Blog - San Diego Coastkeeper

An El Cajon Business’s Journey from Polluter To Environmental Leader

Written by Matt O'Malley

stormwater after heavy rain

The United States and California have some of the best water quality regulations in the world. The problem is, they are seldom enforced. That’s where we come in. San Diego Coastkeeper’s identifies illegal polluters like government bodies and businesses and works, often hand-in-hand with polluters, to bring them into compliance with the law. The end result is a new industry leader in environmental stewardship.

Enter El Cajon Business Precision Metals Products

Precision Metals Products’ facility primarily fabricates steel columns, beams, braces and machines. As you can imagine, a lot of metals on this site that can leach into the water — and they have. Over the past five years, Precision Metals Products has polluted Forester Creek, the San Diego River, and ultimately, the Pacific Ocean. These polluted discharges make our water less fishable and swimmable.

In February 2016, San Diego Coastkeeper and Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation sent a 60-day notice of intent to sue Precision Metals Products, Inc. in El Cajon for violations of the California statewide industrial general permit and the Clean Water Act.  

A Win for Clean Water and Sustainable Business

Thanks to hard work from all parties, we now have an agreement that keeps our water clean. Coastkeeper recently filed an agreement between our groups and Precision Metals Products, and it’s now approved by the federal court system and the Department of Justice. This means there is a legally binding agreement requiring the operators to keep the site cleaner and repair cracked pavement. These major changes will prevent the following types of pollutions from entering our waters:

  • Zinc
  • Aluminum
  • Iron
  • Total Suspended Solids
  • Nutrients

Restitution for Past Pollution

While the past pollution cannot be undone, stormwater pollution settlements use the money won to further improve water quality — attempting to balance past damage with investments in the future. Different environmental groups apply for these grants, called Supplemental Environmental Projects.

In this case, the funds from the settlement will go to San Diego Audubon Society for its Supplemental Environmental Project called ReWild Mission Bay, a project to enhance and restore up to 170 acres of wetlands in the northeast corner of Mission Bay.

Setting the Standard

When a business is polluting, we always have the goal to work hand-in-hand with business leaders to help them come into compliance. When that happens, it sets a positive example for the industry that following the law is good for business and good for the community. Eventually, this leads to improved industry standards as a whole.

Everyone has a right to clean water — and our enforcement efforts make up part of the solution to creating a fishable, swimmable, drinkable San Diego County for all.

Do beach cleanups do more than just clean beaches?

Written by Kristin Kuhn

Meet Monica, our beach cleanup intern-extraordinaire. She signed up with San Diego Coastkeeper to keep our waters swimmable, but discovered a new passion for volunteering itself. Enjoy her first blog below.

Monica InternIt might surprise you that clean beaches are not the first thing that comes to mind when I think about the benefits of organizing beach cleanups. While the physical evidence of hundreds of pounds of trash is encouraging at the end of each cleanup, there’s so much more to feel great about. Rising early on a Saturday morning to be a part of a community of families, students, and avid beachgoers sparks thoughtful conversations and meaningful interactions accompanied by warm ocean breezes and the fleeting dance of dolphins in the waves.

Surfers dart past you towards the waves in a youthful jog as you assemble Coastkeeper’s signature blue easy-up gazebo, which in fact isn’t so easy after all. A kind stranger always offers a helping hand and you always accept. What follows is wave after wave of passionate people wanting to take action and make a difference in their community. People meet, share ideas and discuss politics all while getting outside and active on a weekend morning.

Only recently have I come to appreciate all the positive effects volunteer work has on a community and myself. Productively working together to better the community, particularly the environment, creates a positive feedback loop; a group of individuals working hard to improve their community benefits the community, the community becomes happier, which builds a stronger bond with their community and drives more to embrace volunteer work to make it even better.

Volunteer work has positive effects on individual volunteers as well. Working outside boosts physical, mental and social well-being. Working with your peers to create a stronger and more sustainable community focuses attention on local problems that directly affect the members of your neighborhood.

As the cleanup is winding down those same surfers emerge from the water, grinning from the adrenaline rush, and offer a smile or kind words for helping to keep our beaches clean. While they are not wrong, they are unaware of the bigger impact that has elapsed during their brief surf session. Beach cleanups do far more than just clean beaches.

Published in Marine Debris

Does Industry and Government Pollute Our Waters? Not If Coastkeeper Can Help It.

Written by Matt O'Malley

Did you know that clean water is protected by law?

A Clean Water Law is Born

Prior to 1972, people across America could pollute waters freely — and without much consequence. It wasn’t until the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire that the EPA decided to do something about the pollution across our nation.

That’s when the Clean Water Act was born. This federal law regulates what industries and government can and can’t do to water that we all share. Though locally the law is implemented by the Regional Water Quality Control Board, actual enforcement is rare.

The Power of the People

The Clean Water Act long ago recognized that the job of protecting our waters was a much bigger task than the EPA or Regional Water Boards could handle alone. In doing so, it created a provision that provides citizens with the right to enforce these water-protecting laws.

This law is the best – and many times the only – tool we have to defend and protect our waters here in San Diego. Sometimes citizen suits are necessary to stop a polluter from harming our water, but often we can transform a polluter to an industry-leading water steward with some cooperation and collaboration.

Cooperation is Key

Today, without Coastkeeper’s stormwater enforcement program, business and government agencies in San Diego County could continue to pollute without consequences for decades. To prevent pollution, our model is simple: find and fix. We identify industrial stormwater polluters and remedy violations using every tool available like the Clean Water Act and the California statewide Industrial General Stormwater Permit.

Since the Government is not actively identifying industrial polluters and bringing them into compliance, we step in by analyzing data and taking proper steps to notify and work with the facility to come into compliance. Our team can pull a business’s mandatory, self-reported water quality data from California’s public database, and at times we may also take our own water quality samples to determine if a facility is doing enough.  This analysis allows us to see if a business has failed to do water quality tests or if its data indicates they are polluting in violation of the law.

Once we identify a business or government agency that is out of compliance, we send them a legal notice required under the Clean Water Act. We also offer to cooperate with them in order to not only protect our water, but protect their business from further legal consequences. Often, industry and government are willing to upgrade their facilities and their practices to the standards necessary under the Clean Water Act to keep our waters pollution-free.  In this way we hope to build partnerships and environmental stewards who bring value to our community.

Coastkeeper’s Role in Pollution Prevention

Our industrial enforcement efforts have focused, in part, on areas where environmental injustice continues to occur.  A few of our more recent enforcement actions have focused in areas such as Barrio Logan, Chula Vista, and National City, where facilities pollute in close proximity to residential areas and into waterways that residents rely on for fish to feed their families.  Often, residents are unaware of the harmful pollution resulting from these businesses in their communities, and the proximity and concentration of industrial pollution near residences and public resources is troublesome.

It’s in our best interest to work with these businesses or government agencies to help them come into compliance. It sets a positive example for industry that following the law is good for business and the community, and can eventually lead to improved industry standards as a whole. Since San Diego’s biggest water issue is runoff pollution, we will need all industries to comply with the Clean Water Act to solve our problem. This takes leadership from our governing agencies like the State and Regional Water Boards, the cities that hold municipal stormwater permits, and the industrial businesses that are part of our community.

Do Your Part

Everyone has a right to clean water, and our industrial enforcement efforts help to create a clean, healthy environment for all. With your help and watchful eyes, we can ensure our waters remain fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.


Published in Urban Runoff

Why We Spend Our Saturdays Collecting Water Samples

Written by Meredith Meyers

wqm-saturdayWe have laws in place to limit industrial pollution and ensure that our water can support all of its uses, from swimming and fishing to hosting endangered wildlife. But without enforcement, these regulations cannot keep our water healthy. That’s where San Diego Coastkeeper comes in.

Urban runoff is the single biggest threat to water quality in San Diego. During the dry season, pollutants build up on hard surfaces like roads and parking lots. When it rains, stormwater pushes the accumulated pollutants into our storm drains. In San Diego, like most of California, our storm drains generally do not connect to wastewater treatment plants, so everything flows untreated into our waters. Pollutants created by industries, like metals and oils, are especially serious because they can be toxic in very low concentrations.

The Clean Water Act is a federal law that lays out the legal requirement for protecting, maintaining and improving the health of our water bodies. It is our most powerful tool for making sure San Diego’s water is healthy because it mandates that all states identify creeks, rivers and shorelines that are severely impaired by pollution.

Unfortunately, state and local regulators often don’t review water quality reports or conduct monitoring to make sure that industries are meeting Clean Water Act standards. San Diego Coastkeeper steps up to make sure that industries are doing everything they can to reduce pollution to our rivers and beaches. We review water quality reports, but that’s only the first step.

San Diego’s local government agencies have limited resources and they monitor infrequently, providing only a snapshot of water quality. To solve this problem, San Diego Coastkeeper also conducts our own monitoring to ensure compliance of clean water rules. We collect and analyze water samples from nine out of 11 watersheds in San Diego County every month. To ensure that our data meets the highest quality standards possible, Coastkeeper follows a rigorous quality assurance and control plan and standard operating procedures that have been approved by our state regulatory agencies. Sounds like a big job, right? That’s why we train over 100 volunteers each year and rely on them to help.

When we find polluting facilities, we use the Clean Water Act to bring them into compliance through enforcement actions. Our goal is to force industry operators to install and use best management practices that will meaningfully reduce pollutants in our waterways.

Want to see what kind of report card your local watershed is getting? Click here to explore a map of the most recent data we have for locations from Otay to Carlsbad.

Published in Urban Runoff

Environmental Donor Spotlight: Why We Support San Diego’s Clean Water

Written by Stephanie Ritter


Eleanor Musick, a past San Diego Coastkeeper board member, and Abe Ordover are some of our favorite San Diego Coastkeeper donors. We sat with them to talk about why they love fishable, swimmable, drinkable water and what drives them to make a difference.

How did you first get involved with San Diego Coastkeeper?

I was part of Athena San Diego – a nonprofit organization that promotes professional growth for women in STEM-related industries – and was taking a course about nonprofits’ board of directors. Jo Brooks, San Diego Coastkeeper’s past board president, sent an email to Athena San Diego about an opening on the board of directors. Abe was already a member of San Diego Coastkeeper, and I knew a previous executive director from the community. I was very excited about joining as a board member.

What excites you most about Coastkeeper?

I am really impressed with the dedication of the staff and board. I love the mission of San Diego Coastkeeper and how the organization combines legal methods with science and education to protect our waters.

What motivated you to start giving to us?

San Diego Coastkeeper is a worthy organization for our support.

What do you wish more people knew about San Diego Coastkeeper?

The great impacts that San Diego Coastkeeper has accomplished over the past 21 years. A few years ago, there was a sediment pollution problem in Encinitas, and it affected my own backyard. I called San Diego Coastkeeper to report the pollution and the staff just ran with it and contacted the appropriate people to stop the pollution. The Water Board acted quickly because Coastkeeper was involved and there was a huge fine for the City of Encinitas. I felt really supported by the staff of San Diego Coastkeeper and, since it was literally in my own backyard, there was a personal interest to stop the pollution and take action… and that is what Coastkeeper did, took action. This example demonstrates the respect that Coastkeeper has and the impact the small organization has in the community.

What outdoor activities do you and Abe like to do when you’re not busy serving your community as board members and donors?

Abe loves to take photographs of nature. I like to paddle board in the ocean and sit near the kelp beds and watch the little critters go by. My goal when I paddle board is to get out and be in the water. Unfortunately, I am always putting trash on my board that I find in the ocean. My general attitude is that if I see trash, I pick it up. I also love to whale watch. I have a telescope that I use to watch the migrating whales.

Will the Trump Administration Destroy San Diego’s Water? We Won’t Let Him.

Written by Matt O'Malley

Who is being put in charge of our nation’s environment?

President Elect Trump has appointed Scott Pruitt, a climate change denier with a history of suing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), to head the EPA. Along with a litany of other promised anti-environment policies and appointees, the new administration poses a real and serious threat to our fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters.

Not to fear. We’re here.

But amidst this threat, environmental activist groups like San Diego Coastkeeper will remain powerful. We rely upon environmental regulations like the Clean Water Act, laws that make the act of polluting a criminal offense, and that are enforced by U.S. courts and citizens. Although Trump may enjoy a sympathetic Congress, he will not be able to wave his hand and nullify the power of the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations set forth by the Obama administration. Why? Because clean water activists like us stand in the way.

With Pruitt in charge, what are the threats to San Diego’s water quality?

EPA’s budgets maybe at risk

With Pruitt, who already talks about unnecessary EPA regulations, we can expect an EPA that is likely to be on the receiving end of significant budget cuts. Without adequate funding and on top of the already reduced budget and staff at the EPA, we may see an EPA that ignores water quality issues and significantly curtails government enforcement of the Clean Water Act. One need look no further than Trump’s own transition website where he talks about reframing the EPA to be focused on “safe drinking water,” while he conveniently leaves out the Act’s goal of achieving fishable, swimmable waters for all. The new administration may accomplish through these cuts what it cannot otherwise accomplish through the slow, facts-based process of rule-making and obstruction.

Necessary infrastructure improvements may not happen

Much of our infrastructure that protects water quality – whether it’s wastewater treatment and conveyance infrastructure or stormwater infrastructure – is beyond its intended lifespan. The cost of replacing that infrastructure to ensure that we have clean water to surf in, swim in, drink is expensive (by some estimates in the hundreds of millions of dollars). As that infrastructure ages, water quality is suffering. If Pruitt’s past actions and statements are any indication, instead of the EPA leading the nation in efforts to incentivize or require infrastructure and action that address water pollution, we can expect an EPA that ignores water quality issues, or, at worst, actively stands in the way of efforts to address our polluted coasts and streams.

More offshore oil — and associated oil spills — may come to our coastline

The EPA under Pruitt’s leadership may be looking to expand oil and gas drilling off our coasts, including the coasts of Southern California, by expanding existing oil extraction industries into federal waters. With oil industry often comes oil spills, which could lead to large-scale disasters along our coasts as we’ve seen in Santa Barbara and the Gulf of Mexico.

We’ll lose ground on addressing climate change

And then there are the longer-term implications, such as losing ground on climate change initiatives, which will guarantee that our coastal resources will change in the years ahead due to sea level rise. Every day we delay implementing national and local measures aimed at curbing greenhouse gasses and addressing climate change and its impacts is a blow to our future. As sea level rises, many of the beaches and breaks we all love will be greatly changed. With what we’ve heard from the incoming administration and with Pruitt’s actions aimed against rules meant to lead to cleaner air, we can expect a retreat from the progress we’ve been making in climate change initiatives.

Here’s one more reason why groups like San Diego Coastkeeper are more important than ever during the next 4 years.

Under President Trump, we may face more serious and emergent threats to our environment than ever before, but we will not back down. With Pruitt’s appointment, we can see some near-term fights that we’re ready to battle to protect our water.

We will remain active in education and community engagement, and we will continue to enforce the Clean Water Act and other environmental laws when government cannot or is unwilling to do so. We will continue to advocate, either through outreach with our decision-makers, or through legal action, for infrastructure projects like stormwater capture projects that create water supply while reducing water pollution in our rivers and streams, along our coastlines, and in our surf breaks. We will continue to work with our statewide representation, California Coastkeeper Alliance, to ensure we protect our water locally and at the state level. We will continue this important work for you and everyone in this region who deserves clean water.

Will you stand with us in 2017 in the fight to protect our fishable, swimmable, drinkable water? Please donate today.

From Matt’s Desk: An Intro to Industrial Stormwater Enforcement

Written by Matt O'Malley

Local enforcement of the Clean Water Act by the government is rare.

This is a huge problem for clean waters in San Diego. But, the Clean Water Act itself recognized that government alone cannot do the job of holding polluters accountable, and encouraged citizens who value clean water to enforce the law on their own. So that’s what we do. This great empowering tool was one of the great victories for the environment some 40 plus years ago.

Today, without our stormwater enforcement program, business and government agencies in San Diego County could continue to pollute without consequences for decades. Sometimes citizen suits are necessary to stop a polluter from harming our water, but often we can transform a polluter to an industry-leading water steward with some cooperation and collaboration.


What is runoff? Watch to learn. Its causes are varied, and we use data and multiple tactics to solve all sorts of runoff pollution, including that coming from specific industries.

We offer to cooperate.

Our staff can pull a business’s mandatory, self-reported water quality data from California’s public database. This allows us to see if a business has failed to do water quality tests or if its data indicates they are polluting in violation of the law. Once we identify a business or government agency that is out of compliance, we send them a legal notice, which is required under the Clean Water Act, and we offer to cooperate with them to help protect our water and protect their business from legal consequences. Often, businesses are willing to upgrade their facilities and their practices to the legal standards necessary to keep our waters fishable and swimmable.

Businesses want to take action.

We love the results we’ve seen from our engagement with companies such as Quality Recycling in Vista. Its staff took action with our legal notice and now the stormwater samples taken at its facility show mostly clean results. We’re glad to see they are now responsible stewards of the environment, and look forward to engaging industry and government to protect our waters from ongoing pollution.

Here’s Your December Drought Update

Written by Matt O'Malley

The numbers are in. California is conserving less water than it needs to. San Diego is doing even worse.

  • California conserved less water this year than last year. In October 2015, California conserved 22.5 percent more than 2013. This year, California only conserved 19.5 percent.
  • In October 2016, San Diego County conserved 12 percent more water than in 2013 — is this good? Not really. In October 2015 we conserved 22 percent more water than 2013. We can — and need — to do better.
  • All local water agencies in San Diego County used more water this October than they did last October.
  • Olivenhain Municipal Water District went from a commendable 25 percent water savings last year to a paltry five percent water savings this year.

Why are we wasting so much water? This is what happens when water agencies stop giving meaningful effort towards conservation. Almost 75 percent of the state is still in drought conditions. 100 percent of Southern California. We need to be doubling down on conservation, not giving up on it.

Drought Rages On, San Diego Uses More Water

Our water authorities rely upon wasteful water use. The more water we waste, the more money they receive. It’s no surprise that, after the state allowed our local water authorities to regulate themselves, they nixed conservation targets and water use steadily increased.

When Governor Brown mandated water conservation, the average goal of local water agencies was a 21 percent reduction in water use. Now that water agencies are allowed to set their own goals, 330 out of California’s 395 water agencies (including all the agencies in San Diego) have nixed conservation goals entirely, dropping the state average to two percent.

Don’t let the recent rains fool you. Drought is our new normal and the future will only be hotter and drier. Using less water is as important as ever to ensure reliable and affordable water for all.

The Latest Drought Stories
New Study: Conservation Saves Energy and Money

The Journal of Environmental Management studied two Australian regions facing water shortages, Southeast Queensland and Perth.

  • Strategy of Using Less: Southeast Queensland invested in conservation and efficiency. They saved big on lower energy costs and achieved a dramatic, permanent drop in water use per capita. Hooray!
  • Strategy of Creating More: Perth invested in a desalination plant. Per capita water use dropped only slightly and Perth paid heavily in higher energy costs. Yikes.

Long term reductions in water use is the cheapest and most environmentally sound way to address California’s water management problems.

How Much Does a New Water Supply Cost?

The Pacific Institute released an in-depth analysis on the costs of the different alternative water supply options available to California. The results:

  • Cheapest: Stormwater capture at an average of $530 per acre foot of water.
  • Most expensive: Seawater desalination at an average of $2,100 per acre foot. (San Diego County ratepayers pay $2,140 per acre foot from Poseidon’s desalination plant in Carlsbad)
  • Middle ground: Water recycling projects, that turn wastewater into drinking water, fall somewhere in between. (City of San Diego’s approved Pure Water project will create 83 million gallons per day of drinking water by 2035)
Couple Grows Fruit Trees and Lush Yard with Zero City Water

Jo Ann and Ted, in Talmadge, tend to hear their neighbors gossiping quietly as they walk by their front yard, “Don’t they know we’re in a drought?!” Jo Ann and Ted do, that’s why their yard, packed with fruit trees and a jungle of colorful plants doesn’t use a single drop of extra municipal water.

Read about the simple, low-cost techniques, available to nearly all San Diegans, they use to grow a zero-water landscape without any gravel or cactus. It’s actually pretty easy.

Coming Soon: Mega Drought

Scientific study says that if carbon emissions continue unabated, the risk of a mega-drought could exceed 99 percent. Cornell Professor of Earth Science Toby Ault tells the Atlantic,

“This will be worse than anything seen during the last 2,000 years and would pose unprecedented challenges to water resources in the region. As we add greenhouse gases into the atmosphere—and we haven’t put the brakes on stopping this—we are weighting the dice for mega-drought conditions.”

San Francisco Bay and Delta Are Quickly Dying

Thanks to transfers of river water from San Francisco’s Delta and Bay to farmland and urban centers in Southern California, scientists report many species in the San Francisco ecosystem are in their “sixth extinction,” environmental science’s most-dire definition of ecosystem collapse.

For the last two decades, the State Water Resources Control Board has attempted to reach an agreement that would protect the ecosystem by diverting less water, but also not upset anybody who doesn’t want to use less water. This has been impossible. The agreement remains stalled while the San Francisco ecosystems near collapse.

You made it through the headlines. Enjoy a GIF.

Sandra explaining urban runoff

Top Five Things We’ve Learned from Water Quality Monitoring

Written by Meredith Meyers

wqm_volunteer_take_samples-1We may not think about it every day, but we all live in a watershed. A watershed is the area of land that catches all the rain and snow, which collects into a marsh, stream, river, lake or groundwater. What we do on the land affects the quality of water for all communities living downstream. So what does this mean? It means our rivers and streams are the report card for a watershed’s health.

San Diego Coastkeeper has been monitoring local waterways since 2000. We assess watershed health on a monthly basis by measuring nutrients, bacteria, and basic water chemistry (temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, etc). We monitor fixed sites in nine of San Diego County’s eleven coastal draining watersheds and use our data to assign water quality scores to each of our sites and annual watershed health reports. Most importantly (perhaps) is that we share these scores with the public by updating water quality information monthly on our website.

San Diego Coastkeeper is the only countywide, routine water quality monitoring program in San Diego, and we’re the largest volunteer-led effort of its kind in the state. We train over 100 volunteers each year to collect water quality data, and by analyzing the data that volunteers collect, we identify polluted waters and reduce sources of pollution.

We’ve learned  a thing or two after 16 years of monitoring San Diego County’s water quality. These are our top five lessons learned.

5.) Urbanization is linked to poor water quality. 
Want an example? See how fertilizers alone hurt our water.

 4.) Nitrates are especially high in Escondido Creek.
At high levels, nitrates can be toxic to animals and humans. The best way you can prevent nitrate pollution in our waters is to limit the use of chemical fertilizers in your yard, or better yet rip up your grass and plant native plants that don’t need fertilizers.

3.) Bacteria levels are really high after a rain event.
Here are ten tactics to keep bacteria out of our waters by preventing polluted runoff.

2.) Drought affects water quality, not just quality.
Ambient measurements help us determine when poor water quality is harming the flora and fauna of our waters.

1.) We could not do this without our extraordinary volunteers.
Each month, 40 – 45 San Diego residents volunteer their Saturday to collect field samples and process them in the lab. During 2014 alone, 194 volunteers gave a total of 1,888 hours.

Be Like Jo Ann And Ted: Create an Oasis and Save Water at the Same Time

Written by Guest Author

Guest Author is Brook Sarson, H2OME

True Water Conservation requires an integrated approach and taking the initiative to be part of the solution. Jo Ann and Ted, in Talmadge, were reluctant to get rid of their front lawn because they did not know what it could turn into, did not want to put something in that required a lot of water and did not like the cactus and gravel look. But, we found a solution that worked.

We arrived at a design including fruit trees, natives and pollinating plants. We installed a 420-gallon rainwater tank that overflows into a basin in the front yard for passive water collection during the rainy season. We put in a simple Laundry-to-Landscape system to provide a consistent supply of water to fruit trees every week. This yard is augmented by good soil and mulch to create better absorption of water and prevent evaporation. In just a year, Jo Ann and Ted have a thriving oasis and more wildlife than ever before (lizards, butterflies, hummingbirds, bees). They have told me that they are amused to overhear their neighbors remark, “Don’t they know we are in a drought?” even as they watch their apples ripen without any municipal water.

Save water and create an oasis by planting drought-tolerant and native plants.

Save water and create an oasis by planting drought-tolerant and native plants.

Generally, with the right combination of strategies, people are seeing reductions by half in their water use. Here are some tips to help you get started at your own home.

  1. Start by REDUCING your water use.
    Get rid of your thirsty landscape so you don’t need water in the first place. This doesn’t mean artificial turf, gravel and cactus, or hardscaping. It also doesn’t mean investing a ton of money in re-landscaping, tanks, or greywater plumbing. Property value can be preserved with the right plants in the right places and some well directed rainwater. Notice a return of butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees to our neighborhoods!
    If you are preparing your landscape for redevelopment and you want to make the best use of your water resources, before you decided on plants and a design, figure out what greywater and rainwater potential you have. Create a water budget. Design your plantings to use the the easiest water to access and at the volumes that are plant appropriate.
    Sometimes, if you can imagine changing some personal habits a little or altering your routines, your water distribution will be more effective! Like changing your shower from a 2GPM shower head to a 1.5GPM shower head. With 20 minutes of showering a day you end up saving 10 gallons a day! That’s 3600 gallons for the year! Not to mention getting the water budget right for your landscape. 40 gallons a day might be too much for a drought tolerant landscape. Better yet, create an outdoor shower to avoid expensive retrofits and let the water go directly to the plants that need them, ending your need for irrigation.
    This can look like many things, but often looks like a 205-gallon tank instead of a 55-gallon barrel. Did you know that a 1000-square-foot roof will shed 600 gallons in just one inch of rain? With 10 inches of rain on average in San Diego, that adds up to a lot of water. Think big for your water storage needs.
    Getting your neighbors and friends involved can make short work out of a greywater or rainwater installation. Host a workshop for your friends and neighbors.
    You just have to learn what your resources are, and make sure you get it done right! Connect with a local expert for a consultation, take their recommendations, and use them as your resource along the way. Buy a good book and follow the instructions. Learn about water budgeting. Take a class and make a friend to skill-share with to get the job done. You can find tons of good resources at
    Sometimes your neighbors don’t want to do what you are doing, but you’d be surprised how they can contribute if you just ask! Like one family who is borrowing their neighbor’s downspout to help fill their 1320 gallon rainwater tank.
    In our community we have some amazing resources. You don’t have to do everything yourself, and often times we all benefit from working together. Bring a friend to a workshop so you each can internalize the parts of the information that you are best at. Get consultations from local experts in creating a water plan, developing a landscape plan, creating good soil, growing food, growing natives. Likely, if we all rely on people who are really skilled at what they do, we can create something far more abundant than if we try to do everything ourselves.
    Did you know that your water footprint takes into account the food you eat? If your food is grown outside of San Diego, your water footprint is higher. Growing food in your own backyard with onsite water (rainwater for veggies, and greywater for fruit trees) means that you aren’t wasting oil to bring the food to San Diego and water, usually imported, to grow your food.
  10. We are ALL part of the solution to creating local water in San Diego.
    If all homeowners in San Diego reduced landscape irrigation by 50% using an integrated approach to onsite water management, we would decrease our imported water needs by 20%, more than twice what the Carlsbad desalination provides for our county by much more energy intensive methods! Plus by rerouting our rainwater into our gardens, we offset storm drain pollution and by rerouting our greywater into our soil, we offset costly infrastructure upgrades to wastewater treatment facilities! If you don’t own your home, talk to your landlord, or your friends who own their homes. Turn the conversation up and the water use down! Join the movement.