Extreme water savings: Clovis resident proves it can be done

By Valerie Shelton, Editor

Thankfully, winter 2015-16 is shaping up to be the wettest California has seen in several years. One rainy season, however, cannot reverse the adverse effects of the long-term drought. Residents in the Central Valley will need to continue to conserve.

While water restrictions in Clovis in the winter months have been relaxed, aside from the restriction of only watering your lawn once a week (or less with heavy rain), it is important for residents not to forget about conservation as the city as a whole struggled to meet the 36 percent water reduction imposed on it by the state last summer.

Many residents did their part in the summer, letting their lawns go brown. For many, though, just reducing landscape watering wasn’t enough to see the 36 percent drop.

Resident John Adams and his wife, though, took it upon themselves to reduce as much as possible and proved that yes, a 36 percent reduction—or more—is possible.

Adams, who considers himself a “water conservation extremist,” went before the Clovis City Council on Dec. 14 to share his secrets for successful water conservation.

The tools of a water extremist? A pale, plastic Fresno State cup and the lid of a store-bought cake.

Adams said the lid was just the right size to fit in the bathroom sink and it would collect water every time he or his wife washed their hands. Once full, he would use the handy Fresno State cup to scoop the water out of the lid and into the bucket. Once the bucket was full, the water could be used to flush the toilet and replace the water in the back of the toilet one time.

This was just one routine Adams and his wife adopted to conserve. They would also use the bucket to collect grey water from the bathtub to water trees and shrubs in their front yard. When using their toilet, they also went by the adage, “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” The latter, he said, was the most difficult for his wife to get used to, but combined all these strategies worked, as Adams saw as high as a 73 percent water reduction on his bills in the summer months.

“I wanted to show an example that reductions can happen and can work,” Adams said.

Of course, Adams said, the kind of things he and his wife did to save would be more difficult for larger families.

“We have ideal circumstances, as it is just me and my wife,” Adams said. “We don’t have any little kids and when we have family over, we make sure there is no water in the tubs and that kind of thing for safety reasons. It would be difficult for a family to do this because you have toddlers and they’ll play near those kind of things so you wouldn’t want to do that, but it can be done by some people like us.”

Although the city is not imposing fines on those not meeting the 36 percent reduction during the winter, Adams said he is still trying to meet that goal, although it is more difficult in the colder months.

“Right now it will be a little bit more difficult to meet the reduction in the winter months because, in my case, I’d have to reduce to 9,000 gallons per billing cycle to meet that reduction, but if it rains at least once a week or every two weeks and we continue using the recycled water for flushing the toilet, we can come close,” Adams said.

In addition to presenting the results of his water conservation efforts, Adams suggested the city consider more positive reinforcement for the residents who do meet the reductions, instead of just fines for those who do not.

“Make it fun, kind of like a competition for people, and maybe give first, second and third a $20 gift card to a business in Clovis and have people try to compete at saving water,” Adams said. “Negative reinforcement doesn’t always work so well, but people in Clovis like to participate and do things so a competition could work.”

Mayor Nathan Magsig said the city has already started offering incentives to those who meet the 36 percent reduction. On Dec. 9, which was Big Wins Day in Clovis, some of the prizes raffled off could only be accessed by those who saved by 36 percent or more. The three residents who won that raffle will have SYNLAWN installed in their front yard for free—a prize valued at about $6,000.

“Clovis is absolutely looking for ways to reward individuals like you and I appreciate you coming and sharing what you are doing,” Magsig said. “It is a little bit painful for me to hear all the things that you are saying, not because I don’t appreciate what you’ve done but I think about the fact that California is extremely innovative and I look at all the opportunity we have to do things like build more storage and it pains me because some of us here in the Central Valley are having to live like people did 100 or 150 years ago. I absolutely want to be a good steward of our resource but at the same time, we’re living in a time when we shouldn’t be facing a lot of these problems.”