Eating foods produced in California, such as strawberries and kiwi, can contribute to the drought. ATTRIBUTION: Jennifer (Flickr)

Drought occurs after a prolonged period of abnormally low rainfall, resulting in an extended water shortage. While droughts are caused by a gradual depletion of precipitation over a period of time, humans also contribute to the water shortages that now affect California, Oregon, Nevada, and other states across the U.S. Like many Americans, I didn’t used to consider how much water I wasted as I turned on my dishwasher when it was only half-full or when I let the water run as I brushed my teeth. While the amount of water you waste may seem trivial to you, it can make a significant difference to those experiencing a drought, like those of us here in California. Here are a few ways that you may be unknowingly contributing to the drought.

Eating Foods Produced in California

Have you eaten a bowl of almonds lately? How about a fruit salad containing avocados, peaches, grapes, strawberries, or melons? If so, there’s a good chance that your delicious treat came from California. According to the Public Policy of Institute of California, the average water use is approximately 50 percent environmental, 40 percent agricultural, and 10 percent urban. California, the state with the worst drought conditions currently, is running short on water as farmers try to produce food for the rest of the country. The Weather Channel claims that 93.91 percent of the state is in severe drought or worse.

Failure to Upgrade to Energy-Efficient Appliances

Major appliances in your home, such as dishwashers and washing machines, account for a major chunk of your home’s utility bills. If your large appliances are more than a decade old or are not energy-efficient, you’re likely spending even more. Fortunately, households can save water and money by upgrading to modern, energy-efficient appliances. The average family spends approximately $1,100 each year on water costs, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, but could be saving up to $350 by retrofitting with Energy Star-qualified appliances and WaterSense-labeled fixtures.

Not Reusing Indoor or Outdoor Water

Conserving water at home is an excellent way to help with the current water shortage, and it’s easy to do. By reusing water from both indoor and outdoor sources, you can make good use of what you have instead of relying on your faucets for fresh water. For example, instead of letting the water pour down the shower drain as you wait for it to warm up, place a bucket under the faucet and use what you gather to water plants or flush the toilet. Outside, install a rain barrel and use the collected rainwater to keep your garden hydrated without having to turn on the hose or use a sprinkler system.

Overlooking Simple Ways to Save Water at Home

While leaving the water running as you scrub a dish or allowing a leak to drip for weeks or months on end may seem like just a small waste of water, it can really add up. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, one faucet dripping at a steady rate of 10 drips per minute can waste as much as 3 liters of water per day, or 347 gallons a year. By making minor changes in your home, you can save money while helping to conserve water. Start by getting any leaks fixed, and trade in your current shower head for an eco-friendly version. Speaking of showers, try to decrease the length of your shower, which can save gallons of water with each wash.