Posts tagged water conservation

George Costanza’s motivations for relieving himself while in shower might be more slovenly and lazy in nature, but our favorite doltish character from the Seinfeld ensemble might have been inadvertently onto something if water conservation is of concern: peeing while in the shower can save 1,157 gallons of water annually per household.

Gowiththeflow

Considering there are 12,542,460 million households in California according to U.S. Census, that roughly equates to 14,511,626,220 billion gallons of water per year saved by multi-tasking. It’s such a significant figure several water conservation groups have used the taboo act in their headline grabbing campaigns to spread water conservation awareness (it’s #gowiththeflow if you want to hashtag your commitment to water conservation). So take relief friends…relieving yourself isn’t shameful, it’s a water-wise decision.

Now Kramer’s dual purpose shower and food waste disposal system designed for washing produce while lathered…now that’s only for the truly California drought committed!

Via USDA-NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service); illustration by Doug Adamson.

Via USDA-NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service); illustration by Doug Adamson.

City roads, sidewalks, and lots paved over with impervious surfaces like concrete and asphalt are great for optimizing travel by foot, bikes, or cars. But these man-made surfaces come at a price: they do not allow storm water runoff to penetrate back into the soil and into aquifers, redirecting water flow directly into city storm drains, and in the process carrying pollutants out to the ocean. Impervious surfaces combined with pollutants hinder the hydrologic water cycle, reducing the amount of water that percolates through the soil to recharge groundwater supplies essential to our ecosystem, especially in times of drought.

There are various ways to integrate and reduce impervious surface areas within your own landscapes to help water back into the natural water cycle:

Permeable Interlocking Pavers: Unit pavers with aggregated fill gaps in between the interlocking pavers.

Permeable interlocking pavers installed within a public sidewalk at the City of Burbank, Lake Street. Credit AHBE Landscape Architects, Ackerstone (Manufacturer)

Permeable interlocking pavers installed within a public sidewalk at the City of Burbank, Lake Street. Credit: AHBE Landscape Architects, Ackerstone (Manufacturer)

Pervious Concrete Systems/Grasscrete: Cast-in-place pervious concrete paving that is rated for fire truck loading access

Pervious concrete system installed in a designated fire lane in lieu of traditional concrete or asphalt vehicular paving at Hyundai Headquarters, Fountain Valley. Credit: AHBE Landscape Architects, Photography by Brian Mitchell and Heliphoto

Pervious concrete system installed in a designated fire lane in lieu of traditional concrete or asphalt vehicular paving at Hyundai Headquarters, Fountain Valley. Credit: AHBE Landscape Architects, Photography by Brian Mitchell and Heliphoto

Concrete Unit Pavers with Aggregate Filled Gaps

Brian Mitchell (AHBE Staff) incorporate the use of unit pavers and cobblestone to create an interesting design allowing run off to percolate through the cobblestone gaps.

Brian Mitchell (AHBE Staff) incorporate the use of unit pavers and cobblestone to create an interesting design allowing run off to percolate through the cobblestone gaps.

Ceramic Pervious Pavers: Pervious Pavers by KloroStone allows water to absorb and seep through the pavers itself, but keeping the solids such as debris, and sand to remain on the surface of the pavers.

All of these material solutions can help resurface our city’s infrastructure to operate more like a giant sponge rather than a water wasteful aqueduct, allowing water to be used more efficiently, and reenter the land’s own natural lifecycle rather than be washed out to the ocean.

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In 2011, a group of students from the Art Center College of Design participated in The Safe Agua Peru project – a program tasked with developing innovation solutions to alleviate water poverty in the developing world.

According to the United Nations, “85% of the world population lives in the driest half of the planet…783 million people do not have access to clean water and almost 2.5 billion do not have access to adequate sanitation…6 to 8 million people die annually from the consequences of disasters and water-related diseases.”

The result of the exercise was the development of the Gira Dora – a foot-powered washing machine – and the Balde a Balde – a portable faucet that provides drinking water from any container. In 2012 the students’ work was recognized at The Tech Awards, a program that awards those “who are applying technology to confront humanity’s most urgent challenges”. I worked with the students to assemble the accompanying video that showcases their achievement.

All Photos by Linda Daley

All photos by Linda Daley

If you were to look around my home you’d find I’ve placed buckets in the tub, shower, and sinks. The reason? I am intent on conserving water during the drought by capturing as much of our household water for reuse in my gardens and flushing the toilet. The daily yields of greywater captured from the sinks and tubs have given me useful information about our household water habits and usage. For example, I discovered that running our shower water until it gets hot fills up a five gallon bucket in no time.

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At some point our buckets graduated from an everyday utility pail to decorative home accessory. How did this happen? I blame the process of trial and error. I managed to accumulate a number of pails and containers while looking for the best ones for collecting water. Rather than storing my “failed” purchases in a closet, I thought instead to keep them where they may be needed. Hence, one bucket started holding long stemmed flowers – just like the ones you see in the farmers market – to add cheer to the bathroom, while another one was flipped upside down to serve as a convenient table or seat next to the tub.

farmers market flower buckets

Not my best decisions. Luckily, my husband put a stop to it. So I am passing along a few tips in case you have not yet ventured down this path during these drought-conscious times.

Things to Consider When Purchasing a Bucket for Greywater Collection:

Bucket size: The first set of buckets I purchased were too large. At 15 inches in height, I kept scraping my calf against them in our small shower. For my 5’-7” height, a 9-10 inch high bucket with rounded edges solved the problem. I also think the rectangular, versus round, buckets capture more water. For the shower or tub, you can purchase the larger sizes, but you will need a smaller pail to pour the water into (see why below). A 12-15 quart pail works for me.

Plastic versus metal: A bucket full of water is heavy. I learned right away that I don’t have the strength to carry a 5-gallon container of water (what was I thinking!) to the garden. Although I like the look of galvanized metal pails, the plastic ones are a bit lighter, and every ounce matters when you are hauling water through the house. Don’t go cheap on the plastic either; they won’t last long with constant use.

Handles: Make sure your pail has handles. I use the smaller 5-6 inch high containers in my kitchen because they fit perfectly in my sink. These containers do not come with handles but then my backyard is also a short distance from the kitchen. Sturdy handles just make carrying the water easier. Look for the ones with sturdy grips. Your hands will thank you.

Color: The first set of buckets I used were painting buckets. They are bright orange. I developed a negative emotional response whenever I saw the bright orange. Color matters. Surprisingly, buckets come in neutral and other colors. I now prefer to stick to white. Otherwise, I get caught up with the whole matching-to-décor thing. And my husband will have none of that anymore.

Aspirations and admiration of a garden as beautiful as this one from Lou Murray has motivated me to search for supplemental water sources for my garden.

Aspirations and admiration of a garden as beautiful as this one from Lou Murray has motivated me to search for supplemental water sources for my garden.


With California residents experiencing a record breaking dry season, many landscapes are feeling parched, while garden caretakers are feeling pressure to conserve water. When Los Angeles receives any rain, I feel a sense of relief for my small backyard garden (although this much needed rainfall seems to come and go all too quickly), but realize we can’t rely upon rain alone for our gardens. So I’ve been trying to find ways to efficiently save water during these drought years and take care of my garden, and my research has brought me to the conclusion rain barrels are an essential rainfall collection solution.

Gardening With Soul's DIY rain barrel project.

Gardening With Soul‘s DIY rain barrel project.

Collecting rain using catch barrels and utilizing the water for garden irrigation is a water wise strategy, and the practice is even supported by many city organizations. For instance, the City of Los Angeles offers great incentives for residents who choose to install rain barrels through their “Keep Los Angeles Beautiful” program, periodically offering rebates which bring down the cost of rain barrels to the subsidized price of “free”.

While readymade rain barrel catchment systems are occasionally available for free or for sale online, anyone can build their own rain barrel system quite easily following these steps using parts available at local hardware stores or big box home improvement retailers:

Step 1: Gather required parts and materials (all equipment is available at most home improvement stores)

  • Large catchment basin of your choice; a plastic garbage can or wooden barrel work equally well
  • Mesh fabric to keep debris out of basin
  • Plumber’s teflon tape
  • Washer and nut fitting for spigot
  • Drill
  • Cutting tool

Step 2: Determine the best placement for your rain barrel
Locate an area in which you a redirect the rainfall from your gutter into your container and safely situate a large container without the worry of it tipping over (remember, water is very heavy, so a stable base is mandatory). If the ground isn’t stable, you might need to lay a foundation or build a raised platform.

Step 3: Cutting the inlet and outlet for your rainfall
With the gutter source directed toward your container, cut an opening at top of the basin and secure a fabric mesh over it. This mesh will keep debris out of the basin. Afterward, drill and cut a hole on the bottom of the basin, matching the opening to the ring size of your spigot.

Step 4: Installing the spigot
Attach the spigot into the drilled and cut hole and secure it into place with a washer and nut.

Step 5: Start collecting
Now the hard work is done! Position the barrel directly under the gutter downspout. The next time it rains you’ll enjoy the rainfall even more knowing the water you’ve collected in helping conserve water and benefitting your garden!