Drought management: the next wave

Wherein Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton find ways to inspire the least water-saving among us

drought big

Here in my home state of California, we’re in a drought. The land is brown and brittle. The reservoirs and lakes are dangerously low, some at 17 percent of capacity. We gaze at the sky like farmers, and lament, “Another beautiful, sunny, warm day.”

Large technological projects are slowly gearing up to face the problem, like the desalination plant under construction in Carlsbad, or the proposal to prevent evaporation by coating reservoirs in a layer of vegetable oils.

But are the big projects enough? Probably not. So we’ve bought the low-flow toilets and suffer through the slow drool of water-saving shower heads. We never keep the water running when we hand-wash dishes. We forgo saturating our lawn, or better yet, forgo the lawn altogether for succulents and other drought-resistant plants. We’ve given! we cry as if each water-saving technique is money we’ve put in the church plate on Sunday. Yes, it’s hard to keep cutting back. But the truth is, we have to do more.

So I found a list of gadgets that will make it easier to conserve. Each gadget speaks to our lazy side, sternly but gently, and uses a little bit of psychology on us too.

  1. If we want to save water, but mostly we want to impress our guests with our forward-thinking design, SinkPositive is the perfect fit! Its modern lines accent your bathroom, and it provokes guests to ask, “What the heck is that?” Designed to allow you to wash your hands with the same water that flushes your toilet, it looks cool and just a little bit weird, enough to provoke scintillating conversation once the guest returns to the living room. “Did I just wash my hands with toilet water?” they ask. “Toilet flushing counts for 30 percent of a household’s water usage, so we like to optimize it,” you modestly respond. “Thank you for what you just did for California.”
  2. If you want to go one step further and actually scare your guests, buy the Washup, which washes your clothes first, then flushes your toilet.
  3. We want to save water but we require some imminent threat to do so. Ta Da! The shower head hose that breaks down into annoying pieces when you overuse the water. Or maybe it snaps back into place. It was hard to understand the exact chronology from the website, but either way it sounds like taking a shower is ridiculously impractical, which is the way we like it. Cutting a shower short by a minute saves 7 gallons.
  4. We want to save water but we need actual punishment to follow through. Time to buy the shower mat that distorts over time in uncomfortable ways, so that you stop showering just to get feeling back into your feet. A shower under five minutes saves 1,000 gallons a month! Feeling bad never felt so good.
  5. We want to save water but we want to be weird too. If the gadgets above don’t qualify, try this.

Clearly the days when we just put a brick in our toilet are over (though in the future I predict a brick that speaks to you, admonishing you for your water use.) So save water, please!

Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton
Caroline Paul is the author of "East Wind, Rain" and "Fighting Fire," and she co-wrote "Lost Cat: A True Story of Love, Desperation and GPS Technology" with her partner Wendy MacNaughton. MacNaughton's illustrations have appeared in The New York Times, Juxtapoz, and Print Magazine. "Lost Cat" was inspired by the curious disappearances of their beloved Tibia.
Caroline Paul and Wendy MacNaughton
Tags: Downtime,Green,Tech Culture
  • Sam Hill

    “Cutting a shower short by one minute saves 7 gallons???” Not very likely. Federal law requires that all shower heads have a gpm rating of 2.5 or under per Energy Policy Act in 1992. If cutting a minute saves you 7 gallons, install a new shower head, save 45 gallons(10 minute shower), & skip cutting the minute.