San Francisco And The Drought

It's not easy being dry...I’m not dead yet, I’ve only been taking some time away to get things in order. That being said…

Governor Brown has announced drought situations for the people of California and I realized that lots of the people in San Francisco weren’t here for the last one in the 70’s so I thought I’d tell you a little about it so you’ll know what to do.

Before I get into that though I think you’ll all need to realize that a drought in California doesn’t just affect the state, but the entire nation in many ways. We’re home to a lot of the agriculture that supplies the nation with food. The central valley is where a lot of crops are grown that you won’t find being grown anywhere else. Strawberries, almonds, olives, honey and more come from California alone so if we get hit, the nation gets hit. The red state politicians don’t like to think about this, but that’s just the way it is.

Because we need lots of water for our agriculture we have to cut back in other places. Back in the 70’s things were different. If you went into the bathroom to grab some tissue to blow your nose, you didn’t throw the tissue in the garbage, you flushed it down the toilet. People would shower or bathe sometimes two times a day. Your lawn wasn’t properly watered unless you had a river running down the street. Things like this needed to change.

In San Francisco, especially in the Sunset and Richmond Districts you might notice that there aren’t lawns in front of every house. This changed in the 70’s. Originally it was law that a certain percentage of the front of your house needed to be green. Some people didn’t like being forced to water their weeds as it were because they weren’t into keeping up the lawn so they pulled the lawn and tossed in rocks. Usually those sparkly white dolomite rocks that you’ll see. A few people paved over their lawns, but then painted the concrete green to keep the idea that there was green in front of the house.

Bathing became rather interesting as people were told not to bathe as frequently. Some people would only bathe once a week which you realized rather quickly. Other people would just wet a wash cloth and drag it across their underarms and naught bits. Not much help really. Other people got inventive. There were the bath blocks that make your bath tub smaller so less water was needed to fill it up, but you were of course cramped in a smaller space. There there was the buckets in the shower to catch water that would run down the drain so you could water your plants or wash dishes with it.

This of course also led to the rule of the toilet of, if it’s yellow let it mellow, if it’s brown, flush it down. Some people went a little bit farther than that much to the disgust of their company that was invited over.

Some were much easier to do. When you brush your teeth or shave you don’t need to let the water run unless you’re using it. People realized that they didn’t need to wash their cars every weekend and that gave way to lots of waterless car cleaning products as well.

All of these changes led to a new way of life for people in San Francisco [the water from here that went down to LA was happily sprayed daily on the nice green lawns back then.] So now if you’re new to the City here are a few tips if you didn’t know.

  1. You don’t need to run the water constantly when you brush your teeth or shave: Previously stated, but the water will stay warm even after you’ve turned it off. You really only need to wet your brush or razor a couple of times. Shaving and brushing in the shower doesn’t save water as it is running the whole time you’re doing it.
  2. Low flow shower heads: If you’re renting an apartment you’ve probably got one already. The old ones used to push out 10 gallons per minute. Great you want to feel like your standing under Niagra Falls, but not really that necessary. 2.5 gallons per minute is fine and you can find 1.5 gallon per minute shower heads, but you might feel like you have to run around to get wet.
  3. Spend less time in the shower: You don’t really need to take a shower for a half hour to 45 minutes. Most people can be in and out in under 5 and are just happy about it. If you do this you can help yourself avoid…
  4. Military Showers: Not fun at all, but lots of showers have little switches to turn the water off while keeping it warm. The problem is that unless your bathroom is warm and humid going from being drenched in warm water to nothing while you lather up isn’t pleasant. Let’s all hope it doesn’t come to this.
  5. Low water appliances: Again, most renters if they have washing machines or dish washers probably have low flow versions that do the job with less water. We realized we didn’t need a big dishwasher anymore and got an 18″ free standing one that can wash a full weeks of dishes with 2.5 gallons of water. Many washing machines are also low flow now so you probably don’t have to worry about that unless you’ve got one that’s 25 years old or more.
  6. The toilet: People are mixed on this one. Pretty much all rentals are required to have low flow toilets, but some people feel they don’t need to flush them as often to save water. That’s fine as long as you have enough flow to get rid of what you have sitting there. Try it and see, but some people just don’t want other people to know that they pee.

So all of this being said I’m not exactly sure how much more we can save since there are already lots of changes that have been put in place since the 70’s. It would be good though if you start to take a look at where you’re using the most water and see if you can cut back there.