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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Water Use:
qna

  1. How much water do we typically use?
  2. How is the water used around the home?
  3. Do low-flow toilets really work?
  4. Do more efficient water fixtures and appliances really make a difference?
  5. Why is checking for leaks so important?
  6. What can I do to lower my water consumption?
  7. What is Xeriscape?

Droughts:

  1. What is a drought?
  2. What differentiates a normal rainfall year from a dry year?
  3. What were typical reductions in urban water use during the last drought?
  4. When was California's last major drought?
  5. How do droughts affect groundwater use?
  6. Why isn't seawater desalting the answer to meeting water needs during droughts?
  7. Does weather modification (cloud seeding) help during droughts?

Water Use

1. How much water do we typically use?

The average person uses almost 100 gallons of water per day.

2. How is the water used around the home?

Landscape irrigation typically accounts for 20 to 50% of the residential water consumption. With traditional appliances and fixtures, toilets and clothes washers are the highest consumers of indoor water, followed by showers and faucets.

3. Do low-flow toilets really work?

Yes, they reduce the water required per flush from 3.5, 5 or 7 gallons to 1.28 gallons, saving water and reducing your water bill. Low flow toilets have been engineered with higher velocity flushing to clear wastes, versus higher volumes of water.

4. Do more efficient water fixtures and appliances really make a difference?

Yes, with water efficient devices installed and regular leak inspections, the typical household can reduce water use by 30% or more.

5. Why is checking for leaks so important?

Even small leaks can waste significant amounts of water. A faucet dripping one drop per second will waste 2700 gallons per year. A leaky toilet can waste as much as 200 gallons per day. It is estimated that about 20% of toilets leak.

6. What can I do to lower my water consumption?

  • Use low water plants for landscaping and drip systems for irrigation.
  • Adjust and maintain sprinklers as appropriate for season and conditions.
  • Install water efficient fixtures (toilets, showerheads) and low flow aerators on faucets.
  • Immediately repair all leaks.
  • Turn off water when brushing teeth or shaving.
  • Use low flow clothes washers and dishwashers.
  • See Conservation Tips and Links for more detailed recommendations.

7. What is Xeriscape?

It is a technique that creates water-efficient landscapes by using plants that are appropriate for the conditions of the environment. A well-designed xeriscape is very beautiful and uses a fraction of the water required by a traditional landscape dominated by a lawn. See Xeriscape Gardening for more information.

Droughts*

1. What is a drought?

A drought is a condition that occurs when the precipitation is below normal for some extended period of time. It is a natural recurring event. Droughts are not rare; they are a natural recurring feature of the climate. Though they vary significantly from one region to another, they occur in virtually all climate zones. Select Background – Droughts in California for more details.

2. What differentiates a normal rainfall year from a dry year?

Most of California's precipitation comes from storms moving across the Pacific Ocean. The path followed by the storms is determined by the position of an atmospheric high-pressure belt that normally shifts southward during the winter months. On average, 75 percent of California's annual precipitation occurs between November and March, with 50 percent occurring between December and February. A persistent Pacific high-pressure zone over California during December through February predisposes the water year to be dry.

3. What were typical reductions in urban water use during the last drought?

In 1991, the driest single year of the last drought, large urban water agencies used measures such as voluntary conservation, mandatory rationing, and extensive education and outreach programs to achieve water use reductions in the 20-30 percent range.

4. When was California's last major drought?

1987-92.

5. How do droughts affect groundwater use?

In an average year, about 30 percent of California's urban and agricultural water supplies come from groundwater pumping. Reliance on groundwater increases during droughts due to the reduced availability of surface water. During the 1987-92 drought the total number of well driller reports filed with the Department were in the range of 25,000 reports per year for several years, up from less that 15,000 reports per year prior to the drought. Most of the new wells were for private residential use.

Increased groundwater pumping during droughts results in increased lowering of water levels in groundwater basins. Information about changes in groundwater levels is available for sites covered by the Department's groundwater monitoring program. Go to http://well.water.ca.gov/ and use the map interface to locate your area of interest.

6. Why isn't seawater desalting the answer to meeting water needs during droughts?

Although improvements in desalting technology are increasing its efficiency, the high-energy costs associated with seawater desalting make it prohibitively expensive for most water agencies, compared to other alternatives. The present capacity of California municipal seawater desalting plants represents less than one-tenth of a percent of California's urban water use.

7. Does weather modification (cloud seeding) help during droughts?

During the 1987-92 drought, the number of weather modification programs operating in California (most located in Coast Range and Sierra Nevada watersheds) increased from perhaps a dozen to 20 programs. However, the lack of cloud masses suitable for seeding is a limiting factor on the potential for water supply augmentation during droughts.

* Drought information was supplied by the Department Of Water Resources.

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