water conservation Archives - San Diego Coastkeeper

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.

Analysis
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

How We Help Teachers Grow Future Leaders

Written by Sandra J. Lebron

project-swell-middle-schoolTeachers know that in order to make sure our region has responsible leaders and residents in the future, we must raise a generation of science-minded students with an awareness of our regional water issues and a commitment to conserving resources. Sounds like a challenge to accomplish in the classroom, right? We thought so, too. That’s why we created Project SWELL.

Project SWELL (Stewardship: Water Education for Lifelong Leadership) is a completely free, standard-aligned, K-6 science curriculum about the importance of San Diego County’s water. San Diego Coastkeeper, City of San Diego’s Think Blue and San Diego Unified School District partnered to develop this teacher curriculum complete with models, hands-on projects and field experiences to spark students’ inner scientist, environmentalist or future responsible decision maker, all while reinforcing state standards.

Through Project SWELL, San Diego Coastkeeper provides teachers with training and in-class support including free classroom presentations, experiment kits and lesson plans. From showing first graders how trash from the schoolyard can hurt marine animals to helping sixth graders build their own watershed model, Project SWELL allows teachers to explain local environmental problems while ensuring that students meet Common Core State Standards for English language arts and math as well as Next Generation Science Standards.

During 2014 alone, San Diego Coastkeeper’s Project SWELL experts provided classroom presentations to 2,900 students in San Diego Unified School District and provided Project SWELL science education kits to hundreds of teachers for use in teaching hands-on science to students. In addition to working with San Diego Unified School District, we also provide free environmental literacy and stewardship resources to any and all educators interested in bringing water-based science education to their students and communities through Water Education for All. This includes homeschool groups and teachers outside the district, clubs, scouting organizations, camp leaders, artists and many other informal educators. Click here to browse these materials and download lessons for free.

“Water We” Westview wolverines going to do?: A High School Conservation/Ecology Project

Written by Sandra J. Lebron

Check out this water recycling dataThe challenge: Use the information on the water scarcity problems we face in San Diego to become the solution. That’s what Vicki Binswanger’s Biology class at Westview High School, Poway did. They used our education lessons and website for their class project and the results are very impressive. After learning how scarce our most important resource is, water, they were given the challenge to be a part of the solution. They had to either take action by:

  • Persuading or educating others in their community.
  • Reducing their own ecological impact.
  • Designing an experiment to further understand conservation.

Overall, this small project made a huge impact on the environment:

  • Several students managed to reduce their own water and electric bills, as well as trash production.
  • Other students educated their sports teams and children at local schools as well as persuaded local business people to promote eco-friendly ideas.
  • Many chose to design experiments where they answered their own questions related to the environment.
  • All students used research skills, analyzed data, used critical reading and writing skills and demonstrated scientific thinking. This confirms that environmental education not only promotes stewardship but also increase student’s college readiness.This water conservation report is awesome, check out why.

They also designed a website to share all their projects and titled it the Green Teen.

Ms. Binswanger loved the presentation materials, reports and data we provided. She was impressed with the outcome of the project and how well it reached the students. The project was especially successful in speaking to students that are less inspired by traditional activities because they saw authentic value in what we were doing. Using San Diego’s environmental real-life problems was important to help students connect with their science class.

Big thanks to Ms. Binswanger and her awesome biology class for sharing their project with us. You are a very inspiring group.

Birds Losing Habitat as We Pull the Water Out From Under Them

How is San Diego’s water supply connected to other locations throughout our region? This blog, written by PhD Candidate Alida Cantor, looks at a particular connection: birds at the Salton Sea.

A quick background

The Colorado River supplies over half of San Diego’s water. The Colorado also supplies water for many other users– 25 million people and 3.5 million acres of farmland throughout the entire Colorado River basin. The river is known as one of the most controlled and over-allocated waterways in the world.

In 2003, an agreement (the Quantification Settlement Agreement, or QSA) was negotiated with the goal of limiting California’s over-reliance on Colorado River supplies. The agreement transfers water from farms in Imperial Valley to urban users in San Diego. This means a more secure water supply for urban water users in San Diego, but could have negative impacts for others throughout the broader region — including birds.

a single duck in the water hidden escondido san diego coastkeeper

Birds at the Salton Sea

The Salton Sea, the largest lake in California, is a 400-square-mile salty lake in Imperial and Riverside Counties. Its water comes primarily from agricultural runoff—which means that taking water away from farms means less water flowing into the Salton Sea. This is very worrisome for many reasons, one of which is potential impacts on bird habitat. Less water means receding shorelines and increased salinity, which hurt bird habitat.

The Salton Sea hosts a lot of different types of birds– around 400 different species. This includes several endangered and sensitive species, such as the Yuma Clapper Rail. The Salton Sea supports about 40 percent of the entire endangered Yuma Clapper Rail population so this bird is considered very vulnerable to habitat decline at the Salton Sea.

Other birds at the Salton Sea include eared grebes, cormorants, yellow-footed gulls, and white and brown pelicans. Brown pelicans were once endangered, but their populations have rebounded since the banning of the DDT pesticide. White pelicans are not endangered but a large percentage of them- 30 percent- nest at the Salton Sea. More birds of concern at the Salton Sea include mountain plovers, burrowing owls, and black skimmers, to name a few.

As wetlands throughout the broader region have diminished due to development (about 90 percent of wetlands in California have been lost over the last hundred years), the importance of the Salton Sea as habitat for migrating birds on the Pacific Flyway has grown. Although the Salton Sea experienced large-scale bird die-offs during the 1990s due to avian botulism and other diseases spread by having so many birds in one place, it remains a very important habitat, and every year millions of migrating birds rely upon the Salton Sea as a stopover to rest and fuel up along their journey.

Thinking about what San Diego’s water system means for birds at the Salton Sea shows how we are connected via our water supply to other locations and species throughout the region. The story of our water doesn’t start or end when we turn on the tap.

Water is Too Important to Compare to Gold: Q & A with Waterkeeper Matt O’Malley

With the worst drought in recorded history parching the state, water and water sourcing options are hot topics. In this two part series (read part one), we chat with our Waterkeeper Matt O’Malley, who discusses the Colorado River, future water prospects and much more.

70 percent of California’s precipitation occurs north of Sacramento, yet 75 percent of California’s urban/agricultural water demands are to the south. Please explain this disparity.

DroughtThe climate of Southern California is ideal for growing year round, but, rainwater is severely lacking. There is a long and complicated history of fights over water and water rights between Northern and Southern California.  The defining book on this subject is Cadillac Desert, and I’d urge anyone interested in history and complexity of California water issues to read that book.  Twice.

The majority of our water (about 80 percent) in California goes to agriculture. How can more efficient irrigation practices help our current water crisis?

There are a couple of common sense and practical things that could be done right now to improve irrigation practices. We could use less water and/or grow more climate-appropriate crops. Low-flow irrigation techniques rather than flood irrigation, or capture and reuse of irrigated water when and where possible, are a great solution when irrigation is needed.

What is water reclamation and how does San Diego currently utilize this process?

Reclaimed water is wastewater that is treated to different standards, depending on its intended use. That standard could be appropriate for irrigation or for drinking water. 

The current process in getting this wastewater treated is similar to desalination technology, where water is forced through membrane filters and then further cleaned. This occurs in what is called “purple pipe,” or reclaimed water system, which is what is most commonly used for golf courses or other industrial or commercial activities. 

The problem with this is that it is expensive to treat that water for irrigation purposes, when in practice we should be seeking ways to drastically reduce irrigation needs and develop drinkable water supplies – and we likely won’t have enough water long-term to do both.

California has been utilizing recycled water for many years, yet over one million acre-feet/year is unused. How can increased water reuse/reclamation greatly benefit our local supply?

San Diego Coastkeeper supports large-scale wastewater recycling for drinkable reuse. We believe recycling for irrigation is not the most efficient or environmentally friendly use and would like to see more drought-tolerate or native species planted that require far less watering than lawns, and thus free up any water for potable reuse for our community.

What will it take to get support from the general public for using purified wastewater?

Coastkeeper staff tries clean waterAccording to the newest polls, the public is already there. Not too many years ago many in the public were opposed to potable reuse, but I think now that they understand the technology involved and the need.

Many are quickly coming around to the idea and supporting potable reuse projects.  As potable reuse projects pop up from Orange County to Texas, people realize that all water is recycled water.  Even the water we drink is subject to use and reuse upstream over and over again. 

How much will conservation help us meet our water needs?

Conservation can make a marked difference in helping us meet our current and long-term water need.  Currently, San Diego uses as much as 70 percent of our potable water outside the home (irrigation/pools/etc). 

By localizing our landscapes, planting drought tolerant species and just being much more conscious of our outdoor water use, we can drastically cut our use. Some parts of Australia use 40 gallons per day, where in San Diego we’re more like 140 gallons per day, and they have a similar standard of living and landscapes.  We can likely cut our use by half, if not more. 

What can the general public do to conserve water?

The first step is to be aware of your water use, in particular outdoor use.  As a community we need to be cognizant of our environment and adapt to it, rather than try to have it adapt to us. With even less rainfall likely in the future, this is of critical importance. 

The good news is that there are lots of incentives and rebates offered to help us do this. Take advantage of rebates offered by local agencies to improve efficiencies and remove lawns for localized landscapes that require far less water and irrigation, as this is the biggest use of water by far.

Desalination is one of the ways we can build a local water supply. What are some of the challenges with this technology?

Desalination presents a few challenges. For one, is not very efficient and a great deal of water is wasted in the process. Moreover, the process destroys habitats and kills marine life, along with the fact that brine discharges are concentrated and can impair beneficial uses and water quality objectives. Lastly, it uses a tremendous amount of energy to process and treat sea water into potable water, further leading to climate change and associated negative impacts. If desalination is going to be used, these issues need to be figured out before it becomes a legitimate part of our water portfolio.

According to a 2010 report by the Equinox Center, “Water is likely to be the most critical resource challenge that the San Diego region will face during the next two decades.” What will happen if extra measures aren’t taken to maintain a reliable water supply as population growth continues?

We will need to ration and regulate more, which is likely to happen anyway.  We may need additional infrastructure, which costs a great deal. 

By conserving, we’re saving money on that end, and we’re reducing our dependence on outside supplies. We don’t have an option but to meet these new challenges if we plan on succeeding and surviving as a community.

san diego drinking waterWill water be the “liquid gold” of the future?

It’s far too important to be compared to gold. It is essential to all life, and when it is unavailable, life no longer exists. Gold we can live without.  It is, by far, the most important thing in the world.  Think about when we look for planets that may harbor life, the first thing we ask is whether there is water in any form. The same can be said for our Southwest communities.

Ultimately why should the public be so concerned about our limited water supply in the Southwest? Why is reliable water so important?

It is essential to all life.  Without water, life does not exist and our communities are more dependent on a clean water supply than anything else in the world.  A reliable water supply means a stable economy, which is ultimately required for a stable environment.

We Haven’t Come Close to Meeting Conservation: Water Supply Q & A with Waterkeeper Matt O’Malley

With the worst drought in recorded history parching the state, water and water sourcing options are hot topics. In this two part series (read part two), we chat with our Waterkeeper Matt O’Malley, who discusses the Colorado River, future water prospects and more.

Part 1 of 2

Why is water considered the lifeblood of the Southwestern US?

dry coloradoWater is vital to almost everything we do, in particular the Colorado River is vital to our everyday existence.  The reality is that most of the Southwest is desert, but we don’t live as though it is. Instead we try to make it look and live like regions that get much more rainfall – such as Hawaii or Florida. 

Without water our communities would not exist as they do. San Diego, Los Angeles, Phoenix and the rest of the Southwest, including our agricultural communities, would look much different than they do today.  The major population centers of the Southwest, including Los Angeles and San Diego, are home to about 1/10 of the U.S. population.

Please explain why there is a current water crisis in the Southwest.

There is a drought throughout the west, with California and Nevada feeling the largest impacts.  In addition to the significant impacts of drought, the Southwest has received less rainfall than average, and has for the last several years. This reality has lead to a severe shortage of water, both locally and in the sources available for importation to our region from other parts of the southwest. 

How has the perception of water as a valued resource changed in this region over the last few decades?

To paraphrase John Steinbeck in East of Eden, during the dry years, people forget about the lush years, and during the wet years they lose all memory of the dry years. That seems a constant and definitely rings true today. 

Luckily, an increasing number of individuals and agencies are becoming aware of just how valuable and necessary a resource water is, in both wet and dry years and taking steps to preserve this invaluable commodity.  It is heartening to see people are conserving more and doing more with less, but we can do much better. We have to do betterWhile I know there are also those who are oblivious to the water crisis, I feel confident they will become acutely aware of it sooner rather than later. With longer and more frequent droughts likely (the results from climate change) and with rising water prices, it will be hard to ignore.

A recent study projects that by 2050, climate change will reduce the flow of the Colorado River by 10 – 30 percent. How much will climate change impact our water supply?

Tremendously. With climate change we could very well experience prolonged periods of drought and inconsistent precipitation.  There are studies that show our current drought crisis is linked with climate change.  Water scarcity could easily become the “new normal” for the southwest and California.  It’s important for us to adapt to this new normal and develop conservation and recycling methods to deal with it, and that’s something we’re working on at San Diego Coastkeeper.

The demand for water has historically exceeded the local supply in Los Angeles and San Diego since the inception of these cities. Why has the Colorado River become such a vital resource for Southern California?

I am not certain on all the motivations to use the Colorado River as source, but I can guess that at the time this seemed like an choice full of abundance in resource. Today the reality is that we haven’t come close to meeting our maximum conservation potential, and we haven’t yet developed ways to capture much of the rainfall that does occur here. Historically, rather than treat rainwater as an asset, we’ve treated it as a nuisance, something to be diverted from properties and into stormwater systems. 

The Colorado is our main source of imported water in Southern California because of this gap, based on long-standing water rights and adjudications.  If we can find ways to truly integrate our systems, we can supply a larger portion of our local water needs with local rainfall.

The local water supply in San Diego is currently enough to support just a few hundred thousand residents. Please explain.

San Diego has existing reservoirs designed to capture local rainfall and delivered to customers. But due in part to logistics, reservoir storage infrastructure and lack of local capture and use, we actually capture and use only a limited quantity.  In the future, it’s likely that you’ll see small-scaled capture and rainwater use/treatment systems throughout the desert and coastal Southwest.

California is facing its third dry year in a row. How do droughts like this affect the water supply?

The state has less snowpack to pull water resources from and less snowpack means less water. In the past, snowpack acted as a “natural reservoir.” Currently, with the entire state impacted by drought, what water we were getting from central California is drastically reduced.  The same goes for Colorado River water and a drier environment is more likely to burn, meaning increase wildfires and the water quality issues are closely associated with our current situation, a situation that could be increasingly permanent.

The drought has caused increased groundwater pumping this year. Please explain how we are depleting our aquifers and what this could mean for the future.

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This method of sourcing water has lead to drying up of wells, reduction of water in streams and lakes (due to hydrologic connections), deterioration of water quality, land subsidence and saltwater infiltration into groundwater, among other impacts.

A recent Los Angeles Times poll found that only 16 percent of people have been drastically affected by the drought at home. How will this change in the future if increased drought conditions occur as predicted?

One way that this will almost certainly change is that that number will go up, likely way up. Once mandatory irrigation schedules or other prohibitions become commonplace, people will begin to feel the pinch.  Pricing will continue to rise as water gets more scarce and harder to come by. Sometimes the pocketbook is the place where people feel things the most and get more motivated. That is not far off now.

 

From the Executive Director’s Desk: What’s Coastkeeper doing on water conservation?

dry coloradoWe’re in the worst drought in California’s recorded history–and the City of San Diego has not yet elevated its water use restrictions to Level 2. This is unacceptable.

Governor Brown already requested everyone in the state reach 20 percent conservation, and the San Diego County Water Authority recently approved moving voluntary water use restrictions to mandatory. This vote allowed numerous cities in the region to implement their mandatory water use restrictions and come into compliance with emergency water conservation mandates approved July 15 by the State Water Resources Control Board.

Unfortunately, during an update about its ongoing water conservation program on July 23, City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department Director Halla Razak and a representative from the city attorney’s office reiterated the stance that the City is already in compliance with state regulations. They said that the permanent mandatory restrictions currently in place in the City of San Diego “mirror” the Level 2 drought restrictions that the County Water Authority approved. Sadly, Ms. Razak stated that we should “pray for rain” and plan for allocations.

We know this isn’t right. And we are committed to working with folks at the City, the State Water Board and the County Water Authority to ensure all water suppliers in our region obey the law and do their part to conserve.

Last week, our staff gave public comment during the City of San Diego environment committee meeting to update council members on state regulations that require implementation of mandatory restrictions and information about how the City hasn’t taken necessary steps to address outdoor irrigation scheduling and other key elements of those restrictions.

san diego drinking waterIn addition to comment letters and public testimony, we also partnered on a strongly-worded joint press release with Save the Colorado, highlighting the broader impacts of this decision for the regions from which we draw our water. We identified the current City of San Diego stance as in violation of existing regulations–and in poor taste, considering the broader implications of the drought for the entire Western U.S.

It is our goal to have the City of San Diego understand the requirements and come into compliance with State Board regulations. The deadline just passed, and the need to act is urgent. We have been working one-on-one with decision makers, in public hearings and in the media to achieve this goal.

I invite you to email me or call me (619.758.7743) if you have questions regarding our water supply work or if you’d like to financially support our work or volunteer to support our efforts.

The Power of Confluence

 

We don’t have big rivers. (Head nod to San Diego River Park Foundation, The Escondido Creek Conservancy and their brethren.) We don’t have big rivers like Pittsburgh. For four and a half days recently, Matt and I communed with more than 600 clean water advocates at the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh. These already powerful rivers meet and give birth to the mighty Ohio River, which courses through four states and provides water for 3 million people before it joins the Mississippi River.

It is awe inspiring to see the force and power of the water coursing between the banks of these rivers; as it is to be in the company of so many people with a passion for our work. I recommend to anyone doing a job, pursuing a cause or reaching for a goal to find like­minded people and spend some time together. The River Rally brought together River Network and Waterkeeper Alliance member organizations. We celebrated with a speech by His Holiness The Gyalwang Drukpa, now working with the Waterkeeper Alliance to protect the Himalayan glaciers, which provide some of the drinking water for more than 1 billion people who live downstream. He spoke of his quest to protect this “roof of the world.” And he pronounced joy at the power of togetherness. Now, with the Waterkeeper Alliance at his shoulder, he can be more effective.

San Diego Coastkeeper protects and restores fishable, swimmable, drinkable water in San Diego County. Despite at times feeling like a small force of just five in a town of three million, the truth is that we are one of 219 Waterkeeper organizations throughout the world fighting to protect this Earth’s water. And just as we tap into the experience and expertise of those organizations, we also have numerous local organizations on our team and thousands of volunteers. Together we have a confluence of power.

The Water Authority Misses the Mark…Again

Meier LighthawkIt probably won’t surprise you that as San Diego Coastkeeper’s Waterkeeper I spend a lot of my time thinking about water- the best sources, the best methods and the best ways we can take stewardship for our environment while meeting our serious regional water needs. I probably don’t need to tell you that we live in a region with a drought crisis or that most of our water, 80 percent in fact, is imported from outside of San Diego County.

Lately, I have spent a great deal of time on efforts in the lead-up to the San Diego County Water Authority’s recent vote on the adoption of its Regional Water Facilities Optimization and Master Plan Update (Master Plan). As expected the vote upheld the business-as-usual and environmentally neglectful policies of the past. To the frustration of many, the plan and its accompanying environment and climate change documents fail to address the greater impacts of the region’s water supply system including environmental damage, increasing ratepayer costs, greenhouse gas pollution and climate change.

In addition to the Master Plan, which explores the region’s needs for and options to address water supply through 2035, the Water Authority also approved the accompanying Supplemental Program Environmental Impact Report and Climate Action Plan. Unfortunately the deficient Climate Action Plan will allow for the Water Authority to continue prioritizing water sources that are both energy-intense and environmentally damaging; namely additional imported water and conveyance, and additional desalination plants. I will talk in more detail about cheaper, more environmentally responsible alternatives to desalination, including the City of San Diego’s potable reuse project, in a later blog post. For now, I want to focus on the Master Plan and the supplemental documents.

In the months leading up to this vote, I worked in coordination with other environmental and social justice organizations, known collectively as San Diego Bay Council, which includes groups like the San Diego chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, Environmental Health Coalition, North County Coastal Group, Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation and others. Most of us had been part of this planning process since early 2013 and have repeatedly called on the Water Authority to prioritize conservation and recycling, and implement an appropriate and responsible climate action plan. As evidenced by the vote, the Water Authority has repeatedly declined to incorporate any of this feedback into its plan, noting that it believes it is not responsible to account for the energy use of its water supply strategy, leaving that to its suppliers and customers to sort out. Does that seem fair or responsible to you?

The vote was disappointing in that it shows the Water Authority sidestepping an opportunity to safely and economically usher the region into a much-needed new water supply paradigm.   What seems to have been ignored all together by this plan is the amount of energy it takes to supply water. As approved, the plan misses the opportunity to issue a water loading order, which would prioritize the least environmentally damaging sources of water. This would have led to water supply solutions that better protect the environment and reduce very costly infrastructure needs.

As you can see, its decision also means that the trend continues: lower-cost and more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient water source solutions are being downplayed or ignored to the detriment of our environment and pocket books. In a region so desperate for water, we must assure that our water sourcing portfolio is both diverse and effective while making informed decisions based on a variety of factors including cost, environmental impact, energy intensity, and ratepayer implications.

And let us not forget, another issue at stake is the depletion of one of the nation’s most vulnerable waterways, the Colorado River. Our region’s water needs have contributed heavily to the fact that for the last decade the Colorado River has been drained dry by the time it reaches the Sea of Cortez. The Save the Colorado organization points out that, “While the destruction of the river is a clear and obvious consequence of our actions, additional threats to the Colorado River – from its headwaters in Rocky Mountain National Park, all the way to its dry destiny near the Sea of Cortez – are increasing with each tick of the clock.” Can we really afford to wait to take action?

I want to be clear that, while the vote and other Water Authority efforts have disappointed, they are not the end of the story. We still have power as citizens and the region is brimming with potential. You can help prove me right by donating to our efforts, volunteering for one of our many monthly events to care for our beautiful and bountiful waters and beaches and you can let your voice be heard by contacting your local representatives on the San Diego County Water Authority Board with your thoughts on their totally-off-the-mark plan.

What A Waste: The Hidden Waste of Water Leaks

Did you know that March 17-23 is Fix a Leak Week?

Sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, this week brings attention to water leaks, which are a serious concern, especially in drought- stricken California.

A leak doesn’t seem like a big deal? It is.

  • Each year, more than 1 trillion gallons of water are lost to leaks nationwide. That is equivalent to the annualfix-a-leak-week use of more than 11 million homes. That is a LOT of precious water being lost!
  • Eight percent of the water used in a typical single-family California home is wasted due to leaks, according to a 2011 study.
  • A leaky faucet that drips at the rate of once per second can waste more than 3,000 gallons per year. That’s the amount of water needed to take more than 180 showers.
  • An irrigation system with a leak 1/32 of an inch in diameter (about the thickness of a dime) can waste 6,300 gallons of water per month.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its member agencies are paying extra attention to leak eradication during Fix a Leak Week by offering special classes, promoting home and business water-use check-ups, and giving away dye tablets to help detect leaky toilets.

We’ve partnered with the County Water Authority to make sure you have access to the dye tablets and the valuable information to help you learn about potential leaks in your home. Find us at a Beach Cleanup or visit our office to pick yours up.

For full details on classes, check-ups and other Leak Week offerings, visit www.sdcwa.org/fixaleakweek This is also a good reminder to those of us who call America’s Finest City home that more than 80 percent of our water is imported from outside the area. The single best way to increase local water supply is by using less and wasting none. Check out our other water conservation tips and save some water today.