Even during a drought, if you pay your water bills, you shouldn’t be publicly shamed for your usage (even if it isn’t as environmentally conscious as it probably should be). But in California, there’s a civilian water gestapo on the loose:
“Yeah, I put your address out there. The world is watching a lot more,” says Tony Corcoran, one of several people who spend their spare time these days canvassing the tony communities of Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and elsewhere, looking for people wasting water during the worst California drought in recent memory. Corcoran alone estimates he’s put more than 100 videos of water-wasters, complete with their addresses, up on YouTube.
Others tweet out addresses and photos of water scofflaws on Twitter, using hashtags such as #DroughtShaming. Still others are snapping smartphone photos of them and sending them directly to authorities.
Corcoran, a native of New York, insists that, “The whole point is to get people to change, not to shame.” The targets of his harassment, however, see it otherwise:
One woman, quickly tiring of Corcoran’s lecture on conservation while she watered her plants, turned her hose on him.
In Beverly Hills, where he was showing a reporter and photographer water running down the street in front of a mansion, the angry resident called police. Two patrol cars quickly responded but the officers took no action.
In Hollywood, Sam Bakman, who manages a condominium complex, said his building was recently shamed wrongly by somebody on Twitter over a broken sprinkler head that was quickly repaired. He showed a reporter the city-issued restrictions on watering and pointed out his sprinkler timers fall well within the guidelines.
“If they thought we were doing something wrong, why not come knock on my door?” he asked.
If Corcoran’s actions aren’t bad enough, Dan Estes, a Los Angeles real estate broker, built a free app called “DroughtShame” that records the time and place people witness supposed water waste.
Are we sure it’s not about shame?
Regardless, here are some tips to prepare for a drought:
Indoor Water Conservation Tips Prior to a Drought
- Never pour water down the drain when there may be another use for it. For example, use it to water your indoor plants or garden.
- Repair dripping faucets by replacing washers. One drop per second wastes 2,700 gallons of water per year.
- Check all plumbing for leaks and have any leaks repaired by a plumber.
- Retrofit all household faucets by installing aerators with flow restrictors.
- Install an instant hot water heater on your sink.
- Insulate your water pipes to reduce heat loss and prevent them from breaking.
- Install a water-softening system only when the minerals in the water would damage your pipes. Turn the softener off while on vacation.
- Choose appliances that are more energy and water efficient.
- Consider purchasing a low-volume toilet that uses less than half the water of older models. Note: In many areas, low-volume units are required by law.
- Install a toilet displacement device to cut down on the amount of water needed to flush. Place a one-gallon plastic jug of water into the tank to displace toilet flow (do not use a brick, it may dissolve and loose pieces may cause damage to the internal parts). Be sure installation does not interfere with the operating parts.
- Replace your showerhead with an ultra-low-flow version.
- Start a compost pile as an alternate method of disposing of food waste or simply dispose of food in the garbage. (Kitchen sink disposals require a lot of water to operate properly).
Outdoor Water Conservation Tips Prior to a Drought
- Check your well pump periodically. If the automatic pump turns on and off while water is not being used, you have a leak.
- Plant native and/or drought-tolerant grasses, ground covers, shrubs, and trees. Once established, plants adapted to your local climate do not need water as frequently and usually will survive a dry period without watering. Small plants require less water to become established. Group plants together based on similar water needs.
- Install irrigation devices that are the most water efficient for each use, such as micro and drip irrigation, and soaker hoses.
- Use mulch to retain moisture in the soil. Mulch also helps control weeds that compete with landscape plants for water.
- Avoid purchasing recreational water toys that require a constant stream of water.
- Avoid installing ornamental water features (such as fountains) unless they use re-circulated water.
- Consider rainwater harvesting where practical.
- Contact your local water provider for information and assistance.
- Position sprinklers so water lands on the lawn and shrubs and not on paved areas.
- Repair sprinklers that spray a fine mist. Most misting issues result from a pressure problem, properly regulating pressure in an irrigation system will prevent misting.
- Check sprinkler systems and timing devices regularly to be sure they operate properly.
- Raise the lawn mower blade to at least three inches or to its highest level. A higher cut encourages grass roots to grow deeper, shades the root system, and holds soil moisture.
- Plant drought-resistant lawn seed. Reduce or eliminate lawn areas that are not used frequently.
- Avoid over-fertilizing your lawn. Applying fertilizer increases the need for water. Apply fertilizers that contain slow-release, water-insoluble forms of nitrogen.
- Choose a water-efficient irrigation system such as drip irrigation for your trees, shrubs, and flowers.
- Turn irrigation down in fall and off in winter. Water manually in winter only if needed.
- Put a layer of mulch around trees and plants to reduce evaporation and keep the soil cool. Organic mulch also improves the soil and prevents weeds.
- Invest in a weather-based irrigation controller—or a smart controller. These devices will automatically adjust the watering time and frequency based on soil moisture, rain, wind, and evaporation and transpiration rates. Check with your local water agency to see if there is a rebate available for the purchase of a smart controller.
- Install a new water-saving pool filter. A single back flushing with a traditional filter uses 180 to 250 gallons of water.
- Cover pools and spas to reduce evaporation of water.