Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sherri Lightner's Proposed Water Policy Statement: One Step Forward, Two Steps Back.

In San Diego, we have major water issues.  After all, we live in a desert, and water resources are precious. 

Yesterday NPR reported on local city council member, Sheri Lightner’s  recent memo which calls for “Developing a Comprehensive Policy for a Sustainable Water Supply.”

Overall we applaud Ms. Lightner for calling for such a policy.  We agree that having 20-year old practices, inconsistent with the latest findings and studies in water science and management are bad for San Diego.  And, overall we like her proposed ideas, especially calling for greater conservation, and using low impact development. There are, however, two proposals in her memo which are bad for the environment and for the taxpayers of a cash-strapped city that is drastically cutting back on services.  These proposals we are wary of, are the implementation of  Desalination Factories and Purple Pipe. Shouldn't we seriously address our wasteful water consumption habits first before turning to expensive new supply sources? 

Desalination and Purple Pipe are two of the most expensive options, and are harmful to the environment.
  • Putting desalination factories in Mexico distresses us because it's likely an attempt to skirt the precious environmental laws that protect our state.  And doing so, is not being a good neighbor.  Added importation costs from across the border makes the desal option an even worse one.  Will we really pay to push water from the playas of Mexico to the suburbs of Carmel Valley?  Can you imagine what that costs?  What about the energy used?  Who is paying for all of this?  You and me?
    • Purple pipe, (called that because of its color,) would require a redundant system of pipes to be erected all over the city. The City of San Diego isn't even properly replacing worn infrastructure, so having the funds for an entirely new pipe system is very unlikely and for what?  To keep our lawns green?    We say, kill your lawns in La Jolla, and go native!  If there is money, it should be spent instead to re-contour our neighborhoods to capture more rainwater and add it to the ground-water supply or through individual gray water recycling both for indoor and outdoor uses.  Another easy start would be to promote the idea of rain barrels. 
    If all of Ms. Lightner’s district implemented Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Garden principals in their gardens, they would cut their water use by 50%.  You read that right - FIFTY PERCENT!

    Underlying "OFG" is CPR, which in this case stands for Conservation, Permeability and Retention.  By rethinking their green spaces  through using beautiful native plants and implementing proper drip irrigation, San Diegans can achieve great results.  This is proper water management, and effective water policy for a sustainable future.

    The City's Water Purification Demonstration Project is a good first step to eventual full scale potable reuse of water instead of dumping a precious resource into the ocean, (only to later pull it out via desalination!) 

    Council member Lightner, let’s start by getting your district to cut its water use in half, then let's go on to the rest of the City.  By the time we have slashed water consumption in the city, the Water Purification Project will have concluded successfully and then a more fiscally robust City of San Diego can then chart a more sustainable water future.

    This blog post was written by Johnny Pappas, and Belinda Smith for the local chapter of Surfrider Foundation, San Diego County.  They work on Policy and the Know Your H2O campaign respectively.

    Friday, February 11, 2011

    Putting Green to Work: Economic recovery investments for clean and reliable water

    Putting Green to Work

    Green Infrastructure On The Rise Nationwide

    By Katherine Baer

    From coast to coast, demand for green infrastructure is higher than ever. That's the finding of "Putting Green to Work: Economic recovery investments for clean and reliable water," a new report by American Rivers, detailing the $1.2 billion allotted to green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency, and environmental innovation through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

    Among key findings in the report is the high demand for funding which far exceeded that authorized through the bill. According to the report, states moved more aggressively with green projects than previously indicated and some like Maryland and New York have emerged as leaders whose implementation strategies are a model for other states. The report also includes recommendations for actions at both the federal and state level to further advance green infrastructure.

    An EPA Office of Water site
    An EPA Office of Water site visit to look at stormwater BMPs. Photo: Sean Foltz, Milwaukee, WI.

    21st Century Solutions

    Like much of the nation's infrastructure, U.S. water systems are crumbling. After several decades of inadequate investment and unmanaged sprawl, America's water and wastewater systems now receive the lowest grade, a D-, of all infrastructure rated by the American Society of Civil Engineers. The Environmental Protection Agency already estimates capital investment needs for clean water and drinking water infrastructure at more than $600 billion over 20 years. Forecasts for greater extremes due to climate change will make the problem worse, as more frequent and intense storms will increase flooding and produce corresponding sewer overflows and stormwater pollution. And more frequent and intense droughts will cause water shortages and higher concentrations of water pollution.

    At the same time, we are in dire need of a new approach to investing in America's clean water and drinking water infrastructure. We are at a crossroads today in how we manage our water systems. Traditional water infrastructure will continue to play a role, but much of it is static, solves only a single problem, and requires a huge expense to build and maintain. We must move from old 19th century infrastructure to a combination of green and traditional infrastructure that will meet the needs of the 21st century. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act took a groundbreaking step in the right direction, dedicating 20 percent ($1.2 billion) of water infrastructure funding to programs for green infrastructure, water and energy efficiency, and environmental innovation (collectively called the Green Project Reserve).

    This effort represented the first decisive step in a much needed shift away from solely "gray," inflexible water infrastructure towards innovative approaches that will bring water management into the 21st century. More communities are beginning to understand that economic vitality and resilience to climate change rest on adaptation strategies that provide multiple benefits for every public dollar invested. By dedicating 20 percent of water infrastructure funding for the Green Project Reserve, ARRA provided states with the resources to repair and rebuild their water and sewer systems to protect communities for a future marked by more frequent and more intense droughts and floods.

    Green Projects

    The term "green infrastructure" applies to solutions like rain gardens and green roofs that help slow and absorb polluted stormwater - a leading cause of pollution nationwide. Green infrastructure works with nature to create value for communities through cleaner water, reduced flooding, and energy savings. "Putting Green to Work" found that the need for funding for these projects is far greater than the 20 percent provided through ARRA. States have substantial lists of "shovel-ready" green projects that simply lack funding.

    ARRA funded Green Reserve green street
    An ARRA funded Green Reserve green street in Ohiopyle, PA. Photo: Jessie Thomas-Blate.

    Within the overall category of "green," American Rivers identified a group of "bright green" projects that provide a comprehensive set of environmental and economic benefits. For example, in Maryland, the state chose to provide additional subsidization to projects that received funding under the Green Project Reserve that ranged from wetland restoration to creating "living shorelines" to improving water efficiency through water appliance retrofit programs. The town of Edmonston, MD, received over $1 million to construct a 'green street' that will create or preserve 50 jobs. Thirty maple, elm, sycamore and oak trees will line the street, and energy-efficient streetlights will be powered by wind. Permeable concrete and moisture-loving plants will absorb and filter 90 percent of the polluted stormwater that typically flows into the Anacostia River to reduce flooding and pollution.

    New York took a unique approach to the Green Project Reserve by using a significant portion of this funding to create a new program, the Green Innovation Grant Program. Under this program, New York was able to separately solicit and evaluate green projects, ultimately funding 57 projects for just under $45 million, with the balance of state Green Project Reserve funds used to integrate existing gray and green infrastructure. Projects included the Green City Homes project in Syracuse, a solution to housing needs and a demonstration of green homes that save water and energy and manage stormwater with green infrastructure solutions. Green City Homes will utilize pervious roadways and sidewalks to manage over one million gallons of stormwater that would otherwise contribute to combined sewer overflows.

    Future investments should be targeted toward these bright green projects. Maryland and New York are clearly leaders when it comes to bright green solutions and should be used as models for other state programs.


    American Rivers identified a number of key recommendations in "Putting Green to Work" to help advance green infrastructure at the federal and state levels. These recommendations include:


    • Federal water infrastructure funding should be continued and increased to support state demand for bright green projects. Congress should reauthorize the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds to include dedicated funding for bright green projects.
    • Federal water infrastructure funding should provide incentives for states to fund bright green projects such as waiving state match requirements.
    • EPA must continue to improve its funding guidance to states and provide additional technical assistance to ensure the best use of limited funds
    • Funding for water infrastructure and climate adaptation should be aligned to promote bright green approaches to create resilient communities.


    • States must act to remove statutes, regulations or policies that stand in the way of pursuing integrated approaches to bright green infrastructure.
    • Project evaluation criteria should be revised to reflect and prioritize multiple environmental benefits.
    • Vigorous outreach for new Green Reserve Projects to a range of traditional and nontraditional partners should be required in order to result in a wide range of strong projects.
    • States should promote loan-payback mechanisms for green projects to ensure that communities can integrate these approaches as part of regular financial planning for clean and safe water.

    ARRA marked a step forward for our nation, but it was only a first step. Now we must continue to accelerate our progress toward 21st century bright green infrastructure to ensure long-term reliable clean water supplies. The challenge is to make today's bright green tomorrow's norm, and to constantly push the boundaries of environmental and economic sustainability.

    Maywood Avenue green street project
    Maywood Avenue green street project. Photo: Kathryn Swartz, Toledo, OH.


    Read "Putting Green to Work" at

    Wednesday, February 9, 2011

    Virtual H2O

    Alliance Webcast: NYC & LA on Green Infrastructure

    Clean Water America Alliance President Ben Grumbles will host a free webcast featuring two green infrastructure giants – NYC & LA - on February 22, at 12:30 pm Eastern as part of the VirtualH2O Conference. From different Coasts, both metropolises will share how the green infrastructure strategy is enhancing and combining with grey infrastructure to deliver water sustainability. Carter Strickland, Deputy Commissioner for Sustainability, NYC Department of Environmental Protection, and Enrique Zaldivar, Director Bureau of Sanitation, City of Los Angeles will present highlights of their programs. The audience will have the opportunity to participate and ask questions via email. In addition, winners of the 2011 U.S. Water Prize Program will be announced.

    Registration is now open and free. This webcast is part of VirtualH2O, a WaterWorld produced virtual conference and exhibition, taking place on February 22, 2011. Click here to check out the rest of the agenda.

    Friday, February 4, 2011

    Urban developers must demonstrate there is an adequate, sustainable water supply.

    What a great day for Santa Cruz, and the great state of California!  Finally, a community that understands urban planning must include consideration of a sustainable water supply when deciding on land use proposals.  Santa Cruz officials are doing their best to move towards an environmentally sustainable future, and we applaud them, especially given the pressures of growth and development of our coastline.  Looks like they are well on their way to balancing the needs of their city. 

    From the article:
    The new policy requiring applicants "to demonstrate the availability of an adequate, reliable and sustainable supply of water" marks the first time natural resources have been included as a factor the Santa Cruz Local Agency Formation Commission will weigh in considering land use proposals. Supporters applauded the policy as a far-reaching step toward limiting growth, protecting over-taxed groundwater and surface water supplies, and reducing the toll on local fisheries.  

    Read the full article.

    Between conservation, which includes proper planning, and potable reuse, (which is recycled water treated to drinking standards,) Santa Cruz can go a long way to solving their water needs.

    Great work to all in Santa Cruz working hard to achieve environmental sustainability. Our oceans, waves, and beaches thank you, as do the rest of us  in California who will cite you as the model!