The Drought Proof Home

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The Drought Proof Home

The Drought-Proof Home

by: Michelle Laurie

Photos by: Colleen Mahoney

With the government of California imposing water bans to try to combat the now 4-year drought, what can you do to create a drought-friendly home?

Governor Brown’s emergency regulation to reduce water consumption by 25%, means many consumers are rethinking how they use this  precious resource.  There are a number of short-term efforts homeowners can make to conserve water.


–       Brown is the new green – watering the lawn is responsible for 30% of a home’s water consumption. By installing a grey water recycling system, you could use all of that to water your yard.

–       Fix broken sprinkler heads and leaks in your irrigation system – you could be pouring 25,000 gallons of water down              the drain every 6 months with one broken sprinkler.

–       Water your yard at night or very early in the morning to avoid evaporation

–       Use drought-tolerant plants and plenty of mulch to reduce water loss.

–       If you have a pool, install a cover.  Regular use of a pool cover can reduce evaporation by as much as 90 percent.

–       Get your car cleaned at a car wash that uses recycled water.


–       Install a water meter to measure how much water you’re using

–       If it’s yellow let it mellow –Need we say more?

–       Forget the bath and have a shower but limit it to 3-5 minutes.

–       Many local water boards provide rebates for homeowners who implement water-saving strategies.

–       The average US toilet uses 3.48 gallons of water. By installing a low-flow toilet, you’ll use 1.1 gal per flush 3.48.

–       Install reduced-flow shower heads you could save 2900 gallons of water a year. A Watersense faucet can reduce wasted          water by 700 gallons.   Turn off your faucet when you are brushing your teeth.

–       Only run your dishwasher when it is full.

With water resources at critical levels, shouldn’t all new-build homes be water efficient from the outset?  Being an environmental campaigner, Colleen always strives to build homes that protect our earth with minimal environmental impact.

This amazing Tiburon home was designed by Colleen for client Frank Levinson.


Levinson wanted to create not just an energy efficient home, but one which reduces overall water use by 75%.  Space was created beneath the home for large tanks to collect 15,000 gallons of rainwater which is then used throughout the home over the rest of the year.

Forty percent of the state of California is facing exceptional drought conditions, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better. It’s not just small changes we need to make – bigger, longer term investment into create energy efficient, water saving homes is critical.

According to Bobby Markowitz at Earthcraft Landscape Design, catching rainwater is an age-old solution to drought.  “You can live without oil but you can’t live without water”, Markowitz says, and thanks to innovations like he helped create with Colleen and Frank Levinson, more homeowners are making the switch to creating a self-sufficient, drought-proof home.

Most importantly, teach your kids to save water! The government Environmental Protection Agency has a wealth of resources to help you get started.