Thursday, December 2, 2010

Greywater Report looks at wastewater potential

About 50% of the water used inside U.S. homes can be reused to irrigate landscapes and flush toilets, according to a greywater report released by the Oakland-based Pacific Institute last week.

The report Overview of Greywater Reuse: the Potential of Greywater Systems to Aid Sustainable Water Management examined the application of greywater systems worldwide to determine how the wastewater generated from sinks, baths, showers and clothes washers could be reused to reduce demand for more costly, high-quality drinking water.

Full story:

More info and the full report here:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Treat recycled water to drinking standards already!

This editorial is good - it advocates for water to be re-used over and over again, which is key.  However, at Surfrider, while we think it's great to use recycled water for agriculture, it would be even better if we went a step further and treated waste-water to drinking standards so we can drink it like they do in Orange County, CA and Scottsdale, AZ.  The process of treating waste-water to drinking water for human consumption is growing in popularity and we need your help advocating for it. Not only would it go a long way to solving our water needs, but sending less polluted water out to the ocean would mean cleaner beaches.  Watch our film to learn more.

Technology will enhance recycled water quality
San Jose Mercury News-11/10/10
by Richard Santos

In October, the Santa Clara Valley Water District and the San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant broke ground on a new water treatment facility that will produce up to 10 million gallons of highly purified water per day. The Advanced Water Treatment facility is designed to enhance the quality of recycled water used in San Jose, Santa Clara and Milpitas.

The water produced in this facility will help us meet Silicon Valley's future water demands. The facility has been designed so that it can be expanded in the future to four times its size. As we face significant challenges with our imported water supplies and potential impacts from global climate change, this local water source could be a major part of our future water supply portfolio.

The technology is impressive. Water that has undergone two levels of treatment at the adjacent wastewater treatment plant will undergo three additional advanced treatment stages: microfiltration, reverse osmosis and ultra-violet disinfection. This facility will be able to produce water that's as pure as or purer than most potable water sources.

The water that is produced will then be blended with recycled water produced for the South Bay Water Recycling program, which has been providing recycled water to San Jose, Milpitas and Santa Clara customers for more than 10 years. The enhanced blend of water will help industrial users reduce operating costs, and it can be used on a wider variety of landscapes, due to a much lower level of salinity. As a result, it is expected that more customers will tap into the recycled water system.
This will be the largest public facility of its kind in Northern California. The same technology is being used worldwide to produce highly purified water for drinking. Orange County is using the same technology to replenish groundwater. That project has been running successfully since 2008.

The Santa Clara Valley Water District will own and operate the new treatment facility while the city of San Jose will continue to operate the South Bay Water Recycling program, which distributes recycled water to more than 600 industrial, agricultural and landscape users.

In the works since 2006, the construction of the facility was kick-started by the success of California's congressional delegation to secure a share of federal stimulus funds. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, who spoke at the groundbreaking, was instrumental in securing $8.25 million from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 for the project. About 800 people will be put to work during the two years of construction.

The water district is providing more than $32 million of the project's total cost. In addition to the federal stimulus funding, the California Department of Water Resources is providing $3 million from Proposition 50 funds. The San Jose/Santa Clara Water Pollution Control Plant, which is administered by the City of San Jose, is also a major partner, providing $11 million in support, and a lease for the facility lands. The cost of construction for the project is $42.4 million.

This is a great example of an infrastructure project that is stimulating our local economy today while leaving a lasting legacy for the future. When the next drought inevitably rolls around, we'll all be glad to have this local water source available.
Read the article.

Monday, November 8, 2010

As you know, the Earth is a watery place. But just how much water exists on, in, and above our planet? The picture above shows the size of a sphere that would contain all of Earth's water in comparison to the size of the Earth. You're probably thinking I missed a decimal point when running my calculator since surely all the water on, in, and above the Earth would fill a ball a lot larger than that "tiny" blue sphere sitting on the United States, reaching from about Salt Lake City, Utah to Topeka, Kansas. But, no, this diagram is indeed correct.

About 70 percent of the Earth's surface is water-covered, and the oceans hold about 96.5 percent of all Earth's water. But water also exists in the air as water vapor, in rivers and lakes, in icecaps and glaciers, in the ground as soil moisture and aquifers, and even in you and your dog. Still, all that water would fit into that tiny ball.

Read more....

Friday, October 29, 2010

Greywater scores high marks

After experimenting with solar panels, gray-water systems and chickens for two years, a budget-minded consumer takes stock of what worked and what didn't.

Read the full story in the LATimes


Gray water, 1st place

Gray water is the waste generated from faucets, showers and laundry machines — water that accounts for 54.2% of all water used inside a home, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. With California deep into a drought, in August 2008 I retrofitted the plumbing on my laundry machine to send its gray water onto my landscape. Over the last two years, that simple switch has sent 9,720 gallons to passion fruit vines instead of the sewer, and it required only one change to my usual routine. I had to swap laundry detergents because my usual brand, like many, contained salt and other ingredients that kill plants.

When I first installed a gray-water system, it wasn't legal. Making it legal would have required a permit, extensive filtering apparatus and lots of cash. But in August 2009, these laundry-to-landscape systems were legalized in California, as long as homeowners followed 12 guidelines.

I've been so pleased with this low-cost, high-impact system that I hired a plumber to expand it in January, tying the wastewater from my bathtub, shower and bathroom sink into the same gravity-fed plumbing line that handles my laundry water. This so-called simple system also was legalized in California in 2009. Its legal status has since been rescinded, so once again I've gone rogue. I estimate my additional savings to be roughly 1,120 gallons per month.

Financially, this system is paying for itself, just slowly. The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power charges me less than half a penny per gallon, so technically, gray water has saved me only $95 in water costs so far. But it's also reduced my sewer charge by about one-third, saving me an extra $3.30 per month. In drought-prone Southern California, gray water feels like the right thing to do. It's been the easiest, most sensible, hassle-free, sustainable system I've put in place at my house.

Cost: $1,988 ($312 for the laundry-to-landscape plumbing, $1,676 for bathtub and bathroom sink tie-in)

Resources: Greywater Action,; Oasis Design,

Friday, October 22, 2010

Arctic Report Card

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New York Times: Lake Mead Hits Record Low

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words and the photo from a recent New York Times blog article says everything about our water crisis.

The article begins:
"Sometime between 11 and noon on Sunday, the water level in Lake Mead, the massive reservoir whose water fills the taps of millions of people across the Southwest, fell lower than it ever has since it was filled 75 years ago."
Lake Mead is the largest resorvoir in the Unites States and while it is still 8 feet (a whole 8 feet!) above the levels where a shortage is officially declared, if the levels drop too low not only will our water supply be dangerously low but it could also effect the hydroelectric output of Hoover Dam.

Comments on the article range from blaming climate change and evaporation to blaming our wasteful building practices in the Southwest.  Either way there is one obvious conclusion:  we need to start getting serious about water conservation in the Southwest!

There are tons of tips for conserving water at home whether you own or rent and while conserving household water use is a huge help to our water supplies we should also remember that 70% of the average household's water use in the Southwest goes toward irrigating our landscapes (lawn and tropical gardens).  In order to become truly sustainable we need to change the way we look at water use both inside and outside the home.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Rain Barrels Work!

For a year, San Diego city officials collected storm water in 24 rain barrels in eight sites across the city to analyze their effectiveness in reducing runoff and harvesting water.

They found that the rain barrels significantly reduced the flow of pollutants to storm drains as they redirected rain to landscaped areas.

San Diego is in the early stages of studying programs like a successful rain barrel program in Los Angeles to learn best practices to reduce runoff to watersheds. San Diego also is looking at rain gardens and other methods of "rainwater redirection."

Read more and also read the rain barrel pilot study report.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

San Diego Edges Closer to a Dependable Local Water Supply

Yesterday the San Diego Union Tribune ran a feature Future wellspring? - New source of drinking water hinges on pilot project and City Council.

The article contains a great graphic showing the multiple levels of treatment that would be included in the project.

The process starts with wastewater that has already has been treated to levels deemed acceptable for use on landscaping. Then it’s pumped through a microfiltration process that removes bacteria, protozoa and suspended particles. The water then is them pumped reverse osmosis membranes to remove dissolved impurities. Finally, the twice-filtered water is exposed to UV light and hydrogen peroxide in a process known as "advanced oxidation." The pilot plant that will produce about 1 million gallons per day is expected to be in operation by April.

This is essentially the same process being used in Orange County to produce 70 million gallons per day of high quality drinking water - and reduce wastewater discharges to the ocean.

Monday, October 4, 2010

New York City Green Infrastructure Plan

NYC's New Green Infrastructure Plan

Submitted by Richard Jarman on Thu, 2010-09-30 10:34.

In a boost to the City's harbor water quality Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, Environmental Protection Commissioner Cas Holloway and Office of Long Term Planning and Sustainability Director David Bragdon have unveiled the NYC Green Infrastructure Plan, which aims to capture and retain stormwater runoff before it enters the sewer system.

The current system discharges a mix of stormwater and sewage directly into New York Harbor during heavy storms due to its limited capacity. Traditional remedies which include upgrading holding tanks and tunnels are very expensive and have limited benefits.

Under the new proposals, which will require approval from the state and federal government, a mix of technologies and solutions will be implemented to not only reduce water contamination so that more waterways can be made available for recreation, but also green and cool the city and improve air quality.

Green infrastructure uses vegetation, soils, and other structural elements to mimic natural hydrologic cycles by slowing down, absorbing, and evaporating stormwater. The new plan is estimated to reduce the city's long-term sewer management costs by $2.4 billion over the next 20 years, helping to hold down future water bills.

"One of the most challenging environmental questions facing New York City is how best to clean up our waterways," said Marcia Bystryn, president of the New York League of Conservation Voters. "The NYC Green Infrastructure Plan is a comprehensive response that will reduce pollution, protect critical habitat and make investments where they will have the greatest impact. We applaud Mayor Bloomberg, Commissioner Holloway, Deputy Commissioner Strickland and everyone involved for this important step toward a more sustainable city."

Other related news stories below.

Global Water Crisis

A study in Nature reports that nearly 80 percent of the world’s population lives in areas where the fresh water supply isn’t secure. And while industrialized nations have made massive investments in infrastructure to keep the faucets flowing, those projects have taken a toll on the environment.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Fact Check: The Real Price of Purified Sewage

First KUSI's John Coleman calls global warming 'a scam', now KUSI's Bob Kittle claims "That water (from purified sewage) is three to four times as expensive as anything else." Voice of San Diego to the rescue with their 'Fact Check' column!

"Determination: False

Analysis: There's no ignoring that creating water by purifying sewage (what Kittle called toilet-to-tap) isn't as cheap as importing water from the Colorado River or Sacramento Delta, our two main sources. But it's not as expensive as Kittle claimed....

Independent analyses have reinforced that purifying sewage is cheaper than desalination. Why? Because it takes more energy to strip salt out of seawater than crud out of sewage. That's why officials in Orange County chose purified sewage when they needed a new supply. They found it cheaper than seawater desalination."

Click Here for the full story from the Voice of San Diego.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

California's Next Million Acre-Feet: Saving Water, Energy, and Money

A new analysis from the Pacific Institute recommends specific actions that can annually save a million acre-feet of water quickly and at a lower economic and ecological cost than developing new supplies. The assessment notes that new actions are immediately needed to reduce the growing tensions over the state’s water resources and to address California’s persistent water supply challenges.

In the urban sector, the report identifies water savings from replacing old, inefficient water-using devices with high-efficiency models in our homes and businesses, as well as replacing some lawns with low-water-use plants. In the agricultural sector, best water management practices include weather-based irrigation scheduling, regulated deficit irrigation, and switching from gravity or flood irrigation to sprinkler or drip irrigation systems.

Read More

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Water Recycling in San Francisco

Today, San Francisco's water utility will unveil a proposal for the city's first large-scale water recycling project, an arc-shaped facility near Ocean Beach that would filter and disinfect 2 million gallons of sewer and storm water each day for use on 1,000 acres of San Francisco land.

The $152 million Westside Recycled Water Project would be used to water Golden Gate Park, the Presidio Golf Course and Lincoln Park.

As proposed, the Westside project would take treated wastewater from the Oceanside Water Pollution Control Plant near San Francisco Zoo, run it through fine membranes and ultraviolet-light systems, and spread it through the network of existing pipes and sprinklers snaking through the parks. The water could also serve to flush toilets at the California Academy of Sciences.

All told, San Francisco will attempt to save some 10 million gallons a day through both recycling and conservation. Peninsula and East Bay cities, represented by the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency, are attempting to save about 20 million gallons a day.

Friday, September 3, 2010

LA officials use green infrastructure to fight stormwater pollution

Southern California Public Radio has continued its series of reports regarding the use of green infrastructure to address the problem of stormwater pollution. The first report was on Ventura County, and this one covers Los Angeles.

Read, listen and watch (there are links to a video clip and a slide show) as the application of green infrastructure and low impact development in the urban jungle of Los Angeles is explained and explored.

The report ties in well with Surfrider Foundation's Ocean Friendly Gardens program.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Green infrastructure could cut stormwater pollution in Ventura County

State regulators are putting in place new rules to capture much of stormwater and dry season urban runoff before it pollutes coastal waters. In Ventura County, those rules calls for changes in the way gutters and culverts direct rainfall runoff.

Ventura County's new rules now promote low-impact development – ways to mimic natural pre-pavement conditions. Such rules change the shape of the pipe – or get rid of it entirely.

In other words: if it didn’t run off before people got here, it shouldn’t run off now. Read more.

Also see here.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

County offers Half Price Rain Barrels!

Finally rainwater catchment is catching on in San Diego!

San Diego County is offering HALF-PRICE RAIN BARRELS for County Unincorporated Residents this August 28 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Water Conservation Garden, 12122 Cuyamaca College Drive West, in El Cajon.

It may seem like it never rains in San Diego but did you know that just 1 inch of rain falling on a 1,000 square foot roof will yield 600 gallons of water? Instead of letting all of that water run into the stormgutter, that's water that could be used for watering a veggie bed, potted plants, rinsing your wetsuit, or watering your native garden!

Check out the County's Rainbarrel Page for more info!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Venturans face higher water fees

Venturans face higher water fees despite best conservation efforts

"Despite laudable water conservation efforts, Ventura residents and businesses can expect to pay more — including a possible “pass-through” fee — to cover mounting expenses for groundwater supplies and compliance with environmental regulations, the city’s public works director said..."

Read more:

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What is your Landscape Water Use?

Did you know that...?
...a 1,000 square foot lawn in San Diego (that's about a 50'x20' area) uses about 25,ooo gallons of water every year? (That's 400,000 8 ounce glasses of water or enough drinking water for one person to have 8 8oz glasses a day for the next 136 years.)

...60% of the water we put into the average landscape turns into runoff? In the above garden that's about 15,000 gallons of water annually that runs onto the street and into our gutters, picking up pollutants along the way and bringing them straight to the ocean.

...the average irrigation spray head has only a 55% efficiency rating (that means only half of the water that comes out of the head actually ends up on the landscape)!

...60% of all fertilizers and pesticides used in the garden end up in our groundwater and watersheds? (not to mention the pollution generated by traditional lawncare techniques and fossil fuels used to create and ship the fertilizers and pesticides)

Those are some pretty scary numbers and that's just the tip of the iceberg. But there are solutions to these problems!

We can reduce water use in our landscapes by over 70%.

We can eliminate landscape runoff from our landscaped areas or at the very least make sure that that water is cleaned of pollutants before it is allowed into our watersheds.

We can use organic methods to feed the soil and create a healthy living environment for plants eliminating the need for fertilizers and pesticides.

We can do all this and more while saving water, saving money, and saving our local heritage and environment.

These solutions are the focus of our Ocean Friendly Garden program and we invite you and your friends, neighbors, local nurserypeople, and many more to join us for our next workshop series which starts next Tuesday evening in Encinitas!

For more information and to sign up for the series please check out the Ocean Friendly Gardens Program webite and our San Diego Chapter OFG Blog

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Huge Win for IPR!

The IPR demo project is underway; which is a huge step in the right direction for San Diego's future water supply. Please check out this link to find out more.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Water supply in Dublin area on knife-edge | Irish Examiner

There's an old joke that goes, " You know it's summer in Ireland when the rain gets warmer."

The joke is funny to anyone who knows Ireland, because it's a wet country, with seemingly endless rain. But, like the rest of the world, demand is outstripping supply. Or in other words, Mother Nature cannot replace it fast enough for society's use. What is the solution? Conservation.

"THE water supply to the country’s largest urban area is on a knife-edge, with senior managers warning that members of the public will have to conserve water to ensure there are no future shortages."

Water supply in Dublin area on knife-edge | Irish Examiner

Thursday, July 22, 2010

San Diego NEEDS to Know Our H2O!

We wrote an Op Ed piece calling for water management reform down here in San Diego today.  Our local paper, the Union-Tribune ran it this morning.

A guest commenter by the name of Alan h, wrote:
"I couldn't agree more with this article.

20% of California's energy consumption is simply to move water around the state (mostly from North to South).

Its time to stop trying to solve today's problems with yesterday's ideas. Simply consuming more and more water is like building more and more freeways. That's not the answer.

Ask any 5th Grader and they can tell you the answer:

1. REDUCE our water consumption

2. REUSE our water multiple times

3. RECYCLE wastewater and stop discharging 185 million gallons a day into our coastline!"

Sounds like this guy has been watching our film, and Knows His H2O!  

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act

The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act (S. 3561) was just introduced into the Senate by Tom Udall (N.M.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.). This bill is nearly identical to the House bill of the same name (H.R. 4202) that was submitted in 2009. The House bill has since picked up 40 cosponsors.

By encouraging advances in America’s understanding and use of green infrastructure techniques, these bills will help to achieve environmental and economic benefits for communities across the country.

Stormwater runoff is a serious threat to the nation’s waterways and public health, costing Americans hundreds of millions of dollars each year in lost tourism revenue, increased drinking water treatment costs and loss of habitat. Fortunately, green infrastructure provides a cost-effective and environmentally sound approach to reducing stormwater and combined sewer overflow pollution. This strategy stops water pollution at its source by using trees, vegetation, and open spaces to capture and infiltrate rain where it falls – letting the environment manage water naturally, inexpensively, and effectively.

Because it decreases hard infrastructure costs while increasing property values and creating jobs, green infrastructure is an economically prudent water management technique. Moreover, it offers wide-ranging environmental and social benefits beyond reductions in polluted runoff: it improves air quality, mitigates the urban heat island effect, and provides better urban aesthetics. Studies have shown that green infrastructure improves health and saves energy used to heat and cool buildings. Green infrastructure techniques also minimize flooding and ensure more resilient water supplies by increasing groundwater recharge.

The Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act promotes the use of these multi-beneficial methods by making green infrastructure a national priority. The bill establishes “Centers of Excellence” for green infrastructure that will provide critical research and information coordination services. It will establish a green infrastructure program within the Environmental Protection Agency's Office of Water to promote the use of green infrastructure and provide technical assistance to states, local governments, and the private sector. Most importantly, the bill will provide communities with the resources they need to implement green infrastructure projects on the ground, improving the lives of their residents.

Participate in the Surfrider's action alert and send your Congressional leaders a letter urging them to co-sponsor the Green Infrastructure for Clean Water Act. Just click here.

To learn more about Green Infrastructure visit EPA's website, the Surfrider Foundations Coastal A-Z on Low Impact Development, or the previous blog posting on this bill.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


Got storm water? L.A. now has standardized plans for runoff infiltration

June 30, 2010 | 12:40 pm

InfiltrationplanterDuring the rainy season, the city of L.A. sends 100 million gallons of untreated runoff into the Pacific Ocean.

Tuesday, the city's engineering department signed off on six standard plans that can be used to prevent some of the flow coming from parkways, highways, alleyways and cemented curb areas and divert it into the ground where it can recharge groundwater and prevent pollutants from reaching waterways. The plans give specific guidelines for installing swales, vegetation, permeable pavement and other systems to prevent storm water from flowing over nonporous surfaces into storm drains.

"What we're trying to do here is take storm water or urban runoff and infiltrate it in streets or alleys and make it consistent so that people aren't frustrated with trying to do something innovative," said Gary Moore, engineer for the city of L.A. "We've developed standard plans, we've done the details, we've done the engineering to enable the city or a developer to use the plans to implement the desired solution."

Developed in partnership with the city's Board of Public Works, Bureau of Sanitation and Bureau of Engineering, the standard plans have been in the works for six months and will be available for free online starting July 9 at

"There are more than 6,500 miles of streets in Los Angeles," Moore said of the plans that will be used for street reconstruction, street widening, landscape medians and other projects. "There's a lot of potential."

-- Susan Carpenter

Photo: Don Kelsen / Los Angeles Times

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

San Diego's residents will pay more for water AND electricity if we use desal.

There's a great article online in the Huffington Post about how desalination is not the answer for those of us responsible for water management planning.  The author, Peter Hanlon, makes a great point about how much energy is used.  In the case of San Diego, we'll use a lot more energy than our current practice which is to pump it out of the ground, and transport it thousands of miles for our use.  Desalination means an increase in our water bills AND our electric bills.  

He writes: 
"The process of converting salt water to drinking water is highly energy-intensive. In San Diego it takes eight times more electricity to produce about 325,000 gallons of water through desalination than it takes to pump the same amount of groundwater. Because desalinated water is so energy-dependent, water customers are vulnerable to rises in energy costs.

This is where desalination stumbles its way into the "energy-water nexus." In short, generating electricity requires a lot of water, while treating and moving water requires a lot of electricity. Desalination does not help to ease the burden of these interconnected demands, in fact it makes the situation worse.
Consider the added demand from a new desalination plant on the electric grid -- a grid fed by power plants that also require a tremendous amount of water for cooling. In other words, we're creating drinking water for one water-starved location using massive amounts of electricity generated with massive amounts of water somewhere else. Such a scenario raises an obvious question -- Does this make good sense?"
At Surfrider Foundation we say, "No, Mr. Hanlon, it does not."  In fact, to us it sounds a big circular scheme that ends up raising our bills, and making us dependent on a big-green-house-gas-spewing desalination plant, when we could conserve, or recycle.
Energy costs are predicted to sky-rocket in the coming decades too, so it does not make good financial sense to "invest" in something so expensive, when a major component of the water production has a cost that is only going up.
Here's a novel idea: how about we re-use what we already transported and PAID for?  Doesn't that make the most sense?  I mean, WE ALREADY OWN THE WATER.  So why are we dumping it in the ocean, only to turn around and PAY to desalt it?  

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Poseidon Resources has lost their resources.

Photo courtesy of OC Voice

From the latest in the financing debacle at Poseidon Resources:

“Poseidon has been claiming for years that they will be responsible for financing the desalination proposals in Carlsbad and Huntington Beach,” says Joe Geever, Policy Coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation. “This latest debacle in San Diego County just exposes what many have known all along — these proposals are almost completely reliant on public money.”

Poseidon did not respond to the Voice’s request for comment before press time.

Geever says that public water agencies should turn to other, proven, methods of water management.

“If we are going to spend public money on water projects, we should prioritize projects that are economically and environmentally superior — like expanding our local Groundwater Replenishment System and investing in conservation programs.”

Read the whole story.

Monday, June 21, 2010

And the Winner is..........

The winner of the essay contest is:

Indirect Potable Reuse: The Solution to San Diego’s Water Crisis

The author is Amy Cao, a Junior at La Jolla High School. Congratulations Amy for helping to spread this important message!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Our film, The Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water has been accepted into the BLUE Oceans Film Festival

Drew and I, and the entire “Team Insanity” are stoked to report that the Surfrider Foundation film, Cycle of Insanity: The Real Story of Water has now been viewed over 8,000 times.  

We have also submitted the film to several festivals to help spread the word even farther and faster. 

The latest exciting news in that effort just came from the BLUE Oceans Film Festival organizers in Monterey, California:

Congratulations! Your film has been accepted into the BLUE Ocean Film Festival and will now be advanced to the next round of judging. All films ACCEPTED into the festival will be available for viewing in our video library throughout the events Aug 25-29. However, due to the number of films submitted we can only guarantee screenings for each category's finalists. The list of FINALISTS films will be announced in mid to late July. 
Best of luck in the next phase of competition and please extend our acknowledgments to your entire production team. We hope you or a member of your team can join us in Monterey to honor your work along with all the great ocean films of the 2010 festival. Thank you for participating in BLUE. Kindest Regards, Debbie Kinder, Executive Director

This festival, in Monterey California on August 24 to 29, will bring worldwide attention to our vision of water management reform and how it could restore our coasts and oceans. Past Finalists have included renowned producers like BBC, Discovery Channel, National Geographic and a list of other extremely talented and creative filmmakers.

If you visit the BLUE Oceans Film Festival website you will see that this is an honor to be accepted in the competition with some of the world’s most prestigious film producers working on ocean issues.

Please visit their website to get a sense of why we feel so proud to be accepted to the film competition. We hope the film will make the Finalist list and be screened at the festival. But just being accepted for consideration in such a prestigious festival is reason enough for our excitement and our continued dedication to the Surfrider Foundation mission. We will let you know as soon as we hear back from the BLUE Oceans Film Festival’s judges.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

No, I Guess They Don't

I titled the post below "High School Students Get It - Do Public Officials?"

I guess the answer (at least for now) is -- No.

High School Students Get It - Do Public Officials?

Voice of San Diego just published two essays by seniors at Patrick Henry High School. All Water is Wastewater by Kathryn Mogk points out that:

"The truth is that all water is wastewater. The earth is one large closed system which nothing can escape or enter; everything made of matter that we deal with is recycled. Physicists estimate that in every breath we take there is at least one molecule of air that was also in Julius Caesar’s last breath. If the air in our lungs has been breathed many times before, then, as little as we like to think about it, the water that we drink has also been drunk many times before it reaches us."

Toilet to Top of the Line Purification System to Tap
by Taylor Winchell discusses the justification for and viability of an indirect potable reuse system in San Diego:

"The fact of the matter is that no matter the source from which the water comes, it is all purified under the same quality standards and it is all equally safe to drink. Not only is the indirect potable reuse system safe, but it would also be economically cheaper and more environmentally friendly than a desalination option.

What is preventing San Diego from adopting this indirect potable reuse system appears to be the social repercussions associated with drinking purified wastewater. With declining amounts of water coming from vital import sources, however, the time is now for San Diego to get serious about local freshwater sustainability."

These two essays are finalists in the 2010 essay contest.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Poseidon Resources’ Carlsbad desalination factory subsidies would be withheld as a result of proposed lawsuit.

Water supply has always had a sordid, complicated history in So Cal.  The latest in San Diego is no exception:  the San Diego County Water Authority is suing the Metropolitan Water District (unless they can settle their dispute) over rates, which means that the much-needed subsidies to fund Poseidon Resources’ Carlsbad Desalination plant would be withheld as a result of the proposed lawsuit.  This is good news for our coast and ocean. The proposed Carlsbad ocean desalination facility uses enormous amounts of energy and unless they change the seawater intake system, it will kill millions of fish in the process. More importantly, Surfrider Foundation is advocating improvements to our water management that will be both economically superior to the desal facility AND result in improvements to our coast and ocean environment. See our vision for water management reform.

The Poseidon Resources desalination project has never been economically viable — even with all the subsidies.  (Poseidon themselves even admits it’s not feasible without the subsidies.) But what this news about the lawsuit means is that our San Diego County Water Authority will consider paying the subsidies that would have otherwise come from agencies all over southern California. It only seems fair that San Diego County pay its own way if they want to build a desalination factory for local agencies — even though it will mean higher prices to local ratepayers.  But we don’t believe they should build this factory at all.

We would like our Surfrider members and volunteers to attend the County Water Authority’s Board meeting to ensure that NO MORE OF OUR MONEY is used to subsidize this ill-conceived project.  We want to make it clear that they should spend our money on improved water conservation through efforts like our Ocean Friendly Gardens program -- and wastewater recycling like the Indirect Potable Reuse project. These efforts will dramatically reduce the energy we use transporting water, make our water supply local and reliable, and reduce pollution reaching our beaches — not kill fish and waste energy. It’s a win for the environment and a win for ratepayers.

We are also speaking out to ensure that Bud Lewis, Mayor of Carlsbad, and chair of the board, recuses himself from the debate and vote. Mayor Lewis has been an outspoken advocate for the Poseidon corporation and there is a clear conflict of interest if he is allowed to influence this vote.

Meeting details:
June 24  
3:00 p.m. – Board of Director’s meeting
(either 10 a.m. or 1:00 p.m., Committee meeting to approve recommendation to full Board)

4677 Overland Avenue
San Diego CA 92123

Please shoot us an email at if you can attend.  We need as many people as there as possible to help us speak out.

BTW, George J. Janczyn has a great summary on his blog if you want to read all the stories related to this issue.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Water Hour Is Tonight at 8 p.m. Local Time

Water Hour offers the opportunity to think about water for one hour tonight and get inspired or even come up with a plan of action. The web site provides ideas for conserving water as well as your favorite moments with water. Water keeps us alive but it also provides some good entertainment!

Brought to You by Water
Surfing, kayaking, canoeing, scuba diving, snorkeling, swimming, water polo, diving, waterskiing, wakeboarding, boating, jet skiing, kite surfing, windsurfing, sailing, rowing, skimboarding, rafting, water parks, whale watching, bodysurfing, slip‘n slide, dancing in the rain, snowboarding, skiing, snowmobiling, dogsledding, bobsled, ice skating, sledding, ice sculptures, snowcones, snowballs, snowmen, ice luge, ice cubes, clouds

What is your favorite moment with water? And maybe more importantly, how would it affect you if there wasn’t enough?

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Water Recycling and Resource Recovery

More and more, the water and wastewater worlds are starting to intersect, as engineers, managers, planners and public officials begin to realize that "wastewater" and its components can be valuable resources.

In the San Francisco Bay area, the Woods Institute for the Environment recently hosted a dialogue on resource recovery from wastewater - specifically, how systems for wastewater management and water reuse should be defined for the San Francisco Bay Area in the 2020s. The dialogue brought together consultants, researchers, water quality agencies and government and industry leaders to inform planning efforts and align research with those efforts.

The discussion focused on state-of-the-art technologies for water reuse and energy recovery from wastewater; and ideas for use of reclaimed water for ecosystem restoration and non-potable reuse applications, extraction of renewable energy, use of nutrients and financing and development of distributed and centralized wastewater treatment systems around the Bay. Workshop outcomes will help to promote investments to revitalize Bay Area water and wastewater infrastructure, improve the stability of Bay area ecosystems, increase the security and reliability of freshwater supplies, decrease dependence upon imported freshwater, and increase renewable energy generation. The expected solutions will convert current liabilities (e.g., energy required for wastewater treatment) into assets (e.g., energy from wastewater treatment). More

Another indication of a paradigm shift in the wastewater industry was a decision to rename the Golden Hills Sanitation Company in Tehachapi, CA as Brite Canyon Resource Recovery. The company is expanding their capacity from 25,000 gallons per day to 1 million gallons per day and will send their tertiary treated wastewater to Tom Sawyer lake, improving the water quality there.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Peak Water?

National Geographic just published an article titled Passing the Point of "Peak Water" Means Paying More for H2O.

You might be thinking: How can we have passed the point of peak water? How can there be a "peak water" when water is never used up? The answer is that because all fresh water supply and use is essentially local, water in that local area can be transferred, extracted, used, misused and thoughtlessly discarded faster than natural forces can replace it. Consequently, the Colorado River or Lake Mead or [insert your local river, lake or reservoir] may be drying up. Not only does that create a drinking water shortage, it severely impacts the ecology in and around that water body.

What the localized "peak water" condition also causes (as is the case with all imbalances of supply and demand) is high prices. Many experts, including the late water guru Ron Linsky, have written extensively about the value of water. Specifically, they make the point that we have tremendously undervalued water, and thereby have over-stimulated demand and encouraged waste, which also creates pollution.

So, higher water prices are coming, and that's not altogether a bad thing from a resource protection perspective.

What we can do to help mitigate shortages, higher costs and pollution is to advocate for water conservation and reuse. Peak water is not inevitable if we "Know Our H2O" and implement practices that can make our water systems sustainable.

Friday, May 28, 2010

KYH2O and Basins of Relations

Around 100 people showed up at Chaparral Auditorium in Ojai to see 'Cycle of Insanity' and hear Brock Dolman's talk about water and watersheds. Many thanks to the Ojai Valley Green Coalition for sponsoring this event!

The 'Know Your H2O' video was well received by the audience. Comments included the recommendation to get this out to the schools, and provide more information on agricultural solutions. We love this kind of feedback, as it helps fine tune the message. Remember that the video is streaming online at

It was a real treat to have Brock Dolman visit the Ojai valley from the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center in Sonoma County. Brock delivers a unique message; as we enter the era of 'global weirding' on this planet 'water,' our watershed is our lifeboat. It is essential that we get our Basins of Relations in order...

Much more info here:

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Know Your H2O and our film, The Cycle of Insanity, receives an award!

Surfrider Foundation activists were recently recognized with an award from the Los Angeles League of Conservation Voters for our work on water issues. It is not only an honor to receive this award, it provided an opportunity to get our grassroots activism and public policy positions on the radar screen of important elected representatives.

According to the LALCV, the annual Smith-Weiss Environmental Champions Award event is held “ recognize individuals in public service, as well as community activists whose efforts in protecting the environment shine.”

Woot Woot!

If you haven't seen our film, please set aside 20 minutes and see what everyone's talking about.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Poseidon Resources desalination plant will cost the taxpayers, ratepayers, and the environment.

This is a great article because Senior Vice President of Poseidon Resources in Carlsbad, Mr.  Peter MacLaggan, admits that for the first 12 years or so of a 30-year bond, there may not be any return on investment for Poseidon’s investors,  and it may actually cost them more along the way.

And it’s REALLY big news that San Diego County Water Authority MAY have to come up with the $350 million in subsidies if there is some complication with MWD.

THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS.   What does that look like?  Is that a football field full of money?  Whose jobs will they cut at the water agencies if they have to pay up?  Or will they just sell us more water to cover their costs?

Even the Taxpayers for Common Sense, a group which generally aligns with business interests is circumspect.  From the article:
Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense in Washington, D.C. said he had no qualms with the company making a dollar on a badly needed commodity like drinking water in dry southern California, but he was wary of the tax-exempt financing, the subsidies, and the lack of access to detailed advance information about the company’s costs and profits.
“Our feeling is essentially the financing, the repayment of the costs of construction, all of that needs to be very transparent and very public,” said Ellis, “because otherwise you’re asking the ratepayers and (San Diego) county to buy a pig in a poke, they don’t really know what they’re getting and what the potential costs may be.”

I’m not sure how I personally feel about Big Business making a buck off me on something like drinking water, but I do know I’m sick of greedy companies taking advantage of average folks, our natural resources, and still asking our government agencies for subsidies.

Read the full article:

Poseidon's Desalinization Plant: Dream Water Supply or Draining the Pacific and Taxpayers?

And see the current timeline of this ill-conceived project.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Washington D.C. is Beginning to Know Their H20

More trees, green roofs, rain gardens, pervious pavers and rain barrels.

Those are elements of the solution to reducing stormwater pollution in many of our urban areas around the country. These types of low impact development solutions have been widely implemented in progressive cities such as Portland, Oregon. But they are also catching on and being implemented in our nation's capital.

Although a massive underground tunnel project which can be thought of as a "giant underground rain barrel" won't begin construction until at least 2011, other green projects are well under way in Washington D.C.

Last spring, Mayor Adrian Fenty announced a goal to increase the District's tree canopy from 34.8 percent to 40 percent. This means adding 8,600 trees every year for the next 25 years and conserving the ones that exist.

The RiverSmart program, managed by the District's Department of the Environment, uses money as incentive. Property owners making stormwater improvements can receive up to $1,200 in assistance. Green roofs up to 4,000 square feet receive a subsidy if the project covers at least half of the available roof surface. Trees and rain barrels can be installed for a modest fee.

Friday, April 23, 2010

San Diego, we need to make something clear about our position on desalination.

I guess we need to spell it out for San Diego: when we've exhausted conservation measures, when we've exhausted recycled water to drinking standards measures, when we've exhausted low impact development measures, then we can consider desalination.  But until then, we are going to fight it

And we will fight it whenever those alternatives are not on the table.

All of these options we suggest are alternatives to desalination which are much more sustainable, and provide just as many jobs to implement them.  And guess what, they don't completely destroy the surrounding ecosystem like the project planned for Carlsbad.

And, if you are a big military base considering desalination, because you need to water lawns, maybe you should consider an Ocean Friendly Garden first.  Studies show, that 50% of water can be saved by eliminating lawns.  So we ask you Camp Pendleton, what steps are you taking to save water?  Have you asked everyone on base to conserve yet?  What exactly are you doing to preserve this precious resource? 

A press release below announces our next lawsuit.


Lawsuit Challenges Poseidon Resources Permit

San Clemente, CA (April 23, 2010) – Surfrider Foundation filed a lawsuit yesterday against the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board challenging a permit allowing Poseidon Resources to withdraw 300 million gallons of seawater per day for the proposed Carlsbad ocean desalination plant. The complaint alleges that the proposed desalination facility must strictly comply with the California Water Code to minimize the intake and mortality of marine life.

As proposed, the desalination facility would kill countless marine organisms, with an illegal plan to replace these fish and other marine life through a restoration project somewhere else.

“When the law says you must ‘minimize the intake and mortality’ of marine life, that doesn’t mean you can kill millions of marine organisms and then try to replace them somehow,” said Joe Geever, Surfrider Foundation’s California Policy Coordinator.  “The Regional Water Quality Control Board misinterpreted the law, and it’s unfortunate the project has progressed this far without a final decision on the type of intake and facility design that meets California’s law to protect our precious marine environment.”

Surfrider Foundation and San Diego Coastkeeper, as well as several State Attorney Generals and other environmental organizations, have been working with federal and state agencies for years to minimize marine life from the cooling water intake systems of coastal powerplants – like the one used at the Encina Power Station in Carlsbad. Numerous agencies, including the California Energy Commission, State Lands Commission, Ocean Protection Council and State Water Resources Control Board have found that the marine life mortality from these facilities creates a significant impact on healthy fish populations and marine ecological systems.

“Open ocean intake is 1940s technology that is being phased out around the nation because new cooling technology is more effective and avoids killing marine life,” said Geever.

California’s State Water Resources Control Board is currently finalizing a statewide policy on cooling intakes. The State Board has also promised to develop a policy on ocean desalination intakes, but that will come too late for this proposal.

In the meantime, the Encina Power Station will voluntarily demolish three of their five generators and replace them with high-efficiency units that do not require cooling water from the ocean. The remaining two units are projected to run on a limited basis and be demolished in the near future.

“It would be disappointing to see the powerplant do the right thing and make a major investment to abandon their open ocean intake, only to have Poseidon utilize the same system—killing more fish than the powerplant just saved,” said San Diego Coastkeeper Legal Director Gabriel Solmer. ”Coastkeeper supports Surfrider’s lawsuit to protect our marine life from Poseidon while we work together to pursue additional projects to help the region define a dependable water supply portfolio.”

The lawsuit could have importance beyond the Poseidon desalination facility planned for Carlsbad. There are approximately 20 desalination facilities proposed for California. Some are designed with sub-seafloor intakes that eliminate the marine life mortality, including one in Sand City that was permitted quickly and without much public opposition. Others, however, plan a similar use of abandoned powerplant intake structures and will have to amend their plans if the lawsuit is successful.

“It’s time to enforce the law to protect our ocean resources, not only for the environment but so that other ocean desalination project proponents know what the rules are,” says Geever. “Killing fish by the millions is not necessary or legal in the design of any ocean desalination facility.”

About Surfrider Foundation

The Surfrider Foundation is a non-profit grassroots organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of our world’s oceans, waves and beaches. Founded in 1984 by a handful of visionary surfers in Malibu, California, the Surfrider Foundation now maintains over 50,000 members and 90 chapters worldwide. For more information on the Surfrider Foundation, go to

About San Diego Coastkeeper

Founded in 1995, San Diego Coastkeeper protects the region’s bays, beaches, watersheds and ocean for the people and wildlife that depend on them. We balance community outreach, education, and advocacy to promote stewardship of clean water and a healthy coastal ecosystem.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

San Diegans Using Synthetic Grass To Conserve Water

but it's not the best solution!

"Dylan Edwards manages the Ocean Friendly Gardens program for the Surfrider Foundation. He said artificial turf does help conserve water, but Surfrider is concerned about runoff.

"But underneath that synthetic turf you have this really unhealthy compacted soil," said Edwards. "And so the rainwater comes down, hits the synthetic turn, a chunk of it gets absorbed. But a vast majority of it runs off into the streets and into the gully's, the storm drains and ultimately into the oceans."

He also said the turf absorbs sunlight.

"It's a petroleum product and that has some CO2 emissions related to it," said Edwards. "It also absorbs a ton of the heat from the sunlight here in San Diego. What it's actually working to do is creating this little heat island around our city. And, of course, that contributes a little bit to the overall global warming picture, but also forces folks to run up their air conditioning a little bit more."

Edwards said drought-tolerant and climate-appropriate plants are a better option because they absorb carbon and release oxygen."

Nice work Dylan! Click Here for the full article and sound clip from KPBS in San Diego. Click Here for the video.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Learn More About Your Water Source

National Geographic released a special issue titled "Water Our Thirsty World". This is a must read to learn more about the world's water crisis, our dwindling water resources, desalination, and more. Their is also a great story on the California's water supply titled "California Pipe Dreams".

Think about some of these quotes and follow the links to learn more. Quotes and images by National Geographic "Water Our Thirsty World".

"The amount of moisture on Earth has not changed. The water the dinosaurs drank millions of years ago is the same water that falls as rain today. But will there be enough for a more crowded world?"

"Americans use about 100 gallons of water at home each day. Millions of the World's Poorest subsist on fewer than five gallons. 46 Percent of people on earth do not have water piped to their homes. Women in developing countries walks an average of 3.7 miles to get water. In 15 years, 1.8 billion people will live in regions of severe water scarcity."

"Nearly 70 percent of the world's fresh water is locked in ice. Most of the rest is in aquifers that we're draining much more quickly than the natural recharge rate. Two-thirds of our water is used to grow food. With 83 million more people on earth each year, water demand will keep going up unless we change how we use it."

Plumbing California

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

CA Water Plan Emphasizes Conservation and Recycling

California's Department of Water Resources recently released Water Plan Update 2009. The Implementation Plan's 13 objectives include:
  • Use and Reuse Water More Efficiently
  • Use water more efficiently with significantly greater water conservation, recycling, and reuse to help meet future water demands and adapt to climate change.
  • Expand Conjunctive Management of Multiple Supplies
  • Advance and expand conjunctive management of multiple water supply sources with existing and new surface water and groundwater storage to prepare for future droughts, floods, and climate change.
  • Reduce Energy Consumption of Water Systems and Uses
  • Reduce the energy consumption of water and wastewater management systems by implementing the water-related strategies in AB 32 Scoping Plan to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Seattle's Natural Drainage System

Seattle’s Natural Drainage System (NDS) consists of stormwater management projects that use low-impact development (LID) strategies to meet multiple goals within street rights of way (ROWs), which account for 25% of Seattle’s total land surface. The projects work by infiltrating stormwater runoff, slowing it temporarily or lessening its volume, filtering, or removing pollutants through the use of soils and native plants, replacing impervious surfaces with pervious, and adding native vegetation.

NDS projects are “green,” using natural elements to mimic the ways of nature that have been lost to urbanization. Its features include open spaces, vegetated swales, stormwater cascades, and small wetlands ponds. Along with the plants and trees, there must be deep, healthy amended soils to support their growth.

While NDS projects may be better for the environment than traditional stormwater management structures, in the long term, they are usually as cost effective or even cheaper than traditional hard infrastructure as well. They also offer the advantage of being more attractive to the public than utilitarian infrastructure.

Read more

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Conservation is our Salvation!

Here's another example of how conserving water not only saves water but can save energy and save the need for desal plants...

A controversial desalination plan could slip onto the back burner if officials determine that demand for water in the county will continue a downward trend.

The board is likely to direct water district staff to analyze water use for this year and determine if the declining use pattern will continue. The findings would be presented in early 2011 and then decisions would be made on water supply projects, including desalination.

"Right now it's a pause to see what is going on, but it's not a re-direction," said board member Jack Gibson. "We want to approach it carefully."

Until five years ago water use had been increasing in the county since the 1992 drought. It then went flat for three years, and the past two years it has dropped, officials said.

Until five years ago water use had been increasing in the county since the 1992 drought. It then went flat for three years, and the past two years it has dropped, officials said.

The water district had planned for a 5 percent reduction in water use due to conservation in the current fiscal year, but use dropped 8.5 percent instead.

The change in use has district officials taking a closer look at a desalination plant. The plant was meant to help Marin get past a record drought, like the one that occurred in 1976 and 1977. But with water usage down - if that trend holds - rationing would not be as dire as previously thought during a drought and a desalination plant might not be needed.

Water officials believe there may be various factors - cooler-than-normal weather and the economic downturn - that may have reduced water usage. But it also may be that people are conserving more water than ever.

"We have seen significantly lower demand for water in the last year and that has changed the calculation we use in determining when we move forward on desalination," said board president David Behar. "Have we conserved our way out of the need for desalination, or is it the weather and economy? It may be there is not a need for a desalination plant."

Check out the Marin Independant Journal for the full story...