Climate

Everyday Water-Saving Tips From Members of the MALT Team

June 9, 2021

As communities in Marin and across the state face extreme drought conditions and rising summer temperatures, a few members of the MALT team have come together to share the simple ways they are conserving and reusing water — and how you can do the same!

Eric Rubenstahl — stewardship project manager

I’m out on the land a lot these days, working with farmers and ranchers on stewardship projects, many of which are focused on water. Marin’s rangelands currently show more August or September-like conditions than what we’d expect to see in June. Creeks and streams that typically flow year-round are now dry.

We’ve seen water pumped from the Soulajule Reservoir — historically used for storage — to the Nicasio Reservoir for public use. And in April, MALT launched an emergency Drought Resilience & Water Security (DRAWS) initiative to respond to the critical needs of Marin County farmers and ranchers as they invest in long-term water solutions. 

It doesn’t feel like I can do much in the face of such a crisis, but together, small changes to our daily habits can help our region become more resilient to intensifying droughts and the other impacts of a changing climate. 

If you are able, invest in water-efficient washing machines and dishwashers, and low-flow toilets and shower heads. Commit to scaling back on household water use — in the garden, in the shower and at the kitchen sink. Here in Marin, you can access free water-saving kits at Marin Water in Corte Madera, at the Mill Valley Community Center, the North Marin Water District in Novato and at the San Rafael Community Center. Click here to learn more!

Tristan Conway — community engagement manager

I live in Bolinas, where residents have been under water-use restrictions since February. What does that mean for me? I’m limiting my showers and keeping my hair in braids!

I’m also collecting water from my showers and using it to water my garden. When washing dishes, I make sure to turn off the faucet while scrubbing and I collect the grey water while rinsing — more water for my flowers. 

Here’s one no one likes to talk about: toilets! Toilets use a lot of water, so I only flush when absolutely necessary. Try not to add too much toilet paper, as this increases the amount of water needed to flush. 

Lexi Fujii — development & communications coordinator 

Like Tristan, I am limiting my shower time. I find it helpful to set a timer for five minutes so I know when I should turn off the faucet. As the water is warming for my shower, I collect the water and use it for my garden or to flush the toilet.

Speaking of toilets — did you know you can create a low-flow system in a standard toilet? It’s true! Just place a brick or a plastic bottle filled with water and something heavy, like rocks or sand, in your toilet tank. These objects reduce the amount of water needed to fill the bowl. 

If you have a garden irrigation system, as I do, make sure to turn it off. Instead of using an automatic system that uses water inefficiently, I hand water in the early morning hours or after the sun has set. This ensures that the water goes directly to the plants that need it, and that the plants have enough time to absorb the water before the sun rises. Go a step further and mulch! Mulching your veggie and flower beds helps the soil retain moisture, which means you can water less frequently. 

Finally, turn off the tap. I make sure to reduce water when brushing my teeth, washing my hands and washing dishes by turning off the water when it isn’t being used. 

Zach Mendes — associate director of conservation, stewardship

I live in Petaluma where residents can access free water conservation devices from the city, like toilet leak detection tabs, hose nozzles and faucet aerators. My family participated in the program during the drought of 2015 to fix our leaking toilets and invest in everyday sustainable practices.

Live in Petaluma? Give it a try! You can also find free, easily accessible water-saving tools throughout the North Bay. Click here to learn more. 

Peter Fugazzotto — senior manager, donor experience

Like others on the team, I’ve invested in a new, more efficient shower head, and each member of the family collects the shower water as it warms. This act alone usually provides enough water to keep our garden hydrated. 

I also love to cook and am constantly reminded just how much cooking water can be reused. Boiling vegetables, like potatoes, corn or beets? Use the cooled water in your garden. Hard boiling eggs, soaking dried beans, rinsing rice grains? That water can be reused as well. In fact, it often adds beneficial nutrients to your vegetable patch.

Jennifer Maude Carlin — director of advancement

I’ve made sure to talk to my kids about MALT’s DRAWS initiative and the devastating impact of the drought on farmers and ranchers so they understand how climate change is impacting local agricultural communities, local food production and the local agricultural economy.

At home, we’re only running the dishwasher when it’s fully packed. That’s true with the clothes washer, too. We’re not doing laundry as often, which means we’re wearing more of our clothes during the week — which is actually fun! We’re re-discovering those long-forgotten t-shirts that have been hiding in the far reaches of our dresser drawers. 

As Lexi mentioned, we understand how important it is to turn off or remove sprinkler systems right now. Our backyard looks a bit dry and somewhat messy, but that’s okay! We’re embracing it as a sign that we are doing our part. 

I’ve also stopped washing my car. During the last drought, I didn’t wash my car for more than two years. It can sometimes embarrass my kids, but I’m using it as a teachable moment to continue our conversations about drought and climate change in California.

Thank you for doing your part during this difficult drought!

Have extra water-saving tips that we didn’t cover? Email them to outreach[at]malt.org and we’ll include them in this piece!