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Thirteen Steps to Droughtproofing Your Home

The American West is dry and getting drier. In the summer of 2007, over one-third of the continental United States suffered through a drought for the ages, and in much of the country, particularly the Southwest, conditions haven’t much improved. In fact, long term projections by credible climate scientists show the drought turning into lasting desertification. So picture the American West as a permanent Dust Bowl. We think it’s time to start learning how to make do with less water, so we called up Lynn Lipinski of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for some advice. Here are some tips for living without wasting the waning resource, both inside and outside your home:


1. Track your usage over time with your utility bill. Jot it down in a notebook, or make a spreadsheet. If there’s ever an inexplicable increase, you may have a leak somewhere.

2. Run your dishwasher and washing machine only when their full. No sense using twice the water to clean the same amount of stuff in two half-loads. You’ll save between 15 and 50 gallons every wash.

3. Check all your faucets for leaks. Even a slow drip can cost you gallons every day.

4. Everyone’s least favorite: set a timer for a five minute shower. That’ll use 25 fewer gallons of water than an average American shower.

5. Of course, the one we all remember from grade school: turn off the water while brushing your teeth. You’ll save three gallons every scrub.


1. When you’re mowing your lawn, don’t cut the grass shorter than three inches. This helps reduce evaporation considerably.

2. Install a “smart” sprinkler system. Like a programmable thermostat inside your home, a “smart” sprinkler can be set to spritz your lawn at the most efficient times of day for your local climate and weather patterns. This could save around 40 gallons a day.

3. Water your yard before peak morning sun. Before 8 a.m. is a good reference point. It’s less windy at this hour, meaning more of the glistening drops actually land where you want them do, and there’s less direct sun, meaning less evaporation. Saves up to 25 gallons a day.

4. If it’s not mandated already, try to limit yourself to watering your yard just three days-a-week, rather than everyday. Savings: a whopping 1,200 gallons per month.

5. Throw some mulch (preferably organic!) around your outdoor plants to help reduce evaporation. This will save hundreds of gallons per year.

6. Quit hosing down your driveway and sidewalks! Bust out the broom and sweep them clean. You’ll save around 150 gallons every time.

7. Check your sprinkler system routinely for leaks, for broken sprinkler heads, and for “overspray“—water that sprays onto surfaces that don’t need to be watered, like driveways, decks, or doghouses. Diligent sprinkler monitors save up to 500 gallons per month.

8. Replace your lawn with drought tolerant plants. If we’re really on the verge of a permanent Dust Bowl, we might have to start rethinking the lawn. You could save up to 1,800 gallons per month, depending, of course, on how much grass you replace.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user °Florian.

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