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...

Moving Beyond IPR

Surfrider Foundation was an early and strong supporter of the Groundwater Replenishment System project in Orange County, California. We also are working to promote the evaluation and implementation of other Indirect Potable Reuse (IPR) projects in San Diego and in other locations.

Meanwhile, forward-thinking engineers, planners and regulators are noting the success of IPR projects and looking beyond that to Direct Potable Reuse.

The National Water Research Institute recently published a "white paper" titled Regulatory Aspects of Direct Potable Reuse in California. This is now downloadable from the NWRI website. The Executive Summary of the report states:

" potable reuse may be a reasonable option to consider based upon significant advances in treatment technology and monitoring methodology in the last decade, health effects data from IPR projects and direct potable reuse demonstration facilities, and water quality and treatment performance data generated at operational IPR projects in the state that have advanced wastewater treatment."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Another Kind of Recycling

On May 10, the city of Santa Rosa, California's Laguna Wastewater Treatment Plant will inaugurate a small pilot project that relies on native algae and marsh plants to purify sewage and produce methane. The gas will run a generator that charges a fleet of four electric maintenance vehicles.

Nationwide, there’s a rush to extract more energy from wastewater treatment, but Laguna boasts that it is the only operation in the U.S. harvesting algae for fuel. The city has published a coloring book about its “F.A.B” (Fuel from Aquatic Biomass) project, featuring Algae, a smiley, if scummy, little fellow.

Algae-to-fuel is a side operation at Laguna, but it has garnered top honors from the Association of California Water Agencies. In addition, Laguna has won state and federal awards for recycling and quality control. Ninety-nine percent of its biosolids — treated, nutrient-rich sewage sludge — are spread on the land, either as fertilizer on fodder or as compost on city parks and playgrounds. Only 1 percent is trucked to a landfill. Apart from the algae operation, 25 percent of the plant’s electrical bill is offset by methane from biosolids.

Last year, Ventura Regional Sanitation District, serving Ventura County, began converting biosolids into dried pellets for fuel. And in a pilot project, the city of Los Angeles started injecting some of its biosolids into wells a mile under the ocean floor at Terminal Island, where they will degrade into methane for fuel.

In northern San Diego County, the Encina Wastewater Authority now converts its biosolids into dried pellets for sale to a cement manufacturer in Victorville. The Encina treatment plant, like Laguna, is certified by the National Biosolids Partnership.

“We’ve gotten our ratepayers out of the game of paying millions of dollars to haul biosolids more than 200 miles to Yuma, Ariz.,” said Kevin Hardy, the general manager. “Instead of five trucks to Yuma, we’re sending one truck a day to Victorville. That’s half the distance. And we’re getting to beneficially use the product as fuel.”

Similarly, Los Angeles and Orange counties are hoping to recycle a third of their biosolids as pellets at the Rialto SlurryCarb Facility, which opened last June. The plant is designed to produce twice as much energy as it consumes.


Monday, April 5, 2010

The Start of a Wastewater Sea Change on the East Coast?

Two articles came to my attention today.

First, in Maryland, officials in Howard County want reuse of wastewater to be the new standard for big projects, because of worries that tightening federal and state restrictions on nitrogen entering the bay could eventually outstrip the capacity of the county wastewater treatment plant on the Little Patuxent River in Savage.

"It's better for the environment, and it's a response to how we're going to grow effectively," said County Executive Ken Ulman. Officials are applying it now to two projects: the redevelopment of downtown Columbia and a 325-home community at historic Doughoregan Manor in Western Ellicott City that might get public water and sewer service.

This new policy in Maryland stands out in stark contrast to the situation in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, where officials seem poised to waste resources and pollute the ocean by constructing a new ocean outfall.

In Cape Cod, Massachusetts, towns are rightly discontinuing the use of polluting septic systems, but instead of a large centralized wastewater treatment system, they are being encouraged to consider the alternative of distributed wastewater treatment systems, utilizing current state-of-the-art package treatment plants. In addition to often being less expensive, decentralized treatment plants recharge the groundwater locally instead of removing it to another watershed. Decentralized treatment plants may also facilitate beneficial reuse of treated wastewater, which is often ruled out by the pumping and piping costs associated with re-distributing water from a centralized facility.