CCSE volunteer shares her best practices on conserving water for people and fish

by Sally Kruger

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I first got involved with Central Coast Salmon Enhancement about 10 years ago when I met Steph Wald in an effort to restore our creek banks to make them more stable and fish friendly. With the interest and cooperation of many of the neighbors that live along our tributary and the main stem of Pismo Creek, we were able to not only carry out several restoration projects on our creek, but also gather grant funding to develop a watershed management plan for the entire Pismo Creek. I continue to be a fan and supporter of CCSE, including their efforts to restore local creeks for Steelhead trout and educate both adults and young students. Currently, I've been involved as a volunteer by helping them clean up and maintain their Salesforce database.

I live in the Edna Valley, south of San Luis Obispo, on a beautiful piece of property that has a seasonal creek running through it, West Corral de Piedra, a tributary of Pismo Creek. Our water comes from a single riparian well on our property. As you might imagine, we have become experts at making every drop of water stretch as far as possible. My hubbie calls me "the water police"!

Here are a few of our water s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g tips:

1. While waiting for the shower water to warm, catch the cooler water in a 5 gallon bucket. To make it easier, install a bypass valve & hose between the showerhead and the outlet pipe so you can direct cold water to the bucket. Then switch the flow to the showerhead once the water is warm. 

Our water is softened with salt, so we cannot use it to water plants, but each morning we fill a bowl with that water, place it in the kitchen sink, and use it to rinse our dishes. I have one friend that uses this soft water to flush her toilet.

2. If it's yellow, let it mellow; if it's brown, flush it down. I think most of us in my neighborhood are doing this. There is a product called, "Why flush?" that is a urine neutralizer and is supposed to be safe to use for all septic systems.

3. Collect rainwater. Did you know that 1,000 square feet of roof space, with 1" of rain can collect 610 gallons of water? This year we installed a large cistern and connected it to the barn’s rain gutters. For even less expense, try placing 5 gallon buckets under those places where water gathers and "pours" off your roof.

4. Lawns are needed in parks and playing fields, but not at our house, so we got rid of ours. We water extremely conservatively using only a drip system and have timers set to come on in the early morning when it is still cool. At the slightest suggestion of rain, we turn the system off.

Every bit we save helps our downstream neighbors, and hopefully, with more rain combined with supporting local organizations such as CCSE, together we can revive the Steelhead population that used to spawn in our neighborhood creek.

Want to learn more and gain some hands-on training? Join us for the Tri-County Fish Team training: Learn It, Build It Training on Rain, Grey, and Stormwater.