How Californians can save more water

The results are in: Californians aren’t saving enough water.

Amid a historic drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked us to reduce water consumption by 15%. Yet in August, the most recent month for which data is available, we’d brought usage down just 5% compared with the same time last year.

Of course, not all water-saving is the responsibility of California households. Eighty percent of California’s water goes toward agriculture, and other businesses play a big role too.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t conserve more — and many of us seem to be trying. You wrote to me about letting your cars get dusty and your lawns turn brown and collecting cold shower water to boil pasta and fill your dog’s bowl.

The state offers simple water conservation tips at, and below I’ve shared some of the more creative ones you sent me:

“Easy to save water by showering every other day, and taking shorter showers. No reason we need showers every single day unless we are totally covered with dirt due to jobs. And that doesn’t apply to a lot of people.” — Amy Skewes-Cox, Ross

“My husband and I switched to a ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow’ rule in our house and have been very pleasantly surprised with how effective it is at reducing water consumption. It’s so much more impactful than watering our lawn less, taking shorter showers and doing fewer loads of laundry.” — Meredith Alcala, Alameda

“We are installing a laundry-to-landscape greywater system. Instead of using sprinklers to irrigate our 75-foot blue Atlas cedar, 75-foot redwood and three smaller redwoods, we will be watering them every time we do laundry.” — Roger Bergman, Santa Barbara

“We started keeping a sizable metal bowl in the bottom of our kitchen sink. When we wash fruits or vegetables or rinse something off with just water, we capture the water and use it on our container plants. So the more fruits and vegetables we eat, the more we grow!” — Jessica Koning, Big Sur

“I bought a shower clock. I am amazed at how helpful it is. I note the time as soon as I turn on the water and I try to shower as fast as I can.” — Diane E. Johnson, Mission Viejo

“My boys (13, 16) don’t love that we urge them to take on-off showers, but they do it. Strange that a 13-year-old would even be aware of our drought. Growing up in the Bay Area, I certainly had no idea of the California water situation when I was that young.” — Hunter Hubby, Berkeley

“We have been in California for 36 years and, from the very beginning, have been meticulously careful with our water usage knowing we were now living in a semidesert land. We use a bowl in the kitchen sink where all water goes, emptying it on the plants many times a day. We use the dishwasher every six days, wear most clothing longer between washes, gave up the swimming pool and lawns many years ago, changed many plants to those that don’t need much water, use much less water on the garden, flush the toilet less frequently, and do ‘up and downer’ body washes in between less frequent showers. We don’t smell!!

It’s going to be hard for us to cut back 15 percent from our water usage with the way we already conserve. We will do our very best to help save this beautiful state.” — Rosalind Roberts, Los Gatos

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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