Water is precious in California, and we are currently experiencing a severe drought. We must integrate water saving features into the design process and our way of life. Presumably, you have already made the obvious home or office improvements that save water, such as: a) installing low-flow toilets in every bathroom, b) using low-flow faucets, or installing low-flow aerators on existing faucets in the kitchen and bath sinks, and c) using a low-flow shower head.
When you are replacing a washing machine or dishwasher, check the product specifications for how much water it uses per wash cycle. Typically, a front-loading washing machine uses a lot less water than a top-loading one. (See http://home.howstuffworks.com/appliances/new/washing-machine-water-usage.htm )
It saves water to program your irrigation system from one long watering cycle of 10 minutes or more to multiple shorter cycles, such as 3 times at 3 minutes each. Watering in the early morning (pre-dawn) will also help. Switching from sprinklers to a drip irrigation system can save water. If you are really ambitious, you could install a grey water system for irrigation. This reroutes the used water from your kitchen pipes and laundry pipes, and even downspouts, into a containment unit that filters it (not to drinking standards, but good enough for plants) before routing it into your sprinkler or drip irrigation system. There are also grey water systems that capture used shower and bathroom sink water and re-use it for toilet flushing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greywater
Landscaping with drought-tolerant plants is a good option if you were already thinking of making changes to your yard. Check with your local master gardeners association for recommendations of low-water plants that will thrive in your area. Many folks are letting their lawns go brown. (You can still water the lawn occasionally so that the root system survives.) This may seem a little drastic, but unless you are out there enjoying the lawn all the time, it is worth considering. Here’s a video of a homeowner who painted her lawn green! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8MAajBnG7g
You can change your habits to save water without making any purchases too. Here are a few ideas to try: Get in the shower as soon as you turn it on. This isn’t as uncomfortable as you might think, because in the summertime the water in the pipes will not be ice cold. If you are doing dishes in the sink, plug the rinse side of the sink and run the water there until it heats up and then switch the faucet over to the wash side to have hot water for washing. Rinse dishes in the cold water. When you shave, brush your teeth, or wash your hands, don’t let the water run between rinses.
If you have a fountain or water feature, consider turning it off when you aren’t enjoying it or entertaining guests. The constant flow of the water increases evaporation. (Check with the manufacturer to find out water-saving recommendations that will not affect equipment performance.)
Of course, check for leaks regularly and fix all leaks quickly. Watch your water bill, or monitor your usage online if that is available in your community. If any unusual usage occurs, you will be alerted to find and fix the problem right away. Let’s all do our part to save water!
— Lorianna Kastrop Vice President The Kastrop Group, Inc. Architects