TIME energy

6 Simple Ways to Save on Your Energy Bill

Reduce your carbon footprint and keep more money in your pocket

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Unless you’re the Viking God and Marvel Comic character Thor, with the enviable ability to harness electricity—i.e. lightning—using your magic hammer, odds are you have to buy energy from other sources like power plants and gas stations.

Energy is a major expense for American families—about 22% of all energy consumed in the U.S. goes into running our households and all the modern conveniences we’ve come to rely upon, like our air conditioners, heaters, lights and computers.

Fortunately, there are easy ways to cut back on your energy usage, reducing your carbon footprint on the environment and your energy bill along with it. Here are six areas where cutting back on your energy usage is an easy way to put more money in your pocket.

TIME animals

Five Species That Are Quietly Dying Off While Nobody Pays Attention

Indonesian Sanctuary Helps To Save The Slow Loris From Extinction
A slow loris in its cage at a sanctuary for the endangered animals, which have been confiscated from individuals or markets that illegally sell them as pets, on February 27, 2014 in Bogor, Indonesia. Ed Wray—Getty Images

They're vanishing fast, but the world is paying scant attention

Everyone knows that rhinos or pandas are threatened with extinction. But there are plenty of species slipping away silently, without celebrity advocates or high-profile campaigns. “So many species are just not popular enough, or well-known enough to share the spotlight with the world’s threatened megafauna,” says Chris Shepherd, director of conservation group Traffic South East Asia.

The problem is that while threats facing the icons of conservation — such as the gorilla or elephant — are wholly deserving of media attention, this leaves less page space and air time for scores of other, sometimes more endangered, species. And if there’s no public attention paid to them, funds don’t materialize and the impetus for legal protection is weakened.

The plight of the following five species is two-fold: their disappearance is happening fast, and it’s happening off-radar.

1. Seahorses

Population trend: A 50%-80% global population decline in the past 20 years according to the Seahorse Trust.

All 38 species of this shy creature are, like many species, facing threats on several fronts. They live in coastal waters, leaving them vulnerable to habitat loss from human development and indiscriminate trawling. There’s also a unsustainably high demand in traditional Chinese medicine for seahorses, which are used to alleviate kidney ailments and circulatory problems. According to the Seahorse Trust, 150 million seahorses are used in Chinese medicine each year. The home aquarium trade, the trust says, is responsible for another million or so annually.

Seahorses remain on the now ten-year-old Appendix II to the internationally recognized Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) — a categorization that allows for regulated trade. But while 25 million seahorses are legally traded yearly, it’s estimated that further 125 million enter the black market. So far this year, Hong Kong customs have intercepted over 1,000 lbs of undeclared, smuggled dried seahorses, worth about $130,000. This level of capture and commercial trade is leading to a collapse in seahorse sightings. In 2011, the Centre of Marine Science at the University of Algarve, Portugal, reported a 85% reduction of long-snouted seahorses and 56% for other species that occur in the region.

“CITES listings should have all seahorse species down as highly endangered and at risk of extinction,” says Neil Garrick-Maidment, executive director of The Seahorse Trust. “There should, without a doubt, be a complete moratorium on seahorse fishing for 10 years.”

2. Sun bears

Population trend: The IUCN estimates that sun bears have decreased by 30% in the past 30 years.

Sun bears are traditionally found in much of Southeast Asia – from Bangladesh across to Yunnan, China and down to Borneo, Malaysia — but have become regionally extinct in much of the region, including Singapore and parts of China. The reason is a rapidly disappearing habitat, since vast swathes of lowland forest are being cleared – legally and not – for commercial monoculture cultivation, particularly palm oil.

In what forest remains to them, they are hunted by poachers who are after the bear’s paws and gall bladder, both of which fetch a high price on the black market – the former as a culinary delicacy, and the latter due to alleged medicinal properties when treating gall stones, inflammation, pain and liver troubles. “Numerous bears observed in bear bile farms, or on camera trap photos are missing limbs due to snares,” says Shepherd, who adds that China, South Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia are where demand is highest for bear bile.

Sun bears are listed in CITES Appendix I, which only permits regulated noncommercial trade (such as trade for scientific research, for example). But despite this degree of protection, “sun bears face tremendous pressures from illegal hunting and trade” according to Kanitha Krishnasamy, senior program officer, Traffic South East Asia. “Few people know of the threats this species faces, and fewer care,” adds Shepherd. “There are only a handful of people working to save the sun bear, all of them with inadequate amounts of funding, low levels of government support, and very little support from the public.”

3. Freshwater turtles and tortoises

Population trend: Decline in turtle and tortoise populations in Asia over the past decade has been so sharp it has a name: the Asian Turtle Crisis.

Distinct species of tortoises and freshwater turtles occur in low densities across the globe, each with characteristics adapted for specialized habitats. The Roti Island Snake-necked Turtle, for example, has a 20cm long neck and was endemic to Roti Island in Indonesia when it was discovered in the 90s. Now it’s critically endangered. Sadly, its story rings true for many of the 31 turtle and tortoise species now considered critically endangered by the IUCN, and there is one major cause – illegal trade in the creatures as pets and as food.

Although habitat loss and water pollution are a serious threat to these fascinating reptiles, it’s their meat and ornate shells that put them in real danger. As South East Asia becomes more affluent, the demand for these species has skyrocketed, On May 14, 230 Black Spotted Turtles were discovered by Thai Customs in unclaimed bags from Kolkata at Bangkok’s Suvanabhumi International Airport. Conservationists say that current levels of demand mean that many species do not have a hope of survival.

4 Slow lorises

Population trend: Four of the five subspecies – found between Bangladesh and China, down to Indonesia and the Philippines – have experienced a 30% population decline in the past 25 years. The Javan slow loris, meanwhile, has declined by 80% over the same time period, and is considered critically endangered.

The decline in the populations of these lemur-like primates has traditionally been related to rampant habitat loss as the jungles are cleared or agriculture such as commercial cashew and palm oil plantations and rice paddies. This has forced slow lorises into gardens, settlements and farmlands, where it encounters a even greater threat to its survival: its desirability as a “cute,” exotic pet.

A quick YouTube search reveals many slow loris videos, many with several million views that have been a disastrously successful marketing tool, despite all species being listed under CITES Appendix 1 in 2007. Lorises are still routinely spotted in markets in Jakarta, Hanoi and Kuala Lumpur by conservation organisations such as Small Carnivore Conservation Project in Thailand, which saw lorises in a Jakarta market as recently as mid-June.

The underground trade in lorises is harmful on many levels. Individual lorises often cannot survive the stresses of capture and transport, where they are stuffed in boxes, sacks or suitcases and shipped as far as Russia, Japan and the United States. If they are to be sold, their venomous incisors must be pulled, resulting in infection and often death. They also do not fare well in captivity, and excessive handling, forced daytime activity and poor diet lead to high mortality rates.

5. Dugongs

Population trend: In Queensland, Australia, catch rates – a major population indicator – for dugongs in 1999 were just 3% of what they were in 1962, in an area that is considered a relative safe haven for the ‘sea cows’.

Dugongs have a traditional range spanning the waters of 48 countries and 140,000km of coastline – from the East African coast and Madagascar through the Middle East and Indian coasts down to Australia and Papua New Guinea. But they are now only found in relict populations, separated by large spans of ocean. Dugongs have been declared extinct in the waters of Taiwan, Mauritius and the Maldives, and studies indicate that in former ‘strongholds’ such as the Thai Andaman sea, Philippine archipelago and Sri Lanka, colonies of less than 100 individuals struggle to get by.

Dugong survival is hugely dependent on the availability of seagrass, and the fact is the species is suffering a chronic, and worsening, food shortage. Net entanglement, vessel traffic and socio-political impediments to conservation efforts also play a part, but it’s the pollution of coastal waters and consequent seagrass loss that is the biggest problem for these sensitive beasts. Trawling, mining, dredging, coastal clearing and land reclamation lead to an increase in sedimentation, smothering the seagrass of sunlight vital for its growth. Sewage, agricultural herbicide runoff and heavy metals also lead to a degradation in seagrasses, which can take over a decade to recover.

This, when considered in combination with their slow reproductive rates, spells disaster. Females give birth to just one calf at a time, with a two-to-seven year period between pregnancies. Lack of public awareness and pressure is a key restricting factor to dugong survival, according to UNEP: “for management to be effective, the general public has to be concerned about dugong conservation,” – a point that is vitally relevant to so many quietly disappearing species.

TIME animals

U.S. Moves To Protect Scalloped Hammerhead Sharks

The targeted species is typically used as an ingredient in shark fin soup, a delicacy in Chinese cuisine

(HONOLULU) — The National Marine Fisheries Service on Thursday classified as endangered and threated four distinct populations of a shark species whose fins are favored as an ingredient in shark fin soup.

The agency said it’s listing scalloped hammerhead sharks in the eastern Atlantic and eastern Pacific oceans as endangered, which means they’re at risk of becoming extinct.

The populations in the central and southwest Atlantic, and the Indo-West Pacific are being listed as threatened, which means they’re likely to face the risk of extinction in the future.

The central Pacific population, which includes scalloped hammerheads living in Hawaii waters, is considered fairly healthy and isn’t being listed.

The new classification responds to a petition filed by the environmental groups WildEarth Guardians and Friends of Animals.

“The listing of the scalloped hammerhead is an important indication that the human exploitation of marine species has taken its toll,” said Michael Harris, the director of the wildlife law program at Friends of Animals.

The classification takes effect in September. Once listed, federal agencies will have to make sure their actions don’t jeopardize the species or harm the species’ critical habitat.

Scalloped hammerheads will receive international protections the same month from the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Under the new CITES designation, trade in scalloped hammerheads will be allowed only if an exporting country issues a permit after finding the sharks were legally acquired and determining that selling them won’t harm the survival of the species or its role in the ecosystem.

Carl Meyer, a shark researcher at the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology, said demand for shark fins is driving overfishing of the species. The high number of fibers in scalloped hammerhead fins makes them particularly desirable for shark fin soup, he said.

Fishermen are catching juveniles as well as adults.

“Of course, if you take away all of the small ones, then you don’t get any big ones, and then your population starts to really decline dramatically,” Meyer said.

Scalloped hammerheads grow up to 10 feet long and have indentations in their flat, extended heads. They eat stingrays, squid and other sharks.

They’re the most commonly found hammerhead species in Hawaii. They give birth in calm, murky, shallow bays, including Kaneohe and Pearl Harbor on Oahu, Hanalei on Kauai, and Hilo on the Big Island.

They’re better off in Hawaii than other areas in part because there’s no traditional or modern market forsharks as a commercial species in the islands, said Kim Holland, also a researcher at the Hawaii Institute for Marine Biology.

Studies indicate the Hawaii population stays in waters relatively close to shore, which may give them some additional protection. That’s because longline fishing fleets can accidentally catch the species, but the Hawaii-based fleet fishes further from the coast.

 

TIME Environment

Report Sees a Glimmer of Hope for Coral Reefs

School of smallmouth grunts (Haemulon chrysargyreum) over the coral reef Curacao, Netherlands Antilles
School of smallmouth grunts (Haemulon chrysargyreum) over the coral reef, Curacao, Netherlands Antilles. UIG /Getty Images

A staggering decline but also a way to reverse it

The rapid decline in Caribbean coral reefs is a result of fewer grazing species, but the right action can still reverse the decline, according to a new report.

The Status and Trends of Caribbean Coral Reefs: 1970-2012 report was conducted in a joint effort by the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). The rate of coral reef decline is staggering—almost 50% of reefs have disappeared since the 1970s, the report says. Researchers attribute the loss to the decline of reef grazers like the parrotfish and sea urchin.

“But this study brings some very encouraging news: the fate of Caribbean corals is not beyond our control and there are some very concrete steps that we can take to help them recover,” Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme, said in a statement.

Countries with restricted fishing and hunting bans have the healthiest reefs, helping to encourage the rejuvenation of grazing populations. The report encourages others to follow their lead.

“This is the kind of aggressive management that needs to be replicated regionally if we are going to increase the resilience of Caribbean reefs,” said Ayana Johnson of the Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative.

TIME

You Should Be Happy There Are Way More Sharks Near the U.S.

Great White Shark
Getty Images

Populations are rebounding. Here's why that's a good thing

Pity the great white shark. Yes, it can bite you in half without trying hard, and it’s so blindingly quick that if a great white takes it into its feeble but aggressive mind to attack, you’ll be in pieces before you know it. Just as well, really.

But the odds are astronomically low that such a thing will happen—and its got problems of its own. For every human killed by a shark, as we wrote in this cover story, about six million sharks are killed by humans in return. As a result of this wholesale slaughter, mostly in fishing operations, great white populations had plunged by more than 70% in the 1980′s, leading to the huge fish on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “redlist“of threatened species.In response, many countries put strict limits on fishing for great whites, and now two new studies in the journal PLOS ONE show that populations on both the East and West coasts of the U.S. have rebounded somewhat, to about 2,000 off the U.S. coasts, as we reported yesterday.

Even if you’re not a member of PETA, this is very good thing: Great whites are an apex species. Like lions and tigers and bears, they’re at the top of the food chain, where their inborn voraciousness keeps the populations of other species in check. Mess with that relationship and you can mess up an entire web of interactions that keeps the ocean ecosystem stable.

And as for you: Only about 100 people are attacked by sharks every year—last year, it was 27 in the United States—and only a fraction of those are killed. Given the millions upon millions of people who visit the world’s beaches every year—well, you do the math. But just for some perspective, vastly more people die from bee stings, lightning strikes and even falling out of bed than from a shark attack.

So yes, your chances of being eaten by a great white this summer have increased from essentially zero to essentially zero. But “hooray” is still the right way to think about it.

TIME Australia

UNESCO Protects the Tasmanian Forest From Australian Logging

AUSTRALIA STYX FOREST GREENPEACE
An area of Tasmania's Styx forest after logging has taken place on Nov. 12, 2003. Hancock—EPA

The U.N. delegation also warned that the Great Barrier Reef would be listed as endangered if it did not start receiving better care

UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee has voted to protect all Tasmanian forest from logging — striking down the Australian government’s attempt to withdraw 183,000 acres (74,000 hectares) from the U.N. list of cultural and natural wonders.

Canberra claimed that parts of the forest had already been degraded by the timber industry and should therefore be fair game for further logging. However, U.N. delegates in Doha, Qatar, sided with conservationists who claimed that most of the forest was unscathed and that only 8.6% of the 3.5 million acres (1.4 million hectares) had been damaged.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) that he was disappointed with the decision, believing that the untapped Tasmanian logging would aid his nation’s already floundering timber industry. “The application that we made to remove from the boundaries of the World Heritage listing — areas of degraded forest, areas of plantation timber — we thought was self-evidently sensible,” Abbott said.

The green lobby saw the vote as a sweeping victory for the preservation of the environment and Tasmanian heritage. “This county not only holds magnificent forest, which provides medicine and good spirits for us, it is also the resting place for ancestors,” Tasmanian Aboriginal Centre secretary Ruth Langford told ABC.

The U.N. delegation also informed the Australian government that the Great Barrier Reef, another World Heritage site, would be placed on the endangered list if it did not receive better care.

TIME nature

Beachgoers Beware: The Great White Shark Population Is Growing Again

Great White Sharks
This undated photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows a great white shark encountered off the coast of Massachusetts Greg Skomal—AP

There are over 2,000 living off the coast of California alone, according to recent studies

New research suggests that the population of great white sharks off both coasts of the U.S. is growing again after years on the decline.

One report ventures that there are over 2,000 great whites living off California — 10 times the amount estimated by a recent Stanford University study. On the other side of the country, scientists haven’t been able to conclude an exact population size, but estimations suggest that the sharks in the Atlantic are rebounding, after a significant drop in the 1970s and 1980s because of commercial shark fishing.

The upswing is likely the result of wildlife-preservation efforts over the past two decades, although conservationists are hesitant to celebrate the news. For one, the great white belongs to a group of aquatic species that typically struggle to recover from sharp declines in population. What’s more, their generally reclusive behavior often requires scientists to rely on guesswork when keeping tabs on them — and a dearth of historical information doesn’t help

“They’re back on the way up, but to be honest, I don’t think any of us know what ‘up’ is,” George Burgess, a Florida-based researcher, told Live Science. “The fact is, we have no real idea what [the population] was before we started screwing around with the environment on both coasts.”

TIME energy

The Indian Example

While Americans question climate change, global competitors like India are leading the fight to combat its challenges, according to a global TIME survey

Americans may still be skeptical about climate change. But around the world, global warming is not only settled science; it’s a reality that our international counterparts are taking varying steps to combat. And India is leading the way.

In a new global survey conducted for TIME about attitudes toward energy, Indians were the most committed to conservation and the most optimistic about their ability to reduce emissions.

Of the six countries polled, Indians were the likeliest to express deep concerns about energy and consumption. More than 9 in 10 Indians reported that conservation issues were “very important” to them, compared to 68% overall. Indians were more than twice as willing to pay more for clean energy as residents of Brazil, Germany, Turkey, South Korea or the U.S.

Each of these countries has moved to minimize their environmental footprint in different ways. Germans are in the habit of powering down their computers. Brazilians are assiduous about switching off lights. The U.S. leads the way in recycling.

But Indians reported the most comprehensive approach to energy conservation, with 8 in 10 Indians reporting that they have altered their personal habits to curb consumption. Those changes include several simple tasks that go a long way toward shaving both costs and carbon emissions. Indians are the likeliest of the six nations surveyed to carpool, take public transportation, and walk rather than ride in a vehicle. They unplug appliances from the socket when not using them more frequently than anyone else.

Part of this is a culture of fiscal restraint. Among their peers polled by TIME, Indians were the likeliest to say they stick to a monthly budget, as well as the most committed to setting aside money for retirement. In a nation with a strict caste system, and endemic poverty interspersed with pockets of colossal wealth, the lure to save may have spurred good energy habits. Conservation correlates with financial discipline across the six countries in the survey; in each, the most fiscally responsible respondents were also the most likely to engage in energy-conscious behavior.

But India is also unique. It is a burgeoning superpower with stark energy challenges. Its billion-strong population is rapidly growing, expected to surpass China’s for the world’s largest within the next 15 years. With that growth comes surging demand that will further strain creaky infrastructure. India is heavily reliant on fossil fuels and foreign imports. Its faltering energy grid often leaves large swaths of the nation baking in sweltering heat. Up to 40% of India’s rural households lack electricity.

These systemic challenges appear to have shaped attitudes toward energy, driving both social consciousness and innovation. In some of India’s urban slums, startups are swapping out dirty and dangerous kerosene lamps for new solar lanterns. The government has gotten in the game by implementing a series of conservation policies, such as requiring state government buildings to have energy-efficient designs. This month, the Modi government began work on a plan that offers incentives for investment in renewables, and hopes to have half the homes in Indian cities fueled by solar or wind energy within five years. And the public grasps the importance of the project: asked what concern guides their energy habits, Indians cited minimizing their environmental footprint (46%) over curbing costs (34%) or maximizing comfort (21%).

The efforts have spurred confidence. Though Indians are widely cognizant of climate issues, they’re more optimistic than their peers about the world’s ability to cope with the challenges. More than 60% of Indians say they believe the world can slash carbon emissions 80% by 2050, compared to 37% of respondents overall. Of the six nations surveyed by TIME, India was only one in which a majority was optimistic about the potential to achieve that level of cuts.

The survey was conducted among 3,505 online respondents equally divided between the U.S., Brazil, Germany, Turkey, India and Korea. Polling was conducted from May 10 to May 22. The overall margin of error overall is 1.8%.

TIME

Watch: How Scientists Plan To Bring Extinct Species Back To Life

Resurrecting long-dead species of animals, or 'de-extinction', will not be a fantasy for much longer. But how is it possible?

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Conservationists and scientists have a saying, “extinction is forever.” But soon biologists will be able to clone long-gone animals, in the hopes of redefining that axiom to “DE-extinction is forever.”

TIME talked with Stewart Brand, president of Revive & Restore, about the technology that may soon allow scientists to bring back extinct species using the DNA found in museum fossils.

In the video above, researchers discuss the process of bringing extinct species like the passenger pigeons back to life.

TIME

5 Ways to Bust California’s Drought

Lawns use a huge amount of water, but dry landscaping can make a big difference Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

The rain isn't falling, but the Golden State has has the tools to beat the drought

They call drought the “creeping disaster,” for the way it comes over communities gradually—and for the way it unfolds, day by day, not with the drama of a storm or an earthquake, but with an ever-worsening dread. California just came off the driest year on record, and the nearly every corner of the state is gripped by severe drought. It’s so bad that within 100 days, 17 communities in California could simply run out of most essential commodity there is. Though northern California was blessed by a bit of rain this week, it will take far more than is forecast to end this drought.

More than most disasters, drought can create an atmosphere of fatalism. After all, what more is there to do than simply endure the days and weeks of dry weather, hoping for something to shift in the skies and bring back rain. But drought isn’t just about the weather. How Californians use water—or more importantly, don’t use it—will have an enormous impact on just how bad this drought becomes, and on whether the Golden State can prepare for a climate that is likely to be even hotter and drier. Here are five ways California could beat the drought.

Drip Irrigation: Agriculture in California uses about 80% of the state’s developed water supply, but without irrigation, fertile farmland like the Central Valley—which alone produces about 8% of the country’s farm product—would go barren. But much of that water isn’t used wisely, especially if it’s dispensed on crops via sprinklers or through flooding fields. But drip irrigation, which allows water to seep slowly into the roots of plants through a network of tubes and valves at the base of a plant, is far more efficient. First used widely in the arid farmland of Israel, drip irrigation greatly reduces the loss of water to evaporation—an increasing problem as California continues to warm—and to runoff. Drip irrigation is more expensive than the conventional alternatives, but with water in California getting scarcer and pricier, farmers may have little choice but to switch.

Xeriscaping: California is not a rainy place—which, of course, is half the reason most people live there. Even during a normal year, the state gets only about 22 inches of precipitation a year, near the bottom for the U.S. But you wouldn’t know that from the lush lawns that dot suburban homes from San Diego to Eureka. More than 50% of California’s residential water use occurs outdoors, and a typical lawn consumes an average of 57 in. of rain a year, according to the Association of California Water Agencies. But in a dry climate like California’s, a grass lawn won’t survive long without watering. The answer: ditch the grass. In xeriscaping, which means “dry landscaping,” homeowners replace thirsty grass with drought-tolerant native plants like wildflowers and succulents. Homeowners can even make money off the switch—the Santa Clara Valley Water District will pay homeowners $1 per sq. ft. to change their lawns.

Desalinization: As a coastal state, California isn’t short of water—it’s just short of fresh water. Desalinization technology—which converts seawater to drinkable water through a high pressure osmosis system that removes salt and other impurities—is already being used in water-stressed cities like Singapore. So it’s not surprising that California has explored the technology as well. More than a dozen desalinization plants have been proposed for California, including major systems in Carlsbad and Huntingdon Beach. But ocean desalinization isn’t cheap—about $2,000 per acre-foot, about twice as much as water tends to cost now—and it can come with environmental issues, as all that left over brine is pumped back into the ocean. There could be greener options—a California startup called WaterFX has developed desalinization technology that uses renewable energy, cleaning water through a solar still. But for now, desalinization doesn’t make much environmental or economic sense for California.

Water Recycling: Better than building massive plants to generate new water from the sea, Californians should try to get more out of the water they already have—by recycling it. The technology exists to clean and directly reuse wastewater, creating something close to a closed loop. Several years ago, water officials in southern California’s Orange County built the Groundwater Replenishment System (GRS), which takes in about 70 million gallons of wastewater a day, puts it through a multistep cleaning process, then discharges the treated water into the region’s aquifer. Some of the treated water forms a barrier against seawater, which has been infiltrating groundwater as the county has dried up. The rest actually goes to recharge the aquifers that supply drinking water to Orange County. Officially this method is called indirect potable use, but it’s really water recycling. Similar recycling plants have opened elsewhere in California, and while the reused water tends to be diverted towards non-drinking purposes like landscaping, the purification system makes it safe enough to drink. Given how valuable water is—especially in a dry state like California—recycling it makes perfect sense.

Conservation: The average home in California uses almost 200 gallons of water a day—but it doesn’t have to be that much. Something as simple as turning off the faucet when brushing teeth or shaving can save 10 gallons a day. Taking five-minute showers instead 10-minute ones can save as much as 25 gallons of water a day. And the savings are even greater if you switch to more efficient shower heads and toilets—the latter can use as much as a quarter of a household’s water. In California, water agencies usually offer rebates for switching out old, inefficient appliances. The good news is that Californians have been getting better at conservation and efficiency. Both agricultural and urban water demand in California have plateaued, even both the economy and population keep growing. And that’s a good thing—every indication is that California could be in for a very long dry spell. There’s not a drop to waste.

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