Excerpt: 'Guide to Sustainable Living' by Ed Begley Jr.

It takes a great deal of electricity to pump water around the state of California in order to get it where it's needed. And so when you save water, you're not just saving that H2O. You're saving a great deal of C, otherwise known as carbon, as well. You're saving a lot of fossil fuel, because at the end of the day, a small part of that electricity is produced from clean sources like hydropower and renewables, but a lot of it comes from burning coal or methane.

So if you're saving water, you're also saving electricity.

We can't just bring water to California from the Midwest, for instance. The distance is just too vast, and the resources there are stretched thin as well. You know, the Ogallala Aquifer— the vast, underground reservoir that's been available for years under a few states in the High Plains, including Texas, Wyoming, and Nebraska—is getting tapped dry, too.

The United States doesn't have the water resources that we had just a few decades ago. Changes are going to have to be made. It starts with conserving at the municipality level. Residential users can make a big difference, and so can commercial users, from hotels and hospitals to schools and offices.

WATER USE INSIDE THE HOME

From a residential standpoint, people can cut back on their water usage in a variety of ways. Some of it is behavioral, and some of it involves changing a few items around your house.

Behavioral stuff is a big part of the equation. I talked about it quite a bit in my first book, "Living Like Ed." I think I was still a teenager when I thought, "Why am I running the water when I'm brushing my teeth? The water comes from somewhere, and it goes to somewhere. And why would I waste it?" So I started turning off the water when I brushed my teeth. I started taking navy showers to save water— turning the water off while I soaped up, then turning it back on just to rinse off—because I knew water was a resource that was scarce in many parts of the world and there was no reason to waste it. These are just a few examples, but there're many ways to modify your behavior and use a lot less water.

According to the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the breakdown for water usage inside a typical American home (not counting exterior usage for landscaping and such, which we'll be discussing later) is as follows:

toilets: 28%
laundry: 23%
shower: 19%
faucets: 15%
leaks: 12%
dishwasher: 3%

When trying to conserve, the first thing you want to do is fix any leaks. You can save a tremendous amount of water just by fixing things that are broken.

There are also many devices that you can install around your home to help you save water—and to help your state save energy and therefore help the environment in that way, too. Changing your toilets, changing your faucets, changing your showerheads, changing appliances, using your appliances properly, and maybe even taking the next step and using gray water for some of your water needs are all efforts you can make.

TOILETS

There was a move in the early 1990s in Los Angeles and in many parts of the country to switch to toilets that used a lower volume of water for each flush. In L.A., these low-flow toilets indeed were mandated for any new development or remodel.

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