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How to Save Water
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Episode 2
10:14
How to Save Water
California is in a drought -- again. L.A. has been facing water restrictions since June, and Angelenos have been a doing a pretty good job at conserving. The thing is, we gotta do more. It won't be easy, but we meet up with one long-time resident who shows us how it's possible. Guest List: Erin Stone, Climate Emergency Reporter, LAist Lynetta McElroy, Leimert Park resident and water conservationist

Lynetta McElroy

We don't let that water just go down the drain, we catch that water.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

All right, I want to talk to you guys about one of the basic, but most needed things in life. Water. We can't live without it, but we can live with less of it.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

This is How to LA, the podcast from LAist studios that drops a little knowledge every episode about this city. Our mission is simple: help you better connect with LA, discover the new, navigate the confusing, and even make some change along the way. I'm your host, Brian De Los Santos, and today we're gonna hit on that last part-change. Congratulations LA, you're doing your part to conserve. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power announced that last month customers reduced their water usage by 11%. A record for July. So cheers to you LA. We're all in this drought together. The thing is, we got to do more. Yeah, I know. It's a lot to process, but we are here to help you navigate this. Joining us with an assist is our colleague, Erin Stone. She covers Climate Emergency for LAist and she's joining us today in the studio.

 

Erin Stone

Hey Brian.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

So really quick, remind us what we're supposed to be doing to conserve water nowadays.

 

Erin Stone

Right now you should just be listening to what your local water district tells you. So if you live in LA, you just need to listen to those rules set by LADWP to water only twice a week, whether that's your lawn, your garden-unless it's a food garden-you can always hand water your food.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

So what I understand from your reporting is that we need to cut even more on water. What's going on right now?

 

Erin Stone

Yeah, so unfortunately, it's kind of this weird catch 22, that when it's hotter, we use way more water. The West as a whole is facing what scientists call a mega drought. Angelenos have been cutting, we're down 11% at the latest numbers in July. But, LA's goal is to get down to at least 15%. So we still have a ways to go especially as we're in the middle of the hottest part of the year August and September, as we well know in Southern California tend to be really hot.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

So what could we expect for the months ahead? Like, it gets really dry. It gets windy. Do you think at a certain point officials are gonna be like: "You know what, we're gonna cut off water pipes" or something like that. Like, I don't know, could it be that drastic?

 

Erin Stone

In reality, no. The last place that they're going to cut off water is in cities, despite the fact that we truly are in a severe situation. We're not literally about to run out of water tomorrow. So no, we're not in the next month going to see everyone's taps shut off, we will see probably increasingly strict watering restrictions and it may even eventually end up to more indoor use restrictions, but we're not there yet.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Okay, folks, most of us are doing a good job so far. But clearly, we gotta get creative, and let's be real, put in a little bit more work to really cut back. If you need a little inspiration. We have someone for you.

 

Erin Stone

Yeah, so we're walking to meet Lynetta who uses grey water to water her plants, her garden.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Wait, hold up. What's grey water?

 

Erin Stone

Basically reusing water before it goes down the drain.

 

We're here on a beautiful street in Leimert Park outside Lynetta McElroy's house. We're gonna go check out her greywater recycling system and her food growing system, and lots of other sustainability tips.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Just rang the doorbell, I think Lynetta should be home by now.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Hi, it's Brian. I'm here with Erin.

 

Lynetta McElroy

Did you want to have a seat?

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Yeah.

 

Lynetta McElroy

Would you like some water?

 

Brian De Los Santos 

No, I'm okay.

 

 

That's Lynetta McElroy.

 

Lynetta McElroy

L-y-n-e-t-t-a M-c-E-l-r-o-y.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

She's the sustainability block leader for her neighborhood in Leimert Park.

 

Lynetta McElroy

When I was in elementary school, we lived in South Central Los Angeles. And we could not use the water fountains because of the lead. I wanted to right that wrong.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

She says her experiences as a kid inspired her to conserve water whenever she could.

 

Lynetta McElroy

We were just brought up with not wasting. We just did not buy what we did not need. A few years ago, I was talking to a young lady-renter. And she said how she just lets her water flow because she doesn't pay for it. Well, we're in a drought. We all pay for it!

 

Brian De Los Santos 

I asked her what she says to people like me, who rent but still want to do more to save water.

 

Lynetta McElroy

This may sound gross, but you might consider: do you have to flush every time?

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Okay guys, to be honest, I shared this with some friends and they weren't 100% for it. But, check this out: an average flush uses about one and a half gallons of water. It's worth asking yourself, maybe you could consider just for number one-I don't know. But, there's other steps you can take.

 

Lynetta McElroy

When we wash our vegetables. We don't let that water just go down the drain. We catch that water. And then when that container gets cold you pour that into a pail, when that gets full you water outside with it. So then we'll go on the back, we'll just put it here at the roses. That's good enough for there. And then-oh, what is this? We just have this little raised garden-Kale, Thyme-

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Her garden was so cute.

 

She's got little raised beds with greens and herbs.

 

Lynetta McElroy

-rosemary.

 

 

Oh, this is Ashitaba Keiskei, a Japanese herb that is supposed to be very healthy for you.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Rare plants and recycled plastic bins, or wooden boxes, whatever she could find. She says she can grow about 20% of what her family eats right here in her garden.

 

Lynetta McElroy

Unfortunately, Los Angeles was designed as though water was a waste product. And that's why the water that goes from the storm drain goes to the ocean. A few years ago, there was a reimbursement of..I think it was $74 for getting a rain barrel.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

Lynetta being Lynetta, couldn't pass that opportunity up.

 

Lynetta McElroy

I got something that at that time, cost like $75, and I got $74 back.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

She had a bunch of tips and tricks, just like that.

 

Erin Stone

Lynetta, so with all the sustainability practices you have, for someone who's super intimidated about getting started, where do you suggest someone starts.

 

Lynetta McElroy

In your refrigerator. Start in your refrigerator, see if there's some garlic or some onion that's starting to sprout a little bit, or maybe a potato, you can get dirt at the 99 cent store. Get two packs those, and then you just start there.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

And you don't have to have a huge backyard to grow stuff like that. See, it's one of the things I love about Lynetta. She doesn't have this big old playbook. It wasn't handed to her. She's gone to the firehouse to take classes. She's looked at YouTube videos. She connects with people online. And yeah, a lot of what she does might be too intense for a lot of Angelenos. But she's inspiring these changes for the people in her community, and helping them do what they can.

 

Lynetta McElroy

I think we're seeing the damage that has been done. If we own that-I'm not sure we could correct it-but at least we can slow it down.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

I do want to ask you a question that we're asking a lot of people we interview. What does it mean to be an Angeleno?

 

Lynetta McElroy

It means that we are in one of the most progressive, diverse cities in the world. We believe in the possibilities. But, we have to own those possibilities, and we can't give our power away.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

What was your one thing you walked away with? Or you thought about it, and you gave it to someone else?

 

 

Erin Stone

Saving some of those onions-(laughter) start to grow little tendrils when I leave them a little too long.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

I'm coming over for dinner, and for those onions.

 

Erin Stone

I want to practice some dishes for you, Brian. We will come up with something.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

For sure, sounds like a plan. That's Erin Stone. She covers a Climate Emergency for LAist. Erin, thanks for hanging out with me today.

 

Erin Stone

It was a pleasure, Brian.

 

Brian De Los Santos 

By the way, remember those rebates Lynetta mentioned? Well, this March, they got way better. If you're a customer with the LADWP, you can buy a new high efficiency washer and get up to $500 back, and up to $250 if you buy a low flush toilet. Guys, that me you can get some of those new washers or toilets for free. We've got a list of all those rebates and more in our newsletter. Go subscribe at Laist.com/HowtoLA and then treat yourself, and the environment. It'll never be easier than that.

 

 

All right, everyone. One final note for today. Erin mentioned up top that we're getting into the hottest part of the year. And you've probably heard by now we're in the middle of a big heatwave. And it's gonna be here for days. We want you to stay safe because extreme heat is no joke. So we got a bunch of tips and resources in our newsletter and at LAist.com. But, here's mine. When I was a kid, we used to cover our windows with tin foil, shiny side out to reflect the heat away. I think my dad found that tip. Take it or leave it, but I tell you that room was the coolest one in the house.

 

 

Anyway, this is How to LA. I'm Brian De Los Santos. Support for this podcast is made possible by Gordon and Dona Crawford who believe that quality journalism makes Los Angeles a better place to live. This program is made possible in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting a private corporation funded by the American people. Please stay cool everyone. We'll catch you tomorrow.