How Californians Can Save More Water

Gov. Gavin Newsom has called for a 15 percent reduction in water usage, but we’re far from that target.,


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Gov. Gavin Newsom wants Californians to find ways to use 15 percent less water.Credit…Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The results are in: Californians aren’t saving enough water.

Amid a historic drought, Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked us to reduce water consumption by 15 percent. Yet in August, the most recent month for which data is available, we’d brought usage down just 5 percent compared with the same time last year.

Of course, not all water-saving is the responsibility of California households. Eighty percent of California’s water goes toward agriculture, and other businesses play a big role too.

But that doesn’t mean we can’t conserve more — and many of us seem to be trying. You wrote to me about letting your cars get dusty and your lawns turn brown and collecting cold shower water to boil pasta and fill your dog’s bowl.

The state offers these simple water conservation tips, and below I’ve shared some of the more creative ones you sent me:

“Easy to save water by showering every other day, and taking shorter showers. No reason we need showers every single day unless we are totally covered with dirt due to jobs. And that doesn’t apply to a lot of people.” — Amy Skewes-Cox, Ross

“My husband and I switched to a ‘If it’s yellow, let it mellow‘ rule in our house and have been very pleasantly surprised with how effective it is at reducing water consumption. It’s so much more impactful than watering our lawn less, taking shorter showers and doing fewer loads of laundry.” — Meredith Alcala, Alameda

“We are installing a laundry-to-landscape greywater system. Instead of using sprinklers to irrigate our 75-foot blue Atlas cedar, 75-foot redwood and three smaller redwoods, we will be watering them every time we do laundry.” — Roger Bergman, Santa Barbara

“We started keeping a sizable metal bowl in the bottom of our kitchen sink. When we wash fruits or vegetables or rinse something off with just water, we capture the water and use it on our container plants. So the more fruits and vegetables we eat, the more we grow!” — Jessica Koning, Big Sur

“I bought a shower clock. I am amazed at how helpful it is. I note the time as soon as I turn on the water and I try to shower as fast as I can.” — Diane E. Johnson, Mission Viejo

“My boys (13, 16) don’t love that we urge them to take on-off showers, but they do it. Strange that a 13-year-old would even be aware of our drought. Growing up in the Bay Area, I certainly had no idea of the California water situation when I was that young.” — Hunter Hubby, Berkeley

“We have been in California for 36 years and, from the very beginning, have been meticulously careful with our water usage knowing we were now living in a semi-desert land. We use a bowl in the kitchen sink where all water goes, emptying it on the plants many times a day. We use the dishwasher every six days, wear most clothing longer between washes, gave up the swimming pool and lawns many years ago, changed many plants to those that don’t need much water, use much less water on the garden, flush the toilet less frequently, and do ‘up and downer’ body washes in between less frequent showers. We don’t smell!!

It’s going to be hard for us to cut back 15 percent from our water usage with the way we already conserve. We will do our very best to help save this beautiful state.” — Rosalind Roberts, Los Gatos

For more:

How San Diego has water despite a punishing drought.

Tribal nations have lost 99 percent of their historical territory. Where they live now is more vulnerable to climate threats.


Madelyn Mirzaian, 5, sat with her mother, Dr. Christine Mirzaian, while receiving a coronavirus vaccine in Los Angeles this week.Credit…Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

The rest of the news

Covid-19 shots for children: Scavenger hunts and blowup animals greeted children at some of California’s vaccination sites on Wednesday as children ages 5 to 11 got their first Covid-19 shots, The Associated Press reports.

The fallout from port backlogs: Supply chain woes have left California farmers with nowhere to export their crops, The Associated Press reports.


A bird? A plane?: After pilots again reported a strange figure floating over Los Angeles, the F.B.I. has released its working theory on the incidents.

Pollution in San Diego: San Diego allows top air-polluting industries to spew cancer-causing toxins at a rate much higher than most of California. That could soon change, Voice of San Diego reports.

Electricity prices rise at dinnertime: Southern California Edison, which provides power to millions in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, will soon begin charging much higher rates between 4 p.m. and 9 p.m., The Orange County Register reports.

A model for “Cagney & Lacey”: Margaret York, a homicide detective who helped inspire the 1980s police drama and who rose to become the highest-ranking woman in the Los Angeles Police Department, died at 80.

Garcetti contracts Covid: The Los Angeles mayor, Eric Garcetti, tested positive for the coronavirus while attending the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, The Associated Press reports.


Saving some of the world’s oldest trees: Volunteers are planting sequoia seedlings in the Sierra Nevada, one of many extraordinary measures being taken to preserve the ancient trees, The Associated Press reports.

Hospital at capacity: Kaweah Health Medical Center in Visalia, which has the highest number of hospitalized Covid-19 patients in the state, has no beds available for any new patients, The Fresno Bee reports.


Alameda County supervisor killed: Wilma Chan, a longtime Democratic politician, was hit by a motorist and killed while walking her dog on Wednesday, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.

San Francisco’s vaccine mandate: Now that children ages 5 to 11 can get Covid-19 vaccines, they too will eventually be required to show proof of vaccination to enter certain public spaces in the city, The San Francisco Chronicle reports.


Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

What we’re eating

Slow cooker mushroom and wild rice soup.

Where we’re traveling

Today’s travel tip comes from Lynn Beldner, who recommends the city of Woodland in the Central Valley:

The Barn Gallery (funded by Yolo Arts), an adorable downtown, farm visits, landscapes that have inspired many, and yummy restaurants. I relocated here from Oakland and it has changed my life.

Tell us about your favorite places to visit in California. Email your suggestions to We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.

What we’re recommending

Browse photos from Gucci’s first in-person show since 2020, held on Hollywood Boulevard.


Nature Conservancy researchers near Saunders Reef.Credit…Nathan Frandino/Reuters

And before you go, some good news

After all but disappearing between 2014 and 2020, the North Coast’s kelp forest, a vital habitat for marine life, has roughly doubled in size since last year.

“These kelps are found globally, but I think they’re just so iconic for California,” Kyle Cavanaugh, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, told The San Francisco Chronicle. “They provide the foundation for an entire ecosystem: fish, invertebrates, birds, marine mammals.”

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Flip on its head (5 letters).

Steven Moity and Mariel Wamsley contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at

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