January 24, 2014 – Conserving water has been a hot topic recently as we are experiencing a drought so severe, that Governor Jerry Brown recently declared a drought emergency in California, with the state possibly facing one of the worst droughts since record keeping began over 100 years ago. In Scotts Valley, it’s no different.

On Thursday, January 23, the Scotts Valley Water District held a presentation featuring various leaders of local and surrounding water districts in addition to directors of our own water district. The main speaker and organizer of the event was SVWD General Manager, Piret Harmon.

The purpose of the meeting and panel discussion, which was open to the public and also open for questions by the audience, was to give the community a better understanding of water issues in our city, and also in our area as a whole as many of the districts work together to serve communities with their water needs.

Scotts Valley water restrictions could be coming soon!
One of the issues that was discussed was the fact that Scotts Valley will more than likely be subject to some water restrictions this year due to the drought that we, as well as our state have experienced this year. And although figures are usually compiled sometime in April to make a decision like this, we could see it happening sooner than that as the need for some type of water rationing is clear and evident.

In a normal rainfall season, we should see approximately 42 inches of rain. Over the previous two years, we have seen about 70% of that so we have already been experiencing less rain for a couple of years. However, this year we have only seen 1 inch of rain with no clear and evident signs that we have rain coming any time soon.

This is an extremely dry season that calls for many measures by everyone to be more water conscious even before we see actual water rationing rules being set by our water district and city.

In Scotts Valley, it is estimated that we use 75 gallons per day in water, per person as stated by Harmon. According to the Environmental Protection Agency website, the average American family uses 300 gallons or more per day, with the majority of the use being indoors for things such as showers, washing clothes and washing dishes. According to the EPA, toilet use is the number one offender with 26.7% of the daily water usage, followed by clothes washers using 21.7%. Shower usage came in third at 16.8% and faucets were fourth at 15.7%. However, a glaring number that stood out is the estimate that approximately 13.7% of daily water usage is the result of water leaks in and around the home.  So, if you want to cut your water bill by at least 10-13%, fix those leaks.

Here are a few tips to help you make your home more water efficient:

Use your dishwasher
Many people still prefer to do their dishes by hand. But using a dishwasher instead of washing by hand, which many times has us running the water as we wash and rinse, is usually more water efficient. Besides, who really loves washing dishes anyways? This was by far MY favorite tip. 🙂

Turn off the faucet
When brushing your teeth or washing your hands and face, we tend to leave the water running which is wasting most of the water that is coming out from the faucet. Get in the habit of turning off the faucet when you do not need the running water.

Use efficient hardware
Install water efficient low-flow showerheads and toilets. Low-flow fixtures could cut water usage in half. Meaning if you take a 5-minute shower you can save approximately 4,550 gallons of water each year. That is enough to fill a 15-foot aboveground swimming pool. But not only that, you will also be saving money on your energy bill as you will also use less hot water.

As previously mentioned, toilets account for the most water usage in homes and replacing your toilet for a low-flow toilet could be a major water and money saver for you. It is estimated that replacing a typical 3.5-gallon toilet with a 1.6 gallon model will save a family of four approximately 11,096 gallons of water per year. That’s a 54% reduction in toilet water use. With toilet use being the biggest water “waste” offender, no pun intended, it’s a no brainer.

Going Green is not always the best solution
Consider replacing some of your grass that is not used much with more water efficient landscaping. In fact, the SVWD has rebate programs if you do so and they are also willing to come out to discuss your options and will show you ways to conserve water as well as what you may qualify for in rebates. In addition, most lawns use twice the amount of water that is needed to maintain it, meaning half of the water being used for watering your lawns is being wasted.

There are a lot of websites offering advice on how to save water, especially now that we are in a severe drought. Some of the better sites with excellent tips are:

Most of the above sites have similar tips and the same message, with some having tips other sites don’t have.

Ask your district!
There are also lots of new “water catch” systems that let you use the water from your clothes washer or shower for irrigation and they are not expensive either if you research them a little. The SVWD would be happy to go over some of the latest products with you, as well as lots of other tips that they have, just ask them. There is also a good amount of literature and brochures that you can take home which are available free at their office.

You can contact or visit the SVWD at:

Scotts Valley Water District
2 Civic Center Drive
Scotts Valley, CA. 95066
831-438-2363 – Office
831-438-6235 – Fax
[email protected]

Also, consider attending the SVWD meetings that they have open to the public and come with your questions. For more information about their meetings and schedule, contact them.

One of the many positive things that I picked up from the meeting was the fact that we have already started water-rationing measures throughout the years, as we have become more energy and water conscious. This has no doubt helped as the demand for water per person has come down, and it has prepared many people for what’s to come. But it is still not enough and we need to all take a look around us and see how we can be more efficient with our water everyday, as well as be efficient in spreading the knowledge to others.

The time is now!
As previously stated, although the water restrictions have not yet started, they probably are coming sooner than later. The time to work towards being more efficient with our water use today and from this point forward is now. While a gallon of water may not be as expensive as gallon of gasoline, it is by far more valuable.

Robert Aldana