2013 Water Conservation Film/ Poster Contest for Students

2013 Water Conservation Film Contest for High School Students

Who: The contest is open to all high school students and all college students in the cities of San Diego, Coronado and Imperial Beach.

What: Create a 30-second Public Service Announcement

When: Entries due April 10, 2013

Where
: All contest entrants will be recognized, and the finalists’ films will be shown at a special “Red Carpet Premiere” at the IMAX Theater at the Rueben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park

Why:
The film contest creates an opportunity to engage students directly about the importance of using water wisely, allowing the creativity of the students to inspire the rest of our community to use water more efficiently.

la-jolla-tide-pools-sTheme: Storylines must use one of the following “how-to” messages:
How to “waste no water” by planting native or California-Friendly® plants.
How to “waste no water” by using a rain barrel.
How to show that “wasting no water” is important to San Diego’s economy.
How to create a sustainable world by “wasting no water.

Water Conservation Poster Contest for Students in Grades 1-6
Deadline: March 27.
Calling all students in grades 1-6! The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department is looking for the next Picasso. This year’s theme: tell us how you, your family, your school, or your team “wastes no water.” Fill in the blank: _____ wastes no water and draw a picture of how they use water wisely.

Water is one of our most precious resources and using it wisely is part of keeping San Diego sustainable. A certificate of participation will be given to every student who creates a poster. Prizes for the winners will be presented at a San Diego City Council presentation.
Recognition: Prizes will be awarded at a San Diego City Council presentation in May 2013. Winning posters will be featured in the 2014 Water Conservation Poster Calendar. Winning posters will also be on display throughout San Diego, including:
City Administration Building – Lobby: May 2013
San Diego Watercolor Society Gallery: June 2013
San Diego County Fair – Kids’ Best Art Exhibit: June 2013

Prizes: Gift cards will be given for each grade level for first place, second place, & third place. An overall winner for the Recycled Water Category will also win a gift card.

 

Pueblo Watershed

This is part 3 of a 5 part series of results from our water monitoring lab. If you haven’t read our watershed report, head over here and check it out. In this third part, we are going to take a look at the Pueblo watershed.

The Pueblo Watershed is San Diego County’s smallest, and most urbanized, watershed. This roughly 60 square mile watershed drains into San Diego Bay. The Pueblo Watershed runs through the heart of the City of San Diego and it’s boundaries overlap with portions of the Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and National City. The main creek running through the watershed is Chollas Creek, which has two main forks that run through the most densely populated part of the City. As a result, we have altered and lost much of it’s native habitat. Chollas Creek is straightened, channelized, or driven underground in various places.

Prior to development, the watershed supported a coastal scub habitat that was home to plant and animal species that were tolerant to the long dry seasons we have in San Diego. Much of this habitat has been developed away, transforming to heavy and light industry, parking lots ans strip malls, and houses with irrigated landscapes. Chollas creek itself was straightened, channelized, or driven underground in various places through pipes and culverts.

The extensive hydromodification of the creek has resulted in the loss of almost all of the natural habitat associated with the creek. In fact, the creek is so altered that nearby residents often don’t know there is a river flowing through their neighborhood. Now, only the tributary canyons offer some habitat for animals like the threatened Cactus Wren.Pueblo_Trash_Credit__NASSCO

In general, our monitoring program found the creek has high levels of ammonia, phosphorus, fecal bacteria and trash. These pollutants are signatures of dense urban development. During the rainy season, these pollutants are carried from inland sources into the creek and out to the bay. The nutrients contribute to an excess of of algae growing in the creek and the trash contributes to our marine debris problem. For an good visual of how nutrients can affect water quality, check out this youtube video I made last year. Look at what a difference of a few drops of fertilizer can do water quality.

Fortunately there are a number of organizations trying to reverse this declining trend. Groundwork San Diego, Chollas Creek; The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation; and San Diego Canyonlands are working to restore the watershed’s natural hydrology and habitat. See what they are working on here . The Environmental Health Coalition is working hard on environmental justice issues in the area which will help abate some of the problems the area’s residents face by living so close to industrial and transportation centers.

Local municipalities are a part of the solution, as well.The city of San Diego has developed the Chollas Creek Enhancement Plan to guide it’s and other organizations efforts for repairing the creek. The local cities have also developed an urban runoff management plan for watersheds draining into San Diego Bay that sets up the programs for reducing the urban pollution.

There is a lot of work to be done in this watershed. It’s going to take many years of effort, but I have a vision of a vibrant creek supporting native habitat with parks and trails right in the middle of our city.

Pueblo Watershed

This is part 3 of a 5 part series of results from our water monitoring lab. If you haven’t read our watershed report, head over here and check it out. In this third part, we are going to take a look at the Pueblo watershed.


The Pueblo Watershed is San Diego County’s smallest, and most urbanized, watershed. The roughly 60 square mile watershed drains into San Diego Bay. The Pueblo Watershed runs through the heart of the City of San Diego and it’s boundaries overlap with portions of the Lemon Grove, La Mesa, and National City. The main creek running through the watershed is Chollas Creek, which has two main forks that run through the most densely populated part of the City. As a result, we have altered and lost much of it’s native habitat. Chollas Creek is straightened, channelized, or driven underground in various places.

The extensive hydromodification of the creek has resulted in the loss of almost all of the natural habitat associated with the creek. In fact, the creek is so altered that nearby residents often don’t know there is a river flowing in their neighborhood. Only the tributary canyons offer some habitat for animals like the threatened Cactus Wren.Pueblo_Trash_Credit__NASSCO

In general, our monitoring program found the creek has high levels of ammonia, phosphorus, and trash. During the rainy season, these pollutants are carried from inland sources into the creek and out to the bay. The nutrients contribute to an excess of of algae growing in the creek and the trash contributes to our marine debris problem.


Fortunately there are a number of organizations trying to reverse this declining trend. Groundwork San Diego, Chollas Creek; The Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation; and San Diego Canyonlands are working to restore the watershed’s natural hydrology and habitat.  The Environmental Health Coalition is working hard on environmental justice issues in the area which will help abate some of the problems the area’s residents face by living so close to industrial and transportation centers.

Make an Edible Aquifer

An aquifer is an underground layer of rock, gravel, sand or silt through which water can easily move. This water can be extracted for human consumption through the use of a water well. Aquifers provide natural filtration that helps to purify the groundwater flowing through them. However, not all contanimants are rendered harmless by this purification process, and some pollution can still be found in the groundwater, making it unsafe to drink.

You can make your own model of an aquifer from things found in your grocery store. To start you need the following:

Materials Needed

  • Blue/red food coloring
  • Vanilla ice cream
  • Clear soda pop (7-Up, Sprite, etc)
  • Small gummy bears, chocolate chips, crushed ice or other material to represent sand and gravel
  • Sprinkles
  • Drinking straws
  • Clear plastic cups
  • Ice cream scoop
  • Spoons

Activity Steps

  1. Fill a clear plastic cup 1/3 full with gummy bears, chocolate chips, or crushed ice. This represnts sand/gravel in your aquifer.
  2. Add enough soda to just cover the candy/ice.
  3. Add a layer of ice cream to serve as a “confining layer” over the water-filled aquifer.
  4. Then add more “sand/gravel” on top of the “confining layer.”
  5. Add a layer of sprinkled over the top to create the porous top layer (top soil).
  6. Now add the food coloring to the soda. The food coloring represents contamination. Watch what happens when it is poured on the top of the “aquifer.”
  7. Using a drinking straw, drill a well into the center of your aquifer.
  8. Slowly begin to pump the well by sucking on the straw. Watch the decline in the water table.
  9. Notice how the contaminants can get sucked into the well area and end up in the groundwater by leaking through the confining layer.
  10. Now recharge your aquifer by adding more soda which represents a rain shower.
  11. Eat and enjoy your aquifer!

Lesson adapeted from the Groundwater Foundation.

Coastkeeper and UCSD tackle marine debris sources

ASBS_UCSD_Cleanup2Beach cleanups are one of our volunteers’ favorite programs. Who doesn’t love a morning on the beach with friends and family while helping to solve our global marine debris issue? So far this year, more than 1,000 Coastkeeper volunteers have removed over 2,736 pounds of trash from our coastline.

Impressive work, but still troubling.

Even with many responsible and concerned individuals keeping our beaches free of trash, there’s always more to remove. So where is it coming from? Were all 2,615 plastic bags collected this year intentionally or accidentally left at the beach? Most likely, no.

San Diego is home to 11 watersheds, areas in which all water from rain, creeks, rivers and streams drains into the same location. For San Diegans, that common location is the Pacific Ocean. Water moving through our watershed transports trash left on the ground and moved out of trash bins by wind or animals to the ocean.

To address some of our inland pollution sources, San Diego Coastkeeper and UCSD Environment, Health & Safety teamed  for a cleanup of the UCSD campus. Opting for a morning in a parking lot and inland canyons over a Southern California beach may not seem a fair trade, but what we found might convince you otherwise.

Twenty-one volunteers removed 31 pounds of trash. This included 4,201 cigarette butts. Just as a reference, our 150 volunteers at our Coastal Cleanup Day site at Tourmaline Beach found 130 pounds of trash. They collected 672 cigarette butts. Inland pollution needs a little more credit than we’ve been giving it.

Trash left behind at UCSD can travel all the way to La Jolla Shores. Here, trash entering the ocean is unsightly and directly impacts an Area of Special Biological Significance (ASBS) where pollutants are banned. This area is considered so ecologically important that the state gave this designation to 88 acres at Scripps and 450 acres at La Jolla.

Maintaining the health of our ASBS regions in San Diego is critical but difficult to manage. Impacted by actions not only along the coast, but throughout the watershed, each individual living here has a role in protecting them.

Given the success of our event with UCSD Environment, Health & Safety, Coastkeeper is looking forward to more programs focused on our inland areas to protect our water and coastline. In the meantime, do your part. Help protect the unique and fragile ecosystems we have in our backyard by remembering your actions have an impact, even far from the coast.

Published in Marine Debris

Make a Mini Water Cycle

h20drop-s

The water cycle, also known as the hydrological cycle, is the process in which water moves and changes on Earth. All the water on Earth, whether it’s the water that we drink, the water that sustains the ocean or the rain that falls from the sky, has been around for millions of years. Because of the atmosphere, water molecules are trapped here on Earth for us, and all other life forms, to drink, use and enjoy.

There are three states of water: solid (ice), liquid and gas (water vapor). Water changes from one state to another because of the application of heat.  As you heat up the molecules in ice, it melts and becomes water and eventually evaporates into water vapor. Removing that heat causes water to condense and reverse this process.  This is the water cycle.

You can easily make your own mini water cycle at home using just a few materials. Here is what you need:

  • 1 plastic tub
  • 1 plastic cup
  • 1 small rock or marble
  • 1 roll of cling wrap plastic (or similar)
  • 1 roll of wide tape to seal the still
  • Water_cycleSoil or sand
  • 1 – 2  cups of water

Directions:

  1. Add your soil to the plastic tub.
  2. Position the plastic cup in the center of the tub, partially submerged in the soil for stability.
  3. Sprinkle 1-2 cups of water over the soil.
  4. Seal the tub with cling wrap and tape. Add a pebble or large marble directly above the cup forming a depression in the cling wrap.
  5. Place the solar still in a still and sunny location. Observe your still throughout the day. What do you notice happening?

Follow-up Questions:

  1. How does water get into the oceans?
  2. What are clouds? What are clouds made of?
  3. How does rain form?

Did you build your own water cycle? We want to see! Send us a picture at nia@sdcoastkeeper.org and be featured on our blog.

Are you a teacher who wants to use environmental education lessons in your classroom? Checkout Project SWELL: a school-based science curriculum that teaches children about the importance of the San Diego region’s waterways. The project helps teachers empower students about how to understand and improve the condition of San Diego waterways.

How Do Climate Change and Population Growth Affect Our Water Supply?

While San Diego has a variety of climates, it is overall fairly arid and cannot sustain a significant human population without importing massive quantities of water from other regions. With a population of just over 3 million, San Diego must import approximately 70 percent of its water, mostly from the Colorado River. Our demands for water, however, already exceed the Colorado River’s supply. Compounding matters, anticipated climate change and population growth will combine to exacerbate San Diego’s water supply issues.

Climate Change: Climate change is expected to reduce the Colorado River’s water flow and could have a drastic impact on the supply to San Diego. A study performed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Reclamation projects a nine percent decrease in the River’s water flow over the next 50 years, and anticipates that 40 percent of the time, the region will be subject to droughts spanning five or more years. According to the California Climate Change Center, the availability of water imports from the River to San Diego may decline by 20 percent, with models estimating the actual decline will be anywhere from 6 to 45 percent.

Population Growth: If current population growth trends continue, another 1.5 million people will reside in the county by 2050, bringing the total number of residents to 4.5 million. Increasing humans means increasing demand for water. By 2050, desired water use is likely to exceed current demand by 37 percent increase.

The increasing demand for water, combined with the decreasing supply, makes conservation more important now than ever. There is a lot you can do, including utilizing low-flow showerheads and ultra-low-flush toilets, remembering to turn the water off while brushing your teeth and reducing shower times, or turning the shower off while you suds up. Outdoors, use a pool cover to reduce evaporation, water your lawn in the hours between sunset and dawn when the water is less likely to evaporate and, importantly, make sure you’re watering your lawn instead of the sidewalk or driveway. These are just a few of the ways that you can help conserve water. Click here for more.

Additionally, the City of San Diego provides certain rebates and incentives to residents who implement water-efficient landscaping or rainwater harvesting. Through their program, you can not only save money, but you can also become part of the effort to reduce San Diego’s water demands to sustainable levels.

Go Jump Off A Boat: It’s Swimmable Day in San Diego

Snorkeling for lures.

That’s how I describe my childhood.

I grew up near the McKenzie River in Walterville, Ore. That’s just upstream from Eugene/Springfield area. Every summer my brother and I rode our bicycles to the “beach” on the river a mile from our house. (Yes, I did just call it the beach. You see, in Oregon, going to the beach means playing at the sandy swimming hole on the river). We’d lock our bikes to a tree and head upstream for about a half mile with our snorkels and fins. Just before the little trail hit private property, we’d balance our way out on a fallen tree from which we’d launch into the river. We snorkeled left and right, deep fishing holes and shallow ones too, collecting every treasure we could find.

swimmable

This is not Oregon. This is from a recent hike in the Narrows in Zion National Park in Utah. My early childhood playing in the McKenzie River led me to lifelong pursuits of playing in Swimmable waters.

Occasionally we’d see sunken beer cans and one time we found a wallet with a wedding ring in it. And we’d always see lures. New ones too, that some unexpecting fisherman just bought from the tackle store up the road, only to snag it on a boulder or branch caught underwater.

We’d carefully collect the lures and when we had enough, we’d have a garage sale and sell them back to the same fisherman heading down our street to the best fishing holes in town. What a business model!

It’s because of memories like these that I’m proud to celebrate the Clean Water Act’s 40th anniversary–this federal law helps organizations across the nation keep America’s waters fishable, swimmable and drinkable.

Today, the Waterkeeper Alliance joins to celebrate swimmable waters. Today, I will swim in the ocean.

Here at San Diego Coastkeeper, we work tirelessly to protect and restore fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters in San Diego. We want you to create your own memories about swimming at La Jolla Cove or surfing in Imperial Beach that you can carry with you wherever you live. Because these are the moments that matter in life and will be the stories that we share over a cup of coffee or during a long walk on the beach.

Today, we want you to take a break from signing letters, advocating for water efficiency and worrying about storm water permits so that you can enjoy Swimmable waters.

Go jump off a boat. Kayak into the sunset. Shred a wave. Train for a tri. Today we celebrate the Clean Water Act and San Diego’s swimmable waters.

One small step for City Council; one giant leap for San Diego’s water supply

We’re running out of water.

san-diegp-water-supplySan Diego imports more than 80% of our water supply, with approximately half our water coming from the Colorado River.  As Mike Lee’s recent article in the Union Tribune emphasized, our water supply has passed a tipping point.  The Colorado River no longer reaches the Gulf of California, and the river is over-allocated–meaning that when water rights were handed out, they were based on the wettest years on record.  The only certainty is that imported water prices will continue to rise.

And while we’re running out of water, we’re also flushing approximately 175 million gallons of partially-treated sewage out into the ocean every day.  San Diego has repeatedly sought special permission from the Environmental Protection Agency to let the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant skirt Clean Water Act rules that the rest of the country has to follow about how clean our wastewater needs to be before we can dump it into local waters.  Those rules were passed in 1972, a mere nine years after Point Loma opened.  For 40 years, San Diego has failed to meet the national standard, instead relying on the “301(h) waiver” as justification to pollute our ocean.

But there’s hope.  Yesterday, the City Council unanimously accepted the City’s Recycled Water Study, which lays out a path forward to increase local water supply as we decrease our pollution from the Point Loma Sewage Treatment Plant. As Council member David Alvarez said, indirect potable reuse is “one solution to two problems.”

Indirect Potable Reuse, or IPR, involves hyper-treating wastewater and then injecting it into groundwater or adding it to a reservoir, which ultimately joins the rest of the water supply. The Recycled Water Study sets out several alternatives for offloading over 100 million gallons a day from Point Loma and treating it to create both non-potable and potable water.

San Diego Coastkeeper urged the City Council to accept the study and move forward with implementation. We were joined by friends and colleagues from Coastal Environmental Rights Foundation, Surfrider Foundation, the Independent Rates Oversight Committee, Otay Water District, and the Metro Wastewater Joint Powers Authority.

City Council members spoke with one voice in emphasizing that water supply is a critical issue for San Diego.  Council member David Alvarez, chair of the Natural Resources and Culture Committee, championed the issue, urging that we need to move forward with IPR implementation now. Council member Sherri Lightner, who led the City’s  recent efforts to create a Comprehensive Water Policy, reacted to the recycled water proposal with a simple request: “More, please!”  Council member Marti Emerald recognized the need for San Diego to stop relying on the 301(h) waiver.

Council member DeMaio explained his view that an effective water policy includes water supply options that are (1) affordable, (2) secure, (3) reliable, and (4) environmentally responsible.  He also recognized that all decisions about implementing IPR in San Diego need to be made in the context of the 301(h) waiver and invited environmental stakeholders to the table to discuss implementing IPR in conjunction with addressing pollution from Point Loma.

Council member Todd Gloria highlighted that “we are already reusing our water,” since we are downstream from so many other users, like the city of Las Vegas.  Council President Pro Tem Kevin Faulconer thanked Coastkeeper for our work “consistently nudging” the City to move forward on IPR.

Not only did the City Council adopt the study, but it authorized the Mayor “to refer a prioritization of the key implementation steps… to the Natural Resources and Culture Committee for its consideration.”  This means that the City Council has given the green light to move forward with next steps on IPR, which include determining how costs for the project are split between water and wastewater agencies and customers, figuring out who owns the water, and beginning to design the facilities.

San Diego Coastkeeper is committed, as part of our mission, to ensuring “drinkable” waters here in San Diego.  This means that we will continue to be actively engaged on this issue to make full-scale indirect potable reuse a reality here in San Diego.

 

Is My Tap Water Safe To Drink?

Is my tap water safe to drink is probably the most frequent question I hear when I tell people I do water quality monitoring. Here at Coastkeeper, we monitor inland water quality in our rivers and streams, but I just got my copy of the Annual Drinking Water Quality Report from the City of San Diego.  There is a ton of acronyms and jargon terms, so I thought I’d help you look through it.

Acronyms and Jargon

This box below shows the different jargon terms and acronyms the labs use in their reporting. Here are the important ones:

Acronyms

  • Action Level: For certain contaminates, such as lead, the EPA sets maximum concentrations that are safe levels for human consumption. If the treatment plant tests the water at or above these concentration levels, the facility must take action to fix the problem and lower the concentration levels.
  • CA SMCL – California Secondary Maximum Contaminate Level: These are non-mandatory guidelines set by the State of California. These guidelines are not enforced; there is no penalty for going over them.  They are generally measuring aesthetic qualities like taste, odor and color.  They help the treatment facility operators have something to shoot for.
  • MCL – Maximum Contaminate Level: Much like the Action Level, this sets the maximum level a contaminant can reach in the water.
  • MCLG – Maximum Contaminate Level Goal: This is the real goal of the treatment plant. This is the level at which the contaminate has no health risks associated with it. The difference between the MCL or the Action Level and the MCLG is a bit confusing. Let’s look at lead to see how it works. The action level is 1.3 mg/L but the goal is 0.3 mg/L. The treatment facility wants to get the lead concentrations down to 0.3, but it may be impossible to bring the levels down to that level. The 1.3 is the enforceable standard; the 0.3 is what we would like it to be.

Most everything else you can ignore for now.

Also, since I live in the city of San Diego, I’m looking at its water quality report, but every city in our county will also have one. Use Google to search for your city’s Drinking Water Quality Report or look through your recent mail.

How did the City of San Diego’s drinking water rate?

The drinking water at my house is pretty good! Here are the numbers I’m looking at:

Total Coliform Bacteria:

Bacteria

This is the same bacteria Coastkeeper’s water monitoring program tests. This indicates that there is something in the water that could make you sick, like sewage cross contamination. As you can see, the Maximum Contaminate Level was less than 5% of samples containing these bacteria. On average 0.1% did. That’s pretty significantly below the standards.

Lead:

Lead

The Action Level for lead is 15 ppb (parts per billion) and the goal is 0.2 ppb. Let’s get a visualization of how small a part per billion is. One ppb is about equal to a drop of water in an Olympic swimming pool.  It’s a super small number. Because lead is so toxic, they don’t just report the average concentration. They report the concentration that is above 90% of all the samples (90th percentile concentration). In this case, their tests did not detect any lead at all in 90% of the samples and only 3 total samples had concentrations of above the Action Limit. This test was done at residence’s tap, not at the plant. So this takes into account lead added from old lead pipes. If your house is relatively new, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Odor and Color:

Taste

Odor and color were both either very low, or below the test’s detection limits.  These are not dangerous, but I’m glad our water doesn’t have much flavor or smell.

I personally am not too concerned about many of the other tests, but as you go through the report yourself, you can see everything is generally pretty low and well below the standards set by the EPA or the state.

Would you drink the tap water?

I hear this question all the time, and my answer is an emphatic yes! I drink tap water every day. San Diego’s tap water is safe, clean and inexpensive. The bottled water companies do not have to publish these reports, so I have no idea how safe it really is. Tap water is more environmentally friendly; it doesn’t have to be packaged up in single-use plastic bottles. Bottled water is also more expensive the gasoline whereas a glass of tap water is practically free.