Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Business of Delivering Water.

Yesterday when I pointed out that delivering water is BIG BUSINESS, I should have been more clear that the old boys club at Metropolitan Water District is not responsible for the proposed delivery of desalinated water from Carlsbad.  That decision is actually our own local misguided water managers here in San Diego at our own County Water Authority.

The irony is our local SDCWA is suing the old boys network at MWD with a claim that their wholesale rates are too high, yet these same local managers want to purchase the Carlsbad-Billion-Dollar-Water!  As a bystander, it is ironic that on one hand they want a reduction, but on the other, no price is too high to pay.

And to those who are saying, ‘but it’s only $780 million, not a billion’ – let’s remember there is mitigation required to offset all the fish killed during the intake process of sucking the water out of the ocean.  The mitigation is a local wetlands restoration project.  Just how many millions will that cost?  So a billion dollars for desalinated water in San Diego is not that far off.

So, from the environment’s perspective, none of these water supply managers is really that different.  They are all using unsustainable practices that do not place enough value on the very resource they are in charge of managing.

Water supply agencies need reform.  They have become businesses.  There is not enough emphasis placed on conservation.  We have not even scratched the surface on this no-cost supply option.  (For the record, if you are a water agency and you implement a rain garden, that is not a conservation program.)  And these water agencies in charge of managing our precious resources should be doing just that: managing the delivery of water with a holistic approach.  Not arguing over rates on one hand, but spending billions to provide California with “an unlimited supply” via desal  That is what a business would do, not a public agency.   The current philosophy is completely unsustainable, and just amounts to a mockery of resource management when the costs to our coast, the habitat of the fish and the ocean life, our enjoyment of the beach, and our pocketbooks is all up for grabs.

Monday, February 27, 2012

MWD Directors Eating Steak & Drinking Wine is NOTHING ($1.5 mil) Compared to $780 Million Added to Water Bills.

Image provided courtesy of CBS News, Los Angeles.

Delivering water is BIG BUSINESS, folks.

One would think that a community’s precious water delivery would be administered by a group of academic-like, gray-haired wise policy makers.  Instead, as this video shows, it’s an old boys club, spending willy-nilly, and living high on the hog -- over a million dollars in expenses like steak and lobster dinners, and $55.00 bottles of wine, with the tax payers footing the bill!  Here’s the thing though: these expenses are just a drop in the bucket when you consider these same water resource managers are about to stick us with an additional $780 MILLION DOLLAR bill for an outdated desalination plant that is simply not needed if they would just manage our water resources properly.

Just ask Santa Barbara what happened to their desalination plant.  Their water managers also spent millions, but the community conserved… and then it rained.

Or ask the folks in Melbourne, Australia.  They spent millions too, and the good folks down under conserved their water use…  and then it rained.  

If our water managers could curb their gluttonous appetites, and apply some much-needed discipline to their business management practices, we could have stronger conservation measures in place in our communities.  And, with our ability to turn wastewater into drinking water, we could supply our communities with even more water, all at a much cheaper cost than desalination.

Fundamental questions: when did managing our most precious resources become a way to finance a high-end lifestyle?  When did the administration of a public agency mean eating and drinking like it’s one’s last meal?  When did water delivery become about profits at the expense of the environment and it’s citizens who live paycheck to paycheck?

Honestly, can we really expect the people in charge of conserving our most precious resource to conserve it if they run their agencies like the well will never run dry?

And with such a culture in place, it makes me wonder what the average citizen’s response will be when they get that first bill for the Carlsbad-Billion-Dollar-Water (because that’s what it will cost by the time they add in the water managers dinner expenses...).  I bet as soon as that desalinated water gets delivered, and the water bills go out, every citizen cuts back their usage, because that’s what people do when they get a bill that’s too high.  THEY USE LESS.  But, guess what – we will still have to pay, folks because the water managers who are working on delivering us Carlsbad-Billion-Dollar-Water, require us to pay for it whether we use it or not.

And all this is just another example of bad resource management brought to us by the folks in charge of managing our precious resources, because after all to them, it's just how BIG BUSINESS WORKS.

Feb 28: Editor's note: I wrote some further clarification on this post today.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Join us when we tour San Diego’s cutting-edge new IPR Demonstration Project.

What is the IPR?  Indirect Potable Reuse is wastewater treated to a level so pure, we can drink it.  The process mimics what happens during our natural water cycle.  They use this pure water in Orange County as part of their normal every day supply.  San Diego is in the process of evaluating this pure water to see if it’s a fit for our water supplies.  Surfrider Foundation fully endorses this supply channel, as it means less wastewater in our oceans, and healthier beaches and bays for our communities.

If you would like to join us on this tour, you must RSVP to water@surfridersd.org.  Please include the number in your party.  Directions and times are below.

From the city’s website:
“As part of the City’s water resource strategy, the Water Purification Demonstration Project is examining the use of advanced water purification technology to provide safe and reliable water for San Diego’s future. The Demonstration Project will determine the feasibility of a full-scale reservoir augmentation project, which would diversify San Diego’s water supply, reduce its dependence on imported water and provide a safe source of drinking water for residents.
In an effort to keep San Diegans informed about this important project, free public tours of the Advanced Water Purification Facility are available, as well as project presentations to all interested groups and opportunities to learn more about the project at community events throughout San Diego. For more information, please call (619) 533-7572 or email purewatersd@sandiego.gov.”

Please join us on Saturday, September 10th at 11:00 a.m.  Meet us here at 10:45

Friday, May 20, 2011

Sydney finds that Desal is just too expensive!!

Let's learn from Sydney's mistake, and not build a desal plant that is just too expensive!

Ocean Friendly Gardens Lawn Patrol this Sunday (the 22nd) in Encinitas!!

 Join us this Sunday the 22nd at 10am at Moonlight Beach in Encinitas for our next Lawn Patrol!!
We will visit our 3rd Street GAP installation, a parking strip that was converted from wasteful turf to a native garden and bioswale. We will take a quick walk up A street and check out some gardens that are mostly ocean friendly and some that are not so ocean friendly and talk about the difference.

Lawn Patrols are a great way to learn about what makes an Ocean Friendly Garden ocean friendly, the impacts that the choices we make in our gardens have on the health of our local environment, and what easy steps you can take to turn your garden into an OFG! We talk about soil health, plant choices, how to retain rainwater on-site, and how to use organic choices instead of chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides!

Meet us at 10am in the turnaround lot where Encinitas Blvd ends at Moonlight Beach (at the end of 4th/BStreet).
Questions/Directions? e-mail morgan@surfridersd.org

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Know Your H2O has Moved!

The Surfrider Foundation has consolidated all of our issue-based blogs into one Coastal Blog. Come check it out at www.surfrider.org/coastal-blog

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Moving Toward Water Self-Sufficiency

Barry Nelson of NRDC just wrote a great article highlighting efforts by Santa Monica, Long Beach, San Diego and a couple of water districts in Los Angeles who have significantly reduced their amounts of imported water through a variety of strategies, including developing local groundwater supplies, conservation and wastewater recycling. Although there's a lot more to be done, it good to see that more and more cities and water/wastewater agencies are buying into Know Your H2O.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Sewage to Drinking Water in USA Today

Yesterday USA Today carried a fairly lengthy article discussing the world-wide pressures on fresh water supplies and the response in several disparate communities, including Singapore; Orange County, CA; Fairfax, Virgina; and Namibia, of using advanced water treatment technology to create a sustainable local water supply that simultaneously addresses pollution problems.

Read More.

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 www.americanrivers.org/greenfunding.

    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!

    Wednesday, January 12, 2011

    Wastewater is a Terrible Thing to........Waste

    This article in Scientific American points out the considerable energy potential in the "biosolids" content of wastewater. Methane from anaerobic digestion of sewage sludge can be used directly as a fuel and can power fuel cells. Biosolids themselves can also be used as a supplemental fuel in processes such as cement kilns.

    But we like to point out that there is also a lot of "embedded energy" in the treated wastewater. Here in southern California and in many other areas of the county, our water is pumped from hundreds of miles away, treated, used once and then pumped out into the ocean. Shouldn't we make use of that embedded energy AND increase our water independence AND reduce pollution AND save money (compared to building seawater desalination facilities) by adding just a little more treatment and reusing that valuable wastewater?

    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: http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/greenspace/2010/11/greywater-report.html

    More info and the full report here: http://www.pacinst.org/reports/greywater_over/index.htm

    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, http://www.greywateraction.org; Oasis Design, oasisdesign.net

    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: http://www.vcstar.com/news/2010/jul/27/venturans-face-higher-water-fees-despite-best/

    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

    LID in LA

    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 http://www.eng.lacity.org.

    "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