Let’s Start Pushing for “Blue” Construction in SF

Two things are certain right now: Our California drought doesn’t have an end in sight, and construction is booming in San Francisco.

The push for “green,” or eco-friendly construction erupted several years ago. But what I’m wondering is whether architects and builders can start including “blue,” or drought-friendly features in future renovations and new construction.

A recent piece on NPR discussed how Australia—which has a nine-year drought in its history—began addressing its water shortage problem by revamping home plumbing systems. Consider Melbourne, which gets 23 inches of rain annually (similar to that of San Francisco in a typical year). Half the homes in Melbourne now have systems to capture and store rain, and newer homes are being built with dual plumbing systems to recycle graywater. For example, rinse water from the washing machine goes to the toilet for flushing.

Melbourne is now down to 40 gallons per person per day, including outside watering. Californians average two to four times that amount.

Green construction is great, and should continue. But it would be awesome if, in the future, homeowners and builders would take the lead from Melbourne and create “blue” construction properties.

20 Ways To Cut Your Water Use By 20%

We are in a serious drought situation in California. Not only was last year the driest calendar year in California since recording began in 1849, but the state’s population has nearly doubled since the 1970s. San Francisco is a dense city, and we all have to take responsibility for making sure we don’t use more than our fair share of water.

Gov. Jerry Brown recently called for people to reduce their water usage by twenty percent. I thought I’d share 20 of my favorite ways to save water; when enough individuals follow these sort of tips, it adds up to a lot of water saved:

1. Run the washing machine for full loads only.
2. Flush the toilet only when absolutely necessary.
3. Use a dishwasher instead of washing dishes by hand.
4. Limit shower use to a max of five minutes; you’ll save up to 1,000 gallons monthly.
5. Turn off the water when you’re brushing your teeth, lathering your hands or shaving.
6. Consider buying a dual-flush, low-flow toilet.
7. Water outdoor plants/lawns in the early morning or late evening.
8. Cut your watering to two times a week instead of seven.
9. Plant drought-resistant trees and flowers.
10. Use a broom to clean the sidewalk and driveway, not the hose.
11. Install low-flow showerheads.
12. Run the washing machine for full loads only. Max out at two loads weekly. Yes, it can be done. Not everything has to be immediately washed after you’ve worn it.
13. While you wait for hot water, collect the running water and use it to water plants.
14. Soak pots and pans instead of running the water while you scrape them.
15. When doing laundry, match the size of the load to the water level.
16. Love baths? Keep them to a minimum. A full bathtub requires up to 70 gallons of water.
17. Install water-saving aerators on all your faucets.
18. Check your faucets and showerheads for leaks. Drips are deadly in droughts.
19. Wash your pets outdoors, in an area that needs watering.
20. Water dry spots in your landscaping by hand instead of running the entire irrigation system.

Ror more tips, check out the non-profit organization Water Use It Wisely.