Conservational Etiquette: Watching The Drips Fall

It is no secret that California is in the midst of a water crisis social media platforms may no longer be flooded (pun intended) with photos of dried up lakes and posts about the drought but it is still real. The Los Angeles Department of Water (LADWP) is sending water conservation notices to ever one of is customers with their bills. You are even hearing water conservation ads on the radio. This is all well and good but with as severe as the crisis is supposed to be, how are we supposed to control our water usage.

Reading your water and power bill, doesn’t help, though power and gas are often managed by unit,  many buildings manage water for the whole building and do not provide tenants with their water usage at all. Home owners have it a little better but you have to wait to find out how much water you have used at the end of the billing cycle or check your gauge on your own time to see what you are using. This is a problem, especially if we are supposed to be in a dire situation.

Imagine only being able to know how much money you had after you had spent it all. One of the best inventions of the modern age for money management is mobile banking. Finally you can check your account on the go, and this helps you decide in real time how you want to manage your financial resources. Yet in this water crunch we have no convenient, or event all together accessible way to monitor and manage how much water we are using at a time.

Most of have been taught these tips:

– Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving
– Use a broom instead of a hose to clean your driveway
– Take shorter showers
– Wash only full loads
– Install high efficiency water toilets, dishwashers, and shower heads etc.

These tips are great but they are things we should always be doing. What’s more is that these are just tips. We are not being given a list of new behaviors necessarily. California’s  Water Conservation Act (2009) has helped from the policy side, with regulations about peak usage, watering lawns, and commercial and agricultural water usage. The city has also offered rebates to people who opt for “Dry Gardens” instead of traditional lawns. Again, these things are all good, but all of this still pails to the amount of domestic water usage that we have 100% control over. The faucet.

Just like being able to check our bank account balance has helped us manage our money, and watches have helped us manage our time, digital water faucets could help us manage our water. If you ever have a leaky faucet, you might want to try a simple experiment. Just take a gallon bucket and set it under the faucet and see how long it will take to fill up. A gallon of water has about 91,000 drops of water in it, if there is a faucet leaking one drop per second that is wasting 347 gallons a year.

Local water meters are estimated to save between 10%- 15% simply because we are able to measure how much water we are using at a time. We already see some water meter taps in Europe. Designer Meghana Vaidyanathan has designed an item called Squirt that is designed for children to be instilled with conservational etiquette. We have this etiquette when we think about money, and so often parents tie this same idea to food, or electricity, and water as well. But this lesson should be applied to water specifically, and to adults as well.

If our only consequence for wasting water is a higher water bill at some time in the future then we have not immediate incentive or method to change our behavior while the faucet is still running. It is a good idea to turn off your sprinklers in peak hours, and take shorter showers but a much simpler, individual solution would be to monitor the water you use with an metered tap. If you don’t have the money for a new tap (which many of us don’t) simply fill a gallon with water from your faucet and count the seconds. Let that simple count tell you how many gallons you are wasting and use that as a reminder whenever you are letting the water run.

It starts small but it starts at home.