I know the motivation might not be there to take shorter showers when you see your neighbors watering their lawns in the middle of the day or local restaurants hosing down the sidewalks, but cutting back on your water use (or at least feeling less guilty about those long showers) can be as simple as swapping out your old shower head for a lower-flow model, screwing some aerators onto your faucets, and, for the sufficiently motivated, talking to your landlord about installing higher-efficiency toilets.
For me, the first and last stop was calling my utility company, San Francisco Public Utilities. They sent out a water expert armed with free devices for my flat, and in less than an hour we’d outfitted the kitchen and bathroom to be much more water efficient. Save our H2O, a website sponsored by the California Department of Water Resources, has tons of conservation resources including a rebate finder and a list of the state’s local water agencies.
But since I know not every utility offers free devices to customers, last night I dropped by The Home Depot in Daly City, to see what’s available. I have been inside one of these orange megabox retailers exactly three times in my life and it’s always a bit of sensory overload. There must have been close to 100 shower heads to choose from, but it wasn’t easy finding one with a low-flow (1.5 gallons per minute) rating. No matter the price or the size, every model I picked up was either 2.5 gpm, or I couldn’t find the flow rate on the packaging.
I finally asked a salesman who at first couldn’t find one either. But eventually, he found one tucked in among the others: the Delta Water Amplifying Shower Head, for $12.75. It’s actually 1.6 gpm, and it looked kind of small and cheap, although it may work fine. I felt a little disappointed that this was my only option.
Hoping for better luck, I wandered over to the aerator section one aisle over. There I found aerator aficionado heaven. Once again, the selection was a little overwhelming. There were probably 40 aerators to choose from–aerators, no less. Low-flow, 1.5-gpm models like the kind the SFPU gave me ranged in price from $2.99 to $17.39 for the upscale brushed-nickel variety.
Across from the aerators were the toilets. I scanned the high shelf and saw several low-flow models (1.6 and 1.28 gallons per flush) that were priced between $90 and $128. Taped to the toilet shelf was a sign reading that San Francisco residents may be eligible for a $125 rebate on a low-flow model, which could basically mean a free toilet. Other cities and counties in California have similar rebates.
As I turned to leave the toilet/aerator aisle, I bumped into a large box sitting on the floor. There, far from all the others, was the shower head I’d been looking for: a 1.5 gallon-per-minute WaterPik EcoFlow with five different pressures, including something called “Powerspray.” Touting a 40% water savings, these puppies were on sale for $44.95.
Rick Soerhen, the Deputy Director of Water Use Efficiency for the California Department of Water Resources told me that people living in apartments most likely already get “gold stars” for water conservation because they probably aren’t watering lawns and gardens.
So, flat-dwellers, be proud. But if you really want to be as water efficient as possible, devices like these can make a big difference on your total usage — without requiring three-minute showers.