With drought in focus, Havasu water expert shares tips on conservation
Most local residents are water-savvy. They know that Lake Havasu City’s water allocation is designated as low-priority. They also know that the Southwest’s prolonged drought is sure to lead to potential shortages along the Colorado River in the foreseeable future.
Doyle Wilson, Havasu’s municipal water resources coordinator, warned that a shortage could be announced as early as August.
“It most likely won’t impact Havasu’s allocation, but it is a red flag. It’s a warning sign that the situation could worsen dramatically very quickly. That’s why conservation is so important,” he said.
Most of Havasu’s 54,000 residents are sincerely interested in using less water in their daily lives. Many homeowners install water-saving appliances and plumbing fixtures so they won’t waste one drop. Others reverse senseless ingrained habits that send good water down the drain.
Cost is another incentive to be frugal. Processed water flowing into local homes is very expensive.
It has been estimated that each Havasu resident uses an average of 124 gallons of water per day, Wilson said, noting that 70 percent of that is devoted to landscaping. To visualize what 124 gallons looks like, know that a standard bathtub holds 80 gallons.
Beyond fixing leaks and planting drought-tolerant landscaping, there are several ways to save water in a typical household. Use a broom instead of a hose to clean patios, sidewalks and driveways. While cleaning sidewalks, a hose and nozzle uses up to 12 gallons of water per minute. A pressurized water broom uses closer to three gallons.
Other useful tips were offered by Wilson and two Arizona Project WET instructors, Nicole Kallman and Pam Justice. Project WET is a water conservation outreach organization through the University of Arizona based in Phoenix.
“One tip I’ve been advocating forever and a day is to not empty pool water into the street. When you do that, the water is lost and gone forever,” Wilson said.
Instead, a resident should send pool water into the home’s sewer cleanout so it can be recycled at the wastewater treatment plant. But there’s a caveat: Before discharging pool water this way, call the wastewater division at 855-3999 so staff can prepare for the sudden influx.
Then there’s the evaporation issue, said Pam Justice of Project WET.
“All bodies of water lose two percent per day from evaporation. This means that every 50 days, a pool that refills itself has all new water,” she said.
The solution is a pool cover. While many people don’t like the look of covers, a floating cover virtually eliminates evaporation if kept on when the pool is not in use. Granted, covers can be difficult to use on irregularly shaped pools. And in summer, a cover causes a significant temperature gain. A cover isn’t practical during Havasu’s hot season. But in cooler months, a cover is just the ticket.
At the kitchen tap
Start them young to prevent wasteful habits, said the Project WET instructors. Both Kallman and Justice have careers that educate youngsters about water conservation.
For starters, teach children to turn off faucets tightly after each use. And don’t let water taps run, Justice said.
Most faucets put out about two gallons of water per minute, Justice said. Rather than let good water go down the drain while waiting for hot water, collect water in a bucket and use it to water plants.
Justice said that her plants enjoy fortified drinks when she gives them pasta water or water leftover from steamed vegetables.
For every gallon produced by a reverse osmosis system, two perfectly fine gallons of water go down the drain. “Use RO water for drinking only,” Justice advised.
At her double-bowled kitchen sink, Justice fills one sink with warm, soapy water for washing dishes. She plugs the other sink and fills it with plain water.
“I dunk washed dishes rather than let the faucet run to rinse them,” she said.
It has been estimated that by running a washer and dishwasher only when they are full saves up to 1,000 gallons a month.
Also, when washing your hands, turn the water off while you lather.
In the bathroom
Try this quick experiment: If your shower fills a one-gallon bucket in less than 20 seconds, replace the showerhead with a water-saving model.
Shortening a shower by a minute or two can save up to 150 gallons per month. More specifically, a 5-minutes-or-less daily shower can save up to 1,000 gallons per month. By far, short showers use less water than baths. A shower requires about 25 gallons; a full bathtub requires up to 70 gallons of water, Justice said.
Don’t let the water run while you brush your teeth. Running the water while brushing won’t get your teeth any cleaner. Plus, this will save up to four gallons a minute. That’s almost 200 gallons a week for a family of four.
Turn off that light
Justice said conserving electricity also saves water.
“You wouldn’t believe how much water it takes to make electricity,” she said. “When we waste energy, we’re wasting water. If you are careful, use technology and make some behavior adjustments, you’ll save a lot of water. If we all did this, we can make a difference collectively.”
For more ideas on how to conserve, visit the Arizona Department of Water Resources at azwater.gov/conservation. Another is the Water Use It Wisely campaign at wateruseitwisely.com.