Drought emergency: 6 of the easiest ways to conserve water

Gov. Jerry Brown has proclaimed a drought emergency. So what can you do about it? Plenty. Here are the six easiest ways you can save water around the house, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

1. Run your dishwasher and washing machine only when full. 
 
It may sound obvious, but even small daily decisions can add up to big water waste. You can save 10 to 20 gallons of water a day this way, the EPA says. When washing dishes by hand, fill a dishpan with water rather than just letting the water run.
 
2. Don't let the faucet run while you're brushing your teeth or shaving.
 
When you start to pay attention, you'll notice there are many times when the water is running unnecessarily. This can add up to considerable water usage.
 
3. Let your grass get a little overgrown.
 
This may be the easiest one yet: All you have to do is not mow your lawn as often. When the grass gets a little taller, it provides more shade, which prevents the soil from drying out as quickly.
 
4. Use native plants in landscaping.
 
You don't have to turn your lawn into a rock garden to conserve water. There are many beautiful plants native to San Diego or to a Mediterranean climate—and using them can cut your water usage on plants by more than 50 percent.
 
Think of flowers like the striking desert bluebell (Phacelia campanularia), California poppy or Baja bush snapdragon (Galvezia juncea). For ground cover, try the silver-blue giant wild rye (Elymus condensatus 'Canyon Prince'), dwarf beach aster with its lavender-pink flowers (Erigeron glauca compacta) or the Southwest native yellow hesperaloe (Hesperaloe parviflora 'Yellow').
 
For more ideas, visit the County of San Diego's helpful guide to drought-resistant plants.
 
5. Turn off the hose between rinses when you're washing your car.
 
San Diego's water-waste restrictions require that you use a hose with an automatic shutoff nozzle or a hand-held water container when you're washing your car at home—and for good reason. This can save up to 150 gallons of water per wash, according to the EPA.
 
6. Sweep sidewalks and driveways rather than hosing them down.
 
Sure, it seems easier to clean off outdoor spaces with a hose, but you'll use about 50 gallons of water every 5 minutes. Be water-wise and invest in a good broom or deck brush. Plus, this is another one of San Diego's permanent water-saving restrictions.
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