The Silicon Valley Voice

Power To Your Voice

Who Knew Water Conservation Could be Fun?

There’s no grumbling about water conservation in Herb and Donna Hutchinson’s Santa Clara home. They love a challenge, and for them, saving water has become just that, as they calculate, gallon-by-gallon, how to reduce their water consumption without sacrificing their landscaping or koi pond.

“I’m excited about it,” says Donna Hutchinson. “Every time I see the [water] bill every month, I say, ’Wow!’ when I see how much water we’ve saved.” In May, the family of two reduced their water consumption by 50 percent from what it was in May of 2013. They post their utility bills in their home office to remind them of their progress.

“It really doesn’t require that much effort once you get into it. It’s kind of a life style change,” says Herb Hutchinson, who collects rainwater in barrels for landscaping use in the winter and shower runoff water the rest of the year.


As Herb Hutchinson waits for the water to get hot before he hops in the shower, he collects the flowing water in a five-gallon bucket. He installed a low-flow shower head and uses a shutoff valve to temporarily interrupt the water flow while he lathers up with biodegradable soap. Then he collects the rinse water in another bucket.

Later, he empties the two buckets into 35-gallon rubber barrels (with tight, mosquito-proof lids), located at the side of their house. He bought a small sump pump—for about $100—and pumps the saved water through a hose to water the front lawn, supplementing the automatic sprinkler system. Donna Hutchinson hand waters plants with the reclaimed water.

Herb Hutchinson, one of three partners in Fischer Construction & Design in Santa Clara (, became especially motivated to incorporate water-saving measures into his personal life style when his customers started asking about ways to save water in their home remodeling projects.

The Hutchinsons recently bought an energy- and water-efficient washing machine and always run full laundry and dishwasher loads.

“Even if there wasn’t a drought, it’s best practice,” says Donna Hutchinson.

“I’m always thinking of other ways to save,” says Herb Hutchinson, who grew up in the family house where the couple will celebrate their 30th anniversary in August—and continue to discover new ways to have fun together.

Since home landscaping uses the most water, a next challenge for the enthusiastically water-conscious couple could be to lead the way in their neighborhood by replacing their lawn with drought-resistant California native plants.

Santa Clara, in partnership with the Santa Clara Valley Water District, offers residents rebates for upgrading to water-saving appliances. Free faucet aerators, low-flow shower heads, hose shut off nozzles, toilet leak detection tablets, and toilet flappers are available at the Water & Sewer Utilities office in City Hall. Visit for details.


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