Illustration/Marc Galindo

Illustration/Marc Galindo

The 1970s pop hit “It Never Rains in California” now seems prophetic. The Golden State takes on new meaning as California residents watch their landscape turn brown from the thirst. As much of the Southwestern United States faces another year of drought, business owners had to learn how to conserve what was formerly thought to be an unlimited resource. In some areas of the country, residents and business owners have even been required by law to reduce water consumption.

But whether you’re a Santa Barbara salon owner experiencing mandatory rationing or a Seattle technician who seems ample rainfall, a water conservation program is part and parcel of being and environmentally aware salon. Just as clients appreciates a salon that recycles, clients appreciate (and patronize) salons that are doing their part to conserve water.

For salon professionals conserving water can be simple cost-effective and implemented immediately.


Begin with your sinks. By installing a low-flow faucet aerator, you can reduce water flow by as much as 50%. An aerator mixes air and water to make the flow seem stronger. Low-flow aerators are inexpensive and can be purchased at your local hardware or plumbing store.

For the salon toilet, a displacement device will reduce the amount of water your tank can hold. An ordinary toilet uses seven gallons of water every time it’s flushed. With a displacement device, you can save one to two gallons with every flush.

You can create your own displacement device without even spending any money. A plastic bottle such as a juice bottle or large soap bottle works well. Simply soak off the label, fill the bottle with water, replace the cap the put it in the tank. You can place a few stones in the bottom of the bottle to weigh it down. The amount of space the bottle takes up is how much water is saved with each flush.

Make sure the bottle doesn’t interfere with the flushing mechanism. Since different toilets need different amounts of water to maintain proper pressure for an effective flush, you may need to experiment with different size bottle.

You can also use a displacement bag, which is specially designed to displace water. Simply fill the bag with water and hang it on the inside of the tank. Again, it may take some experimenting to find out how full to make the bag in order to maintain proper flushing performance.

Displacement bags are available at no charge from some utility companies or can be purchased inexpensively at your local hardware or plumbing store.

For the very dedicated conservationist, there is the do-it-yourself toilet dam, a unit that makes your tank artificially smaller. These plastic barrier devices isolate part of the tank so that the water in this portion doesn’t flow with the flush. Each dam can hold back one gallon of water, and two dams can be installed per toilet. They’re available at your local hardware or plumbing store.

If you’re buying a new toilet or replacing an old one, consider digging deep into your pockets to purchase an ultra-low-flush toilet. You will save the salon money in the long run because these toilets use only 1.6 gallons of water per flush. While a conventional toilet fills the tank with water and loses pressure, a ULF toilet keeps the water trapped at the high-line pressure until it squirts into the bowl. ULF toilets are available in many colors and styles and can be purchased at local plumbing supply stores.


The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power provides a step-by-step guide outlining water conservation tips for business. These tips can work for a salon owner in any area of the country.

Start with a desire to eliminate water waste. For a program to be successful, the intent to conserve water must be present from the highest level of management on down. A salon owner can motivate the salon staff to participate in the program by setting a water conservation goal together. For example, you may decide to reduce your water consumption by 10% within two months. If you devise an incentive to achieve that goal (perhaps spending the money saved from water bills on something to benefit the entire staff), you’re likely to find greater participation. It certainly wouldn’t hurt to make your clients aware of your program and how they can help. For example, put a sign in the restroom that says “We’re doing our part to save water by installing low-flow faucets. Could you please do your part and turn the water off when you’re not using it?”

Appoint a conservation manager. Put someone in charge of your conservation program, making it part of their regular duties. Assigning such a responsibility to someone will increase the likelihood of positive results.

Determine where your water is being used and how much is being use. This should be done before implementing a conservation program. You may be surprised to find it how much water is used in a typical salon day. Your water department may loan water meters free of charge to help you determine how your on-site water is being used. These figures will help you set internal goals and monitor your progress.

Check your current system for leaks or waste. Leaks can be detected by a periodic shutdown of all water-using facilities and reading the water meter at intervals during the shutdown. If any movement of the dials occurs, water is leaking. If you are able to locate the leak, have it repaired as soon as possible. How can you find leak in your toilet? Put some dye in the tank, if the color shows up in the bowl without a flush, you’ve got a leak. Your local water department may provide information to read your water meter.

Set a conservation goal. The conservation goal should be high enough to require substantial effort by all participants and should include progress reference points. A goal will help get everyone involved. The reward for achieving the goal should benefit everyone at the salon – not just the person who pays the bills.

Use common sense. Learn from other businesses that have established effective water conservation plans. Read brochures and bulletins available from your local water department regarding water conservation. It is up to you to apply these general suggestions to your particular situation in order to reduce water use.

Be aware of water-efficient equipment. As you replace the equipment in your business, find out how much water the new equipment will use. Water conservation could well be a determining factor in the selection process

Monitor your results. Each water bill includes your consumption history over the past billing periods. Compare your current monthly water use with prior periods to get an idea of how much water you are conserving. Use charts, graphs, and other records to keep track of your conservation progress. Once your program is running smoothly and you are meeting conservation goals, don’t become complacent. Be constantly aware of how every drop of water is used.

Share your success story with other salons and other businesses. If you’ve got a good system or have seen a sharp decrease in water use, blow your own horn. Call your local paper and offer to share your story with its readers. The benefits are obvious and two-fold: you’re doing your part for the planet, and you’re getting well-deserved (and free) publicity.


Do not become such a water conservation zealot, though, that you neglect any stage in salon sanitation. Don’t ever skimp on sanitation in favor of saving water. Cleaning your implements, work-station, and the rest of the salon probably uses much of the salon’s water supply. Reduce the water waste in these procedures, but don’t sacrifice cleanliness.

Conserving water doesn’t mean rearranging water your entire workstyle, but simple changing the way you think about water – use it, don’t abuse it.