Can San Diegans save water by riding bikes and turning off lights?

Considering your water footprint

Recently, we published a blog post on better understanding your “water footprint,” where we delved into some of the not-so-obvious ways we are responsible for water consumption in our daily lives. The water we use to cook our food, bath our bodies, brush our teeth, and feed our lawns is water we can see and feel and understand. But our impact actually goes much deeper than that. In that post, we shared tools for calculating your indirect water use – such as the water that goes into producing the foods we eat, manufacturing the goods we use, and the supplying the energy we use to power our homes.

Or course, being able to calculate your indirect water use is primarily useful in its ability to help you make choices that increase conservation beyond just turning the tap off while you brush your teeth. With knowledge about how much water it takes to produce beef, for example, you may feel empowered to more often choose plant-based meals, contributing to water savings beyond the walls of your home.

Where climate and water collide

Ride your bike, save water. Photo by Markus Spiske

In this post, we’re going to focus on two more ways you can reduce water consumption by considering the water footprint of two activities we normally associate with their climate impacts as opposed to water impacts – driving and home energy use. (Actually, if you want to learn more about the ways in which climate change and water use overlap, check out Josh’s recent blog post about the water-energy nexus. It’s fascinating stuff.) Let’s say you’ve shortened your showers, replaced part of your lawn with wildlife-friendly native plants, and have even committed to eating lower on the food chain more regularly. What else can you do?

Driving and water use

First up, let’s take a look at your driving habits. We all know that driving fewer miles or driving a fuel-efficient vehicle are good ways of contributing fewer pollutants and greenhouse gasses to our atmosphere, but did you know those choices significantly reduce water use as well? According to, it takes ¾ a gallon of water to drill for, refine, and transport the gas it takes to propel the average car down the road a single mile. As if you needed yet another reason to try out bike commuting!

So, if you want to save water, try driving less by:

  • Using public transportation
  • Telecommuting when possible
  • Purchasing a fuel-efficient car next time you need a new vehicle
  • Carpooling
  • Using your bike to run errands you normally complete with your car

Electricity and water use

Electricity generation is another water-dense activity, so practicing energy conservation is an additional way you can decrease your indirect water use while reducing your personal climate impact. Coal-generated electricity is by far the most water-intensive energy source, followed by nuclear and natural gas. On the low water-intensity end of the spectrum are wind, solar, and geothermal. Check out this helpful blog post for more info. If you have some say in where your electricity comes from, opt for new technologies like solar. If you don’t, you can’t go wrong by reducing your energy consumption.

Photo by American Public Power Association

If you want to save water, try using less energy by:

  • Unplugging appliances when you’re not using them
  • Opening those blinds and letting natural light in
  • Turning off lights in rooms you aren’t using
  • Putting on socks and a sweater instead of turning on the heat right away
  • Swapping out old appliances with energy-efficient ones when it’s time to replace them

Have ideas you’d like to share for reducing your indirect water use? Feel free to leave a comment.