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Saving Water in the Yard and Home

In 2008 California faced another drought after two years of below-average rainfall, less snow melt runoff and a court ordered restriction on water transfers.  Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger issued an Executive Order proclaiming a statewide drought and directing state actions to be taken to address drought conditions and water delivery systems.     The Department of Water Resources (DWR) snow survey of 2008 showed snowpack water content at only 67 percent of normal and the runoff forecast at only 55 percent of normal.  Many communities are required water conservation or rationing.   Here are some tips to help you save water and money in the yard and home:

  • Look for hidden leaks.  Turn off all running water in the house.  Check the reading on your water meter.  Don’t use any water for 30 minutes, and then read the meter again.  If it shows water used, then you have a hidden leak that needs repair.
  • Water less frequently but more deeply.  Think of your soil as a reservoir that holds water for your plants.  Watering to the root depth of your plants creates a healthier and more efficient garden.
  • Exchange your irrigation controller for a Water-Smart irrigation controller.  The new weather based controllers improve watering efficiency.
  • Routinely check your irrigation system for leaks.  Very often we do not see our sprinklers when they are operating.  It takes only a few minutes to run through all of your stations to make certain there are no broken or misadjusted heads. 
  • Choose drip irrigation.  Drip irrigation systems apply water more accurately and at a much lower rate than overhead spray.  Slow, accurate application of water to the plant roots prevents water from spraying and running off on walkways and into gutters.
  • Select plants that are adapted to Mediterranean climates.  California native plants will thrive on less summer water.
  • Apply mulch to your garden. Apply at least three inches of mulch to maintain moisture in the soil, suppress weeds and give the garden a finished look.  Organic mulch such as wood bark or compost will also amend the soil as it decomposes.
  • Consider replacing your older toilets with Water Smart High-efficiency Toilets (HET), which flush at 1.3 gallons per flush (gpf) or less.
  • For toilets using 3.5 gpf or more, install toilet devices such as displacement bags, toilet dams or adjustable flappers to save water each time the toilet is flushed.
  • Install a water efficient showerhead that uses no more than 2.5 gallons per minute. A standard shower head uses 5-10 gallons per minute.
  • Low flow aerators on your kitchen and bathroom faucets are easy to install and reduce water usage and splashing.
  • A high efficiency clothes washer uses less water, energy, detergent and clean clothes better than conventional models.  These models typically use about 30% less water and between 40-70% less energy.
  • A “running” toilet can waste up to two gallons of water per minute.  A silent leak in a toilet can waste up to 7,000 gallons of water per month. To find silent leaks, put food coloring in the tank.  Do not flush.  Check the bowl ten minutes later.  If you see color in the bowl, the tank has a silent leak, typically caused by a worn out flapper valve or a fill valve that doesn’t completely shut off when the tank is full.




Live Oak The Atherton Tree Committee is a volunteer, non-profit, community based organization dedicated to the preservation of Atherton's heritage trees. The committee participates in a variety of programs designed to educate residents about the value of trees in our environment and to encourage appreciation and protection of our urban forest resources. For more information about town ordinances, policies, inspections, and plan reviews contact the Atherton Town Arborist, Kevin Kielty (650-515-9783, or link to the Town of Atherton Web Site. For more information about the Tree Committee contact Rachel Croft, President (650 323-4714,