Saturday, January 31, 2009

When will people take water conservation seriously?

The Sierra snow pack is at 61% of its normal level and there are talks of water rationing in San Diego by summer yet I still see fresh, clean drinking water going down the street. No, people are not dumping water bottles down the street but there is still lots of over watering of lawns and landscaping, water lines busting because of old age along with some random incidents like me neighbors laundry room which randomly overflows.

Below are some recent articles highlighting the issue:

With Water Cuts Near, Freeways Still Get Showered

California Water Supply Drying Up

Water Could be Rationed Here as Soon as Summer

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

And Escondido Steps up to the Plate!!!

Escondido City Council members have the right idea, consider implementing IPR as a SOLUTION! This helps them with their water supply concerns, as this article indicates, the could provide up to 13 million gallons per day of potable drinking water by recycling their wastewater. How about this? Their outfall pipe is currently through the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority, which dumps their current sewage into the Pacific Ocean (like it or not, standard practice). Escondido (unlike San Elijo) has a tumultuous track record of overflows and other sewage related problems. IPR would be an excellent solution, as it would decrease the amount of pipe space needed to move Escondido's sewage to the Pacific, it would decrease the amount of sewage dumped into the Pacific (ergo cleaner oceans), it would provide a source of drinking water that is cleaner that what is currently in the public water supply (in Fairfax VA where IPR via surface water augmentation has been the norm since 1978, the quality of the sewage water that undergoes IPR treatment is actually reduced by being added to the public drinking water supply), and it would decrease infrastructure upgrade demands on the public.

IPR (indirect potable reuse), or simply, recycling wastewater for drinking purposes merely mimics the natural cycle, without the concern of contamination from fouled groundwaters. GO ESCONDIDO!!!

CLICK HERE for the story in the North County Times.

Water reuse moves forward in the City of San Diego!

San Diego City Council Approves Agreement with Environmental Groups Over Point Loma Sewage Treatment Exemption

City to Undertake Assessment of Sewage System to Identify Reclamation Opportunities

January 27, 2009

CONTACT: Bruce Reznik, 619-851-9997 (cell); 619-758-7743 ext. 102
Marco Gonzalez, 760-942-8505 ext. 102

On Tuesday, the San Diego City Council voted 6-1 to approve a Cooperative Agreement with San Diego Coastkeeper and Surfrider Foundation that obligates the City to undertake a comprehensive assessment of its entire sewage collection and treatment infrastructure to identify opportunities to maximize recycling and reclamation of wastewater for potable and non-potable uses. The agreement, which resulted from negotiations between the environmental groups and the offices of Mayor Sanders and City Attorney Goldsmith, had been presented in draft form to the City’s Natural Resources & Culture Committee on December 3. While Coastkeeper and Surfrider are the only environmental groups initially signing onto the agreement, other groups including Sierra Club and San Diego Audubon Society have been part of negotiations with the City and may join the agreement.

With the City’s commitment to undertake this study, the environmental groups have agreed to not oppose a final five-year waiver from secondary treatment standards at the Point Loma Wastewater Treatment facility, currently the nation’s largest sewage agency exempt from secondary standards. The United States Environmental Protection Agency and San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board held a joint hearing on the City’s waiver application on Wednesday, January 21, with a final decision by these agencies expected in March. The U.S. EPA issued a tentative ruling in support of the waiver application on December 4, indicating at that time that the City should not expect future exemptions. The two environmental groups had sued over approval of the last exemption in 2002.

“A comprehensive assessment of reclamation opportunities that will reduce or even potentially eliminate sewage discharges to the ocean provides the best long-term solution for San Diego’s water and sewage issues,” noted Coastkeeper’s Executive Director Bruce Reznik. “Since the last waiver was granted there is a growing body of evidence that even secondary sewage treatment may not be sufficient to protect of ocean environment; meanwhile San Diego now faces worsening water shortages.”
The San Diego region imports nearly 90% of its water, primarily from the Colorado River and the San Joaquin Delta. The region is experiencing a growing water crisis as imports these sources are declining due to overconsumption, climate change and legal decisions, while the San Diego region is in an eight-year drought that has reduced even the little local water the region usually relies on.

The new study will examine opportunities to build new reclamation facilities to expand the City’s overall reuse capacity. If successful, the City could identify a long-term strategy to reclaim some or even all of the 180+ million gallons of wastewater that is currently discharged to the Pacific via the Point Loma facility, providing San Diego with much needed local supplies of water while reducing sewage discharges that threaten our ocean environment.

According to Marco Gonzalez of Coast Law Group, which represents Coastkeeper and Surfrider on this issue, “In the past, the environmental community could have been accused of a charge we sometimes make against the City – being reactive rather than visionary in terms of our environmental policy. We are proud to be looking forward towards a solution that could alter the region’s water policy for decades to come.”

This study, which will be undertaken by the City with oversight of an expert appointed by the environmental community and peer reviewed by national wastewater experts, is intended to build upon the work of the City’s 2005 Water Reuse Study. That study, which was undertaken as part of the legal settlement resulting from the 2002 waiver, explored six alternatives to maximize the reuse of wastewater treated at the City’s two existing reclamation facilities and provided the impetus for the pilot Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) project the City is currently undertaking that could result in the beneficial reuse of up to 16 million gallons of highly treated wastewater every day. “We are pleased to have reached this agreement with the City that allows us to be able to move forward cooperatively on this critically important issue.” added Reznik.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

EPA Information on Potable Reuse

Check out this link has valuable official information from the US Environmental Protection Agency on water recycling and reuse:


CLICK HERE for a great story on the Orange County Water District's GroundWater Replenishment System, from the Public Broadcast Service (PBS).

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Northern California Increases Water Recycling a Bit

And with about 500 turns of a big T-wrench, a valve opened into a new pipe and Petaluma’s sewage headed east to flow through a new $110 million treatment plant. As of today, the city is operating the Ellis Creek Wastewater Recycling Facility, pumping 5 million gallons of sewage.

Click Here for the full story.

Once Through Cooling - Killing For Water??

Coastal power plants could face tougher rules by Jane Kay, San Francisco Chronicle Environment Writer on Wednesday, January 14, 2009:

San Francisco's Mirant Corp. power plant, under fire from the city attorney and environmental groups, is one of 19 power plants in California that could face tougher regulation under the Obama administration for killing billions of fish.

For now, state water regulators are allowing the Mirant plant in the city's Dogpatch neighborhood and the other power plants in California, including the huge Diablo Canyon Power Plant, to continue using a cooling system that sucks and grinds fish, flattens them on screens or boils them in hot water.

The coastal power plants withdraw cold water and discharge hot water at a rate of about 16.7 billion gallons per day, according to reports. The Mirant Potrero plant is blamed for killing hundreds of millions of fish larvae, including goby, northern anchovy, Pacific herring, California halibut and rockfishes....

California regulators could require the electric power plants to upgrade to fish-safe systems now under existing laws, environmental lawyers say, but instead are using legal questions over a 2004 U.S. EPA regulation to delay replacing the World War II-era technology, known as once-through cooling systems.

Two state agencies have objected to extending permits to operate the old systems, citing studies showing that 88 billion organisms are killed a year. Several of the state's power plants are moving ahead with projects to replace old systems - one on Humboldt Bay and others in Southern California. The technology at new power plants uses towers to cool boiling water and does not require cold seawater.

for the full story from

Monday, January 12, 2009

Ignorance is Bliss

Thursday, Jan. 8, 2009 | Rob Davis' article on recycled sewage is interesting but a bit short on fact. First, when San Diego tried out their proposed system in the mid-1990s, there was much hype about the Virginia project, which had just started, and the Orange County program.

Click Here for the entire letter in the Voice of San Diego and reader comments.

Water water everywhere, where is it from?

The fight for clean water continues!  Keeping our oceans, rivers and beaches clean and freshwater coming out of our taps is a top priority.  To do so, it is important to keep track of who is doing what, so here is a little breakdown of where our water comes from.

Over 80% of our water in San Diego is imported.  It comes from the Colorado River and the State Water Project (far Northern California).  There is a little bit in the ground that can be used, and reservoirs that are available.  Here is how it gets here:

Its transient nature aside, water is owned by many people before and after it gets to our homes and businesses.  The Metropolitan Water District in LA is the first owner of the water imported from the Colorado River and State Water Project (SWP).  They then sell the water to agencies, such as the San Diego County Water Authority.  The San Diego County Water Authority has 24 member agencies broken into water districts.  The Water Authority sells water to the Water Agencies that are located in our communities.  The Water Agencies then sell the water to government agencies, businesses and homeowners.  We drink and use this water, and whatever gets flushed or goes down the drain then goes to the Wastewater Agencies.  The Wastewater Agencies then treat the water to various levels and either dump the treated wastewater into the ocean, or the more progressive wastewater agencies such as the San Elijo Joint Powers Authority and Leucadia Wastewater District, will highly treat the water and sell the highly treated water for irrigation use (purple pipe).

This is where you come into play.  We need YOU, friends and neighbors, to insist that the Water Agencies and Water Districts work together to treat our wastewater in the same manner that the Water Districts in Fountain Valley, CA, Fairfax, VA and El Paso, TX do: for DRINKING.  Below is a link to the returning board members of the San Diego County Water Authority.  Write, email or call them and demand that we STOP dumping our wastewater into the oceans, and that we join the handful of agencies that are international leaders in making the best use of water resources!  

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Tastes like water because it is water

On Saturday January 10th SurfriderSD organized a tour of the Orange County Water District's (OCWD) Groundwater Replenishment System (GWR) in Fountain Valley. The GWR System takes highly treated sewer water from the OC Sanitation Dept. (next door) that would be sent to the ocean and purifies it to near-distilled quality water.

I was really impressed with the facility in general, the whole operation had a modern, clean and efficient feel to it. Shivaji Deshmukh is the GWR System Program Manager and lead us on the tour. Thanks for taking the time to host a Saturday tour, we had over a dozen people there and everyone seemed to walk away impressed. Thanks also to Jared for organizing everything.

The purification process is pretty simple in theory and the resulting water is so pure that minerals need to be added back so it does not corrode pipes. One concern has always been with endocrine disruptors/gender benders. The reverse osmosis process filters out just about every organic and inorganic compound. Anything small enough to slip through the RO membrane gets zapped away in the ultraviolet (UV) light process with hydrogen peroxide.

For more details on the purification process, info on the OCWD and the GWR System visit and Click Here for more photos from the tour.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Where Water Reuse Isn't a Dirty Word

By Rob Davis on Wednesday, Jan. 7, 2009 in the Voice of San Diego

Centreville, Va. -- Tucked behind evergreens, down a long lane in an otherwise anonymous stretch of this Washington, D.C. suburb south of Dulles International Airport, sits a facility that provides San Diego with the best evidence that it's safe to fill drinking water reservoirs with purified sewage.

Here, a treatment plant has been purifying sewage and dumping the clean water into the Occoquan Reservoir, a source of drinking water for 1 million residents of Northern Virginia's densely populated suburbs in Fairfax and Prince William counties.

And they've been doing it 30 years.

The sewage arrives here at the Millard H. Robbins Jr. Water Reclamation Plant from the toilets of 275,000 nearby residents. A day-and-a-half later, after being disinfected and stripped of its contaminants, it washes down a wide concrete spillway into Bull Run, the Occoquan Reservoir tributary made famous by its Civil War battles.

In dry weather, that purified sewage spends three months meandering and mixing in the sprawling tree-lined reservoir, making its way 17 miles downstream to a dam, where a local water provider draws it out, treats it to be safe for human consumption -- it picks up contaminants along the way from urban runoff -- and pipes it to homes.

The facility's existence directly counters one of the talking points Mayor Jerry Sanders has frequently recited as a reason for objecting to the City Council's plan to recycle sewage as a drinking water source. Sanders has claimed that San Diego would be the first municipality anywhere to pipe purified sewage into a drinking water reservoir. He made that claim in October and again in December when articulating his opposition to the council's $11.8 million pilot study of recycled sewage.

"I want to make it very clear," Sanders said at a Dec. 4 press conference. "No one else has done what we're being asked to do. People confuse us with Orange County, people confuse it with a lot of other places. No one else has ever talked about putting recycled water into a reservoir and then using it for drinking water. That's what we'll be doing testing on to see if that can even work."

In Northern Virginia, that conversation happened in the 1970s. And the region found that recycling sewage is effective and safe, said Charles Boepple, executive director of the Upper Occoquan Service Authority, which operates the sewage recycling facility.

"We have been doing exactly what San Diego is exploring for 30 years," Boepple said.

for the complete article.

Know Your H2O at the Laundromat

Recent rains have done little to improve California's water situation -- take it from an Aussie.

By Patrick Whyte. January 4, 2009 in the LA Times

That rain you've been having? It doesn't really help much. California is still in the midst of a serious drought. We Australians can empathize -- and we can also offer some advice.

Last year, the southeast corner of the northern Australian state of Queensland, where I live, entered its 10th year of drought -- officially the worst period on record. Australia is the driest inhabited continent on Earth, but until recently that was never a huge problem for the 90% of us who live in coastal cities and towns. We'd always thought of dry spells as the farmers' problem.

But as the recent drought dragged on, fruit and vegetable prices began to rise. Then public parks went from green to brown. Finally, even city folk began to talk about drought......

Officials developed a relatively cheap social marketing campaign, with the aim of getting people to think about individual water use. Ads promoted simple things, such as taking four-minute showers and turning off the tap while brushing your teeth.

Crucially, the program set targets, and for the first time put gallon figures on the amount of water used in car washing, toilet flushing and other activities.

Before the drought and Target 140, as the program was called, my wife, two sons (ages 8 and 11) and I routinely wasted water. Our faucets dripped, our sprinklers ran, we washed our cars and hosed our driveway without a second thought.

Now the radio was awash with talk of water and how to conserve it. Reservoir levels became the subject of everyday conversation.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the article.

Patrick Whyte is a freelance journalist in Brisbane, Australia.

Monday, January 5, 2009

The world has a water shortage, not a food shortage

At the core of Know Your H2O is water. Simple, plain freshwater that flows freely from faucets in our home and all over town that so many people take for granted. In San Diego there is only enough local rainfall to satisfy the needs of 10-15% of our population on average. Most of the fresh water is imported from hundreds of miles away in Northern California or the Colorado River which is quite energy intensive and at the middle of many political battles.

The goal of this blog is to raise awareness of where our water comes from, where it goes and why it is such a precious resource that must be managed well. In addition to personal insights we will include links to articles and such that highlight fresh water issues on a local and global scale.

Here's an excerpt from an article on

MOST people may drink only two litres of water a day, but they consume about 3,000 if the water that goes into their food is taken into account. The rich gulp down far more, since they tend to eat more meat, which takes far more water to produce than grains. So as the world’s population grows and incomes rise, farmers will—if they use today’s methods—need a great deal more water to keep everyone fed: 2,000 more cubic kilometres a year by 2030, according to the International Water Management Institute (IWMI), a research centre, or over a quarter more than they use today. Yet in many farming regions, water is scarce and likely to get scarcer as global warming worsens. The world is facing not so much a food crisis as a water crisis, argues Colin Chartres, IWMI’s director-general.

The solution, Mr Chartres and others contend, is more efficient use of water or, as the sloganeers put it, “more crop per drop”.... CLICK HERE for the full story.