The vast open skies and long, beautiful days of playing in the sunshine are top reasons many live in and simply love Central Oregon. Everyone has heard that Bend has 300 days of sunshine a year—maybe a slight exaggeration, but not far from the truth. The Bend Visitor Center says that, on average, Bend has the highest number of sunny days in the state with around 158 sunny days and 105 mostly sunny days.
This seems like a fantastic situation. However, with a little further thought someone might ask, with all of that sunshine, where does the water come from? After all, this is the high desert, and there is very little precipitation here. Typically, Central Oregonians enjoy sparkling drinking water that began as snowmelt in the Cascades. Irrigation water is delivered to Bend residents and farmers via canals from the Deschutes River. Gov. Kate Brown signed a pair of executive orders declaring drought emergencies in seven Central and Eastern Oregon counties due to lack of precipitation and unusually low snowpack and streamflow.
It's time to reduce our water consumption, and one area that can become more water efficient is in our homes. Here are some tips to help use water more efficiently and reduce heavy water consumption. A first step is to make sure there are no leaks in the plumbing system. This can be tested by a plumber, or turn off all water to the home and watch the water meter over a short time period. If no water has been used, the water meter should not have moved. Leaks can amount to gallons of wasted water per day. Make sure the toilet isn't leaking by adding food coloring to the tank. If it appears in the bowl, there's a leak. These leaks are easily remedied and will save many gallons of water.
When buying new appliances, make sure they're Energy-Star certified. A full-sized Energy-Star-certified clothes washer uses 13 gallons of water per load, compared to the 23 gallons used by a standard machine. That's more than 3,000 gallons of water saved per year.
As a country, households use an estimated 29 billion gallons of water a day. Almost 30% of that, about 9 billion gallons, is used for outdoor water use. In hot summer months, or in dry climates, a household's outdoor water use is considerably higher. Use xeriscaping or a water-wise landscaping plan to reduce water use and still provide beautiful curb appeal. Hire an irrigation tech to tune up the sprinkler system and make sure the proper amount of water is being used at the right times and without leaks, further reducing water usage.
Applying a few basic steps to your routine like washing full laundry loads, taking shorter showers or turning off the faucet while brushing teeth will help sustain our water resources in Central Oregon. Look for more tips at epa.gov/watersense/start-saving.