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5 Simple Ways to Save Water

California is experiencing a severe drought and water shortage, and everyone around the country is talking about it, except for Californians. Don't get me wrong, I've known that we've had very little rainfall and that our water levels are very low. I've seen the photos of dry rivers and graphs highlighting the areas that are suffering the most. I even had a friend visit from the East Coast who said he could never live here because it's so dry.

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But somehow, the drought just doesn't seem to be in the faces of Californians the way it needs to be—it's my friends elsewhere in the country who call me late at night to talk about it. One of them recently admonished me for flushing the toilet after my son or I pee. When I complained that I didn't like the odor of urine, he sent me a link to a product that purports to eliminate the smell.

So, while I don't claim to have all the answers, here are five simple things I'm doing that others might also do:

1. If it's yellow, let it mellow

Don't flush the toilet unless it has poop in it. That's right, I'm giving into the request of my friend to stop flushing urine. Each flush uses 3 to 5 gallons of water; a low-flush toilet uses 2 gallons per flush.

2. Don't run the water

Taking a shower uses gallons upon gallons of water. I can spend upwards of 10 minutes in the shower; by not allowing the water to run continuously, especially when I'm lathering, at least a portion of that water gets saved. Another tip is to spend less time in the shower. Bring some music in and track time by counting how many songs play. Aim to get your shower down to the length of one song!

Also, I realize most people have dishwashers nowadays, but I still wash by hand. My habit is to allow the water to run while I'm washing in order to rinse the dishes, but from here on out I will wash dishes without allowing the water to just run freely. The same is true for brushing my teeth. I will turn off the tap while I'm brushing. (I should have done this long ago.)

3. Boycott Nestle's water

I rarely purchase bottled water, if ever. Recently it has become news that the Nestle Corporation is bottling and exporting water out of California during this extreme drought. It's not illegal, but it is unconscionable.

4. Reuse cooking water

Instead of pouring leftover water from steaming or boiling vegetables down the drain, we can save it for gravy or soup. You can also use the starch water after boiling pasta or potatoes on plants.

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5. Don't eat products that require a great deal of water to grow

This one is really difficult for me because I make almond milk and sell it to friends and family. I recently learned that almond farms use an extraordinary amount of water. California almonds are one of the state's most profitable crops, and part of the reason they're so costly is because they require a lot of resources (particularly water) to grow. On average, organic almonds cost about $13 a pound at your local health-food store and non-organic cost about half that amount (still not cheap.) It might also be better to consume less of the products that use a lot of water, like broccoli, walnuts, lettuce and pistachios, as well as meat and dairy, which have huge water footprints. Knowing the water footprint of your food and choosing, for example, chicken over beef can go a long way.

Unfortunately, the water situation is getting worse every day, and that means I'm going to have to make some serious changes in my behavior. If each of us does a small part, it will make a big difference in the years to come.

Image via Twenty20/atvlobos

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