A call to conserve from SF Water

“A Call to Conserve Water

We didn’t get enough rain or snow this winter – plain and simple. The San Francisco Public Utilities Commission (SFPUC) is officially asking all customers to voluntarily reduce water use by 10%.

Conservation is easy; turn off the faucet while brushing teeth or soaping hands; shorten shower time; install water-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators; replace older toilets and clothes washers with new water-efficient models; and, fix leaks. Please visit sfwater.org/conservation for more information. The SFPUC offers an array of conservation assistance including free water-saving devices, free Water-Wise evaluations for homes, apartment buildings and businesses and rebates for water-efficient toilets and clothes washers.

Everyone needs to do their part to help us stretch our limited Hetch Hetchy Water Supplies. Conserve today and save for tomorrow.”

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1 Comment

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One response to “A call to conserve from SF Water

  1. Denise

    In view of our current drought situation, I think it behooves us to consider using less fresh water in a big way. One obvious way is to convert our thirsty lawns to environmentally appropriate plants; a native plant garden uses a fraction of the water and maintenance labor required for a lawn. Another way is to use greywater (defined below). I had Casey Allen ( former gardener at the Miraloma Clubhouse) replace my uncle’s lawn with native plants and hook up his washing machine to his backyard. That’s right; encouraging our friends and family this way is a good thing!

    Before I tell you more about reducing fresh water use, I have to tell you what to replace your lawn with. California native plants are environmentally appropriate for wildlife as well as for our climate. California is one of only 5 places in the world with a Mediterranean climate, or wet winters and dry summers. Once your native plants have established their root systems, you can let them go dry in dry months or water only occasionally. Native wildflowers, grasses, shrubs and even trees know how to survive on their own, absent human interference.

    To reduce the use of freshwater in my garden, I harvest rainwater and repurpose greywater. I water mostly by hand, seldom by hose. Hand watering uses maybe only 1/6 as much water as sprinklers. Besides, using a hose or sprinklers encourages too many weeds.

    Greywater Action holds workshops for us to learn about harvesting rainwater at home and installing pipes for greywater. Into for upcoming workshops is at: http://www.greywateraction.org/workshop/2014/rain-barrel-workshop-hands-oakland

    For a quick peek into installing pipes, see This Old House’s video connecting a washing machine in a SF home to the garden. Greywater consultant Laura Allen (of Greywater Action) installs high density polyethylene pipes, T’s, mulch and irrigation valve boxes in the garden. See http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/tv/ask-toh/video/0,,20565323,00.html

    Take advantage of SFPUC’s offer to subsidize a starter kit for hooking up your washing machine to your garden. Contact the Urban Farmer Store at (415) 661-2204 to sign up for a workshop in order to qualify for the subsidy. You’d need to sign an application and provide photos of your washer and your garden. I submitted my app and photos via email. After the 2-hr workshop at 2833 Vicente/ 40th Ave., I paid $15 (incl. tax) for $117 worth of pipes and other supplies. Hint: We can do this without a permit, as long as we follow guidelines.

    If you need help to install the pipes or to convert lawn to native plants, you may contact Casey Allen and Brett Stephens, San Francisco Landscapes, (415) 585-9137.

    This is a great website detailing what’s OK and what’s harmful in terms of soaps: http://greywateraction.org/faqs/greywater-recycling. Hint: Environment friendly soaps should be OK for both human use and for plants. Examples include Oasis, Ecos, Biopac, Vaska, Aubrey Organics, Dr. Bronner’s. Avoid salt, boron, borax, chlorine bleach and wash water from diapers and oily rags, which are all harmful for plants. Be careful with powder soaps, which at least in the past included sodium fillers that are potentially harmful to plants. Cosmeticdatabase.org can help you determine whether a specific soap is harmful.

    What is greywater? Feel free to re-use greywater from showers, bathtubs, sinks and washing machines, following suggestions in the previous paragraph. Kitchen wastewater is tricky; avoid high levels of organic material, which could decrease oxygen levels where the greywater is applied. And avoid introducing pathogens, such as bacteria from rinsing uncooked meat. If you collect any greywater, use it in the garden within 24 hrs.

    To recap, we should each consider our approach to our dry summers and recurring droughts by taking the following actions. (1) Convert our lawn to native plants. (2) Harvest rainwater. (3) Use greywater and connect our washing machine to our garden. (4) Encourage friends and family to do 1-3.

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