machine.
  • Check faucets and hose connections for leaks. Repair or replace whenever necessary.

Landscaping and Conservation 

In the average household, water use doubles in the summer, primarily due to landscape irrigation. But, conserving water does not have to mean a dry, grown landscape.

 Some Myths about Drought-Resistant Landscaping

  1. Drought-tolerant landscaping isn't colorful. 
    In truth, many drought-tolerant plants are prolific bloomers. In addition, by carefully choosing foliage colors and textures for contrast, you can bring color interest to the garden year-round. 
  2. Drought-tolerant landscaping doesn't require any water at all. 
    Even drought-resistant plants require some initial watering to become established. However, once they are established, drought-resistant plants will get by on considerably less water than we have been accustomed to lavishing on our landscape.

How to Conserve
In the garden, try these water-conserving techniques:

  • Use a variety of attractive low-water-using plants.
  • Use a drip irrigation system to apply water slowly, reducing run-off and promoting deep rooting.
  • Lay mulch, which can be made from readily available wood chips or leaf mold, act as a blanket to keep in moisture, and help prevent erosion, soil compression, and weeds.
  • Preserve existing trees. Established plants are often adapted to low water conditions. Porous paving materials such as brick, decomposed granite, or gravel used in patios and walk-ways help keep water in the garden rather than in the gutter.
  • Set automatic timing devices, which allow efficient watering on a schedule suited to each area of the landscape.

More Ways to Save Water in Your Garden 

  1. Water in the cool parts of the day to cut down on evaporation. 
  2. Add compost to your soil to improve its water-holding capacity. 
  3. Check for and repair leaky hose connections and sprinkler valves. Small leaks can be very wasteful. 
  4. Ask your nursery person about low-water-using turf, and raise your lawnmower cutting height. Longer grass blades help shade each other and cut down on evaporation. 
  5. Don't over-water – water only when the soil is dry. 
  6. Water trees and shrubs – which have deep root systems – longer and less frequently than shallow-rooted plants, which require smaller amounts of water or more often. 
  7. When planting, remember that smaller-size container plants require less water to become established.

Use Recycled Water to Save Even More Water in Your Garden 

Waste water may be the simplest way to stretch your water budget during the hot summer months. Gray water, which is recycled shower, bath, and laundry water, can be used to keep thirsty plants alive, but some precautions should be followed. Because gray water has not been disinfected, it could be contaminated. A careful, common-sense approach to the use of gray water, however, can virtually eliminate any potential hazard.

The following precautions are recommended:

  1. Never use gray water for direct consumption.
  2. Gray water should not be used directly on anything that may be eaten.
  3. Gray water should not be sprayed, allowed to puddle, or run off property.
  4. Use only water from clothes washing, bathing, or the bathroom sink. Do not use water that has come in contact with soiled diapers, meat or poultry, or anyone with an infectious disease.

Plant specialists warn that gray water should not be used on vegetables, seedlings, container plants, or acid-loving plants such as azaleas, begonias, camellias, and citrus trees. Gray water should be rotated with fresh water to leach out any harmful build-up. Chlorine bleach may damage plants, especially if it touches the foliage. Biodegradable soaps appear to have the least harmful effects. 

For further information regarding the safe use of gray water, contact your local office or your local health agency.

Low-Water/Drought-Resistant Plants 

This list is a good representation of low-water consuming plants that are easily available. Please check with your local nursery for their suggestions about what is best suited to your area.

Flowering Plants

  • Achillea (yarrow)
  • Aloe
  • Callistemon citrinus (lemon bottlebrush)
  • Cassia artemisioides (feathery cassia)
  • Centranthus Tuber (red valerian)
  • Cistus (rockrose)
  • Convolvulus cneorum (bush morning glory)
  • Cortaderia selloana (pampas grass)
  • Coreopsis verticillata
  • Cotinus coggygria (smoke tree)
  • Cytisus and spartium (broom)
  • Echium fastuosum(pride of Madeira)
  • Escallonia
  • Eriogonum (buckwheat)
  • Fremontodendrom (fremontia)
  • Garrya elliptica
  • Kniphofia uvaria (red-hot poker)
  • Lantana
  • Lavandula (lavender)
  • Lemonium perezii (sea lavender)
  • Nerium oleander (oleander)
  • Ochna serrulata (Mickey Mouse plant)
  • Pennisetum setaceum (fountain grass)
  • Plumbago auriculatta (cape plumbago)
  • Poinciana gilliesii (bird of paradise bush)
  • Romneya coulteri (Matilija poppy)
  • Satureja montana (winter savory)
  • Teucrium fruticans (bush germander)

Foliage Plants

  • Agave
  • Arbutus unedo (strawberry tree)
  • Artemisia (wormwood)
  • Atriplex (saltbush)
  • Centaurea gymnocarpa
  • Dodonaea viscosa (hopseed bush)
  • Elaeagnus
  • Pittosporum (some species)
  • Portulacaria afra (elephant's food)
  • Prunus lyoni, P. ilicifolia, P. caroliniana
  • Rhamnus alaternus, R. crocea ilicifolia
  • Rhus ovata (sugar bush)
  • Senecio cineraria (dusty miller)
  • Xylosma congestum
  • Yucca


  • Acacia (certain species)
  • Casaurina (Beefwood)
  • Cedrus deodara
  • Certonia siliqua (carob)
  • Cercis occidentalis (western redbud)
  • Cercidium (palo verde)
  • Cupressus glabra (Arizona cypress)
  • Eriobotrya japonica (loquat)
  • Eucalyptus
  • Geijera parvifolia
  • Hakea (tree types)
  • Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon)
  • Juglans hindsii (California black walnut)
  • Lyonothamnus floribundus asplenifolius (Catalina ironwood)
  • Melaleuca linarifolia, M. styphelioides
  • Olea europaea (olive)
  • Palms
  • Parkinsonia aculeata (Mexican palo verde)
  • Pinus (pines)
  • Pistacia chinensis (Chinese pistache)
  • Quercus (oaks)
  • Rhusiancea
  • Robinia (locust)
  • Schinus molle (California pepper)
  • Sequoiadendron gigantrum (big tree)
  • Tamarix apliylla (salt cedar)


  • Bougainvillea
  • Campsis (trumpet creeper)
  • Solanum hartwegii (cup-of-gold vine)
  • Solanum jasminoides (potato vine)
  • Tecomaria capensis (cape honeysuckle)
  • Vitis vinifera (wine grape)
  • Wisteria

Ground Cover

  • Baccharis pilularis (dwarf coyote brush)
  • Gazania
  • Hypericum calycinum (creeping St. Johnswort)
  • Rosmarinus officinalis (rosemary)
  • Santolina chamaecyparissus

Many Forms 

  • Ceanothus
  • Cotoneaster
  • Grevillea
  • Juniperus (juniper)

How to Diagnose and Fix Leaking Toilets

A leaking toilet can be annoying and wasteful. To check if your toilet has a leak, place a few drops of food coloring in the tank. If coloring is seen in the bowl without flushing, you have a leak. To pinpoint the leak, follow these simple steps:

Diagram of a Toilet 

  1. If the tank is not filling with water, the flush ball is not returning to the seat properly.


    • Check to see if the linkage that connects to the trip lever is hung up.
    • If that doesn't work, then the ball needs to be replaced. A flapper ball can replace a worn flush valve ball. 
  2. If the tank is full of water, and water is flowing into the overflow tube, then the valve is not shutting off correctly.


    • Lift up on the float ball. If the water shuts off, then the ball is not sitting properly in the tank. This could be caused by two things:
    • The ball has a leak and is full of water. Replace with another ball or flapper.
    • The float ball needs adjusting. Use the screw at the base of the rod to lower the float ball so that the water level is 1/2 to 1 inch below the overflow tube.
    • If water does not shut off when you lift up on the float ball, then the valve itself needs to be repaired or replaced. Repair kits and new valves with easy to follow instructions are available at local hardware stores. 
  3. If water is not flowing into the overflow tube, but constantly runs or periodically turns on and off, the flush ball or flapper is not fitting snugly into the flush ball seat. When seats get old they get pitted and allow water to leak past the seal and down the drain. Minerals and other deposits may also build up on the seat, making it rough.


    • If worn, replace the flush ball or flapper.
    • If the problem persists, the seat can be cleaned with steel wool, covered with a repair seal or replaced.

Ultra-Low-Flush Toilets 

Switching to an ultra-low flush toilet is an effective way to make your home or office more water efficient. Ultra-low flush (ULF) toilets use no more than 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf) rather than 3.5 to 7 gallons of water used by other designs. 

That's why new plumbing codes are requiring ULF toilets to be installed in all new construction, bathroom remodels and additions and toilet replacements.  

Questions and Answers about ULFs

  1. What are ultra-low-flush toilets? 
    ULF toilets look similar to conventional toilets but use a more advanced flushing mechanism. ULFs use only 1.6 gallons per flush (gpf), or less, compared to standard toilets that use 5-7 gpf or "water-conserving" models that use 3.5 gpf. 
  2. Are ULFs more dependable than the 3.5-gpf "water-conserving" models? 
    ULF toilets have been completely redesigned to go below 3.5 gpf and work more efficiently. 
  3. How much water can I save by switching to a ULF toilet? 
    A household of four people with a standard five-gallon-per-flush toilet would save approximately 60 gallons per day or about 22,000 gallons per year. 
  4. Do ULF toilets cost more? 
    As with other toilets, ULFs come in a broad range of prices. Many models are available for about $100 and can run as high as $400 or more for the decorator models.
  5. Are these toilets available in many colors and styles? 
    Yes. ULF toilets can be purchased in the same spectrum of decorator colors as conventional toilets. Various styles are available in plain rim, elongated rim, and high handicapped models. 
  6. Do the ULF toilets install like conventional toilets? 
    Yes. ULF toilets install just like conventional toilets, making them ideal for remodeling and new construction. No special hook-ups or tools are needed. 
  7. Will I ever need to double-flush to wash away waste? 
    Double-flushing is seldom needed. When it is, two flushes use less water than a conventional toilet uses in one flush. Regarding the flow of waste through sewer pipes, ULFs must meet the same stringent drain line carry requirements as conventional toilets. Also, water from showers, bathtubs, and sinks helps keep your sewer pipes open. 
  8. Do these toilets require more cleaning than conventional toilets? 
    No. The flushing action washes the bowl quickly and efficiently. Occasionally, toilets with a small water surface (4-inch by 5-inch versus 8-inch by 9-inch) may require slightly more cleaning than other types.
  9. How do I know if the toilet I'm buying works the best? 
    New performance standards and testing criteria were released by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) in December 1990. All ULF toilets have to meet these standards to be listed by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO).

How Low-Flush Toilets Work
Ultra-low-flush toilets use an efficient bowl design and increased flushing velocities to remove waste, rather than simply using large amounts of water for flushing.

The Gravity Flush
This technology is also used for conventional toilets. When flushing an ULF toilet, however, the rim wash can come through an open slot rather than through little holes. The bowl may have steep sides and a narrower trap way. These changes to the design of the toilet bowl cause a quick release of water, creating a siphon action to pull the waste out.

The Pressurized Flush
This is a new design developed for 1.6-gpf residential toilets. It uses the house water line pressure to increase the velocity of the water going into the bowl. Within the toilet tank, incoming water presses against a rubber diaphragm that compresses a pocket of air. The water is released by pushing the flush valve.