The Low-Water Lifestyle

Andrew Leonard is surprised to find that his Berkeley lifestyle isn’t water-intensive enough to qualify him for water rationing:

When I examined my drought advisory notice a little more closely I noticed something I’d missed before: "Residential customer accounts that use 100 gallons per day or less are exempt from the drought rate increase and drought surcharge."

My most recent bill indicates that my household consumed under 100 gallons per day over the last two months. So! Home free! We can flush again!

Well, no, actually. I do want to see how far down I can lower the current numbers. But the fact that my household, with its dishwasher, washer and dryer, showers every day, fruit trees in the back yard, etc, wasn’t consuming enough to be required to cut back, even in the middle of a pretty severe drought, was an eye-opener…

I don’t feel like I’m even trying that hard to conserve at all (though, no lawn, no swimming pool, no hosing down the car on summer weekends.) In fact, I’m pretty darn sure that by worldwide standards, I’m a prolific consumer.

I don’t know how much Andrew waters his fruit trees, but there’s nothing here to suggest that his water consumption is at all "prolific". If you water your lawn, that counts as prolific, and swimming pools certainly do. Andrew’s lifestyle, by contrast, seems almost calculated to use as little water as possible.

The dishwasher? Uses substantially less water than washing dishes by hand. The clothes washer, too, not that anybody handwashes clothes any more. The showers? Think not about the "every day" bit (that’s entirely reasonable) but rather the fact that they’re not baths, which use an order of magnitude more water. And what’s more, these are guy showers we’re talking about here. Which means, short.

Americans waste an enormous amount of water every day, it’s true. But a huge part of that is accounted for by lawns and jacuzzis and oversized bathtubs and other obvious signs of wastefulness. If Andrew really wants to lower his current numbers substantially, maybe he could try to set up a system whereby he uses his "grey water" (from his sink, his shower, maybe even his washing machine) to water his fruit trees. If he’s OK spending a bit of money, he could install dual-flush toilets. But frankly he’s doing fine just as it is.

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