Staying Safe and Staying Green

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part four of our five part blog series (see part one and two, three and five) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

In the last post, we went through some ideas to protect the environment while tidepooling!  Today, we will see some tips on how to protect ourselves during our explorations while still being envrionmentally friendly.

Safety Guide

Tidepooling is usually a safe activity, for all ages; however, you can get yourself hurt if you are careless. Here are some safety tips, based on my own experiences in La Jolla Shores, I would also like to share with you:

  1. Stay away from the cliffs.
    La Jolla Shores is a special place, and one of the things that make it special are the cliffs. They are dangerously beautiful – rockfall is a constant threat.
  2. Watch out for waves.
    They can hit you by surprise and can even sweep you off your feet! Always keep an eye for the sea; La Jolla usually has short waves, which lead to a false sense of safety. Don’t stay near rock edges.
  3. Wear closed and sturdy shoes. 
    Rocks, mussels and barnacles can be sharp – protect yourself. Wear comfortable clothes.
  4. Know the tides beforehand.
    You may became stranded by the rising tide.
  5. Mind the algae.
    Some algae are very slimy, therefore slippery, don’t step on the algae or you can fall.
  6. Protect yourself from the sun.
    Apply sunscreen often and generously. Wear protective pieces of clothing and don’t forget your hat.
  7. Go in the winter!
    Take advantage of San Diego’s mild winter, when you can enjoy the lowest tides. You will be able to see so much more!

Greener Habits Guide

Now that you know how to be safer in the tidepools, it is time to be greener! What you bring to the beach is a big part of this, and choosing environmentally friendly alternatives to the products you usually bring. It is noticeable that while advertising tries to sell us the most expensive and high-tech, the best solution is often cheap and/ or homemade.

Sunscreen that is good for you and the environment. 
You already know that you have to use it and probably how to use it effectively. Yet, some heavy chemistry goes in this products to defend skin from the sun, and there is evidence that this can cause harmful effects in wild organisms.  You can choose biodegradable sunscreen or avoid high toxicity components to minimize effects.  Environmental Working Group has compiled a list of toxic components. Sprays and powders spread chemical particles everywhere – creams are a better option. You can also avoid very high SPF, as it can be more toxic.

Reduce single use plastics 
Snacks like cereal bars are handy, but they can contain high levels of sugar and come individually packaged, often with non-recyclable materials. Fruit is often the best solution-healthy, tasty, and biodegradable. I prefer reusable bottles for water and/or homemade juices instead of sodas and juice boxes with those individually wrapped plastic straws that often are gone with the wind.

It’s tidepooling time!

Now that you have your backpack ready and know how to be safe in the pools, it is time to go outside explore the wildlife of the shore. Just don’t forget the tidepool rules we learned on the last post. With this information, you will be up to a great time, without causing much impact on nature. Experiencing natural habitats is great way to create an environmental conscience. It is everybody’s obligation to protect these habitats, so we all can visit and enjoy.

Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

Published in Marine Conservation

Marine Ecology 101

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part two of our three part blog series (see part onethree, four and five) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

Before we go exploring the tidepools, let’s learn a little bit more about this habitat.

tidepool-zonation-sdck

Many species live in the narrow band between the sea and the land. Some of them make rocks their home because of the support it provides for them. These creatures are subject to many hardships: they have evolved to endure desiccation, wave impact, and insane temperature changes. Because of this they often have hard bodies with shells or calcareous (a hard, cement-like substance) deposits. Tidepools are filled with competition. Space is scarce on the rocky shore and the organisms are constantly fighting for it. They try to outgrow each other and often get creative to find new spaces. They also have to protect themselves from wave impact which is why they are often strongly attached to rocks.

The lower parts of the rocky shore are occupied by algae and other organisms that are willing to stay underwater most of the time. The higher parts are full of limpets (#8 on illustration) and barnacles (#3 on illustration) that are able to survive long periods with out water, also known as desiccation. The level of exposure to the waves and other environmental factors results in zonation of the tidepools.

Stronger organisms live in parts of the tidepools exposed to stronger waves (High Tide Zone) while fragile ones hide in protected areas (Low Tide Zone).

The zonation is very important to keep the balance of this amazing coastal ecosystem. The food web (who eats who) in the tide pools is quite complex — it consists of many levels and many different predators. As a consequence, each species has adapted to a different strategy to obtain food, creating rich and beautiful biodiversity.

tide-pool-tramplingFragile Beauty

All this ocean beauty could be menaced by our activities.

Walking (trampling)
The constant stepping on top of rocks removes their algal cover and destroys the tide pool community.

Collecting
Collecting animals or even empty shells can leave the hermit crabs homeless.

Urban runoff
After it rains, the sediments and pollutants from the streets can be deadly to the tidepool creatures.

Trash
Our trash can enter the tidepools and cause damage. We need to take action to protect the tidepool communities.

The tidepools house many living creatures — when we explore them we are only guests. In the next posts, we will see what it takes to be good guests. We will talk  about “house rules”, and the ways to take care of ourselves while in this beautiful wild place.

Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

Published in Marine Conservation

Five Ways to Make a Difference

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Looking for an easy way to help improve San Diego’s beaches, bays and rivers?

volunteer san diegoHere at San Diego Coastkeeper, we take tremendous pride in our efforts to protect our fishable, swimmable and drinkable water in San Diego; however, protecting all that water is no easy feat. We are grateful to all of our supporters who come out to events or donate to our cause. Now with help from businesses and other outlets there are more ways for you to make a difference. Below are five easy ways to help us make a big impact throughout San Diego.

  1. Make an Online Donation: Your contribution will help continue the fight to protect swimmable, fishable and drinkable waters in San Diego County. You can give a one-time donation or you can give the gift of clean, plentiful waters by giving a membership to yourself or your loved ones. Give Here.
  2. Ralphs Reward Card Community Contribution Program: Now, you can shop for groceries and donate to Coastkeeper. Thanks to Ralphs Community Contribution Program, every time you use your Ralphs Rewards card, a portion of your purchase will automatically be donated to San Diego Coastkeeper when you enroll in its Community Rewards Program. So go on, shop at Ralphs today – and don’t forget your reusable bags! Enroll Here.
  3. Thrivent Financial for Lutherans Choice Dollar: Thrivent Financial for Lutherans, a financial services organization, is giving back! When you become a Thrivent Financial member, you can help support Coastkeeper through their Choice Dollar program. This program is member-based and allows members to allocate their Choice Dollars to partnering nonprofits like Coastkeeper. Become a Member.
  4. Amazon Smile: Amazon.com. The one-stop-shop online store with all you need, and now your shopping can benefit Coastkeeper. Amazon Smile will donate 0.5% of your purchase when you choose San Diego Coastkeeper as your charitable organization. All you need to do is remember to go to smile.amazon.com when shopping online. Sign In Here.
  5. Attend an Event: Whether it is cleaning up your local beach on a beautiful day or attending one of fundraisers, Coastkeeper provides a range of volunteer and donation opportunities that everyone can enjoy. Check them out here.

Cultivating Stewardship Downtown

Written by Kristin Kuhn

SMARTSfarm2After a long time on the waiting list, my mother and I received custody of a large wooden box full of dirt that sits in an old vacant parking lot in East Village. We were thrilled. Of course, it isnʼt just any parking lot, and isnʼt just any dirt. Both belong to the labor of love that SMARTS Farm, one of San Diegoʼs newer community gardens, and one that also provides hands-on education for underserved youth. When you are standing in the farm, it is nearly impossible to see it as the parking lot it once was, such is the transporting nature of being surrounded by raised beds full of dark green chard, dwarf citrus trees, newly planted tomatoes and the scent of fresh soil.

Having grown up in Montana, tending to our extensive vegetable and flower gardens was the after school or work and weekend responsibility of each and every member of my family. Willingly or begrudgingly, taking care of what surrounded and sustained us was expected and unquestioned.

I truly believe this is why, as odd as it may seem to some, that even now, nearly a decade after leaving Montanaʼs rich black soil for life in downtown San Diego, I still sometimes want nothing more than to vacuum my apartment and water my houseplants as soon as I get home from work, even when the couch is calling. These are the small acts of stewardship that now keep me connected to my immediate environment. It is as if by vacuuming the floor or pulling weeds from our new garden bed, I am saying to the space around me, “I am yours, you are mine, we take care of one another.” The act of caring for something is what makes that thing your own.

SMARTSfarm1All this, of course, is exactly why I love the work I do for San Diego Coastkeeper. As community engagement coordinator, it is quite literally my job to support and enable this crucial connection between people and their local environment. Every volunteer opportunity we post is a way to take care of what is ours as San Diegans.

They may not always feel like grand, romantic gestures of love and devotion, but they count.

Thatʼs the thing: Picking up someone elseʼs cigarette butt or discarded plastic water bottle off a beach is not glamorous. Scrambling down a riverbank littered with forgotten refuse beneath an overpass to take a water sample from a polluted urban stream is not the way many of us would visualize our perfect Saturday morning. But these are acts of devotion that express our gratitude for what we have.

Coastkeeper is committed to protecting our water resources for all of us, but I am consistently amazed and grateful when I see just how SMARTSfarm3many of you out there are willing to give your precious free time to share in this commitment with us. To put our hands in the sand is to make a piece of the coastline more than a pretty picture on a postcard of San Diego, it is to make it our own.

For more information about SMARTS Farm, please visit http://humanesmarts.org/farm/.

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

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

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.

Teaching Kids What Bugs Can Tell Us About Water Health

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Bio means life. Bioassesment means the study of life and living organisms–and we’re full force with our bioassessment program in San Diego County. Bioassesment helps us understand the health of a lake, river, stream or ocean by looking at the organisms that survive there. Scientists have used many different organisms to test water quality; including, mussels, fish, and our favorite, insects.

water-health-san-diego-county

Insects represent the majority of living creatures. In fact, there are more than a million species of insects. And they are found in many different places because they can survive in a wide diversity of habitats. Insects have special body parts that help them to survive. They all have a segmented body including head, thorax and abdomen. Some can fly, some can swim, and some can fit between very small crevices. These are just some examples of the eccentricities that help these clever creatures survive. Some of them eat live plants and animals, while others prefer their food dead. Some like to decorate themselves to blend in or have an extra “cover” for protection.

Why are there so many insects? What can their presence or absence tell us about the health of a stream? These are questions that can be answered when we pay attention to these incredible creatures.

Why do we study the insects in our streams, creeks and rivers?

Some of the insects can live only in very high water quality, while others can live in fair or poor water quality. This means, the insects that you find tell you if the waters are fair, poor or high water quality.

water-health-san-diego

How do we know if the presence of certain insects indicates good water quality? The insects are classified by their tolerance to certain water conditions. Insects with a low tolerance (0-3) are considered to be very sensitive to decreased water quality.
Insects with a high tolerance (6-10) are considered insensitive to decreased water quality. So if you can find bugs with low tolerance in your streams that’s very good news!

Who are the usual suspects of fair or poor quality?

  • Syrphidae “Hoverflies” – 10

Who are the bugs that like high water quality?

  • Chloroperlidae “Stoneflies” – 0-1
  • Leuctridae “rolled-winged stoneflies” – 0
  • Glossosomatidae “caddisflies” – 0-2
  • Odontoceridae “Mortarjoint casemakers” – 0

What is the educational value of bioassessments?

Identification/Classification

Students can use several field guides to identify the insects and other creatures in their waters and relate their presence to water quality. Studies can range from basic identification to taxonomy, to collecting and identifying bugs. All of these activities are fairly easy and will teach students to use a key.

Adaptations/observation

Students can examine the insect’s mouth with a magnifying glass and infer to which functional feeding group the insect belongs. The students can then explore where the insect exists in the food web and what it needs to survive. For example, a shredder needs leaf material to fall into the stream and a grazer needs algae. Here is a helpful resource on functional feeding groups.  

Zonation (Where does it live?)

Use location to answer questions about water quality. For example, where in the stream do you find certain species and is this related to certain water conditions (low oxygen, low pH, high temperature…)? This could work for both project based-learning and science fair projects.

English Language Arts and Arts & Crafts

Students can create their own bugs and tell their stories. What are the special body parts or behaviour “adaptations” that help them survive?

Volunteer Oppotunities

Volunteer with scientist groups or participate in International Rock Flipping Day, on Sunday, September 9.

More Resources and a very big THANK YOU to the California Digital Reference Collection for the rights to use their photos in our blog.

http://www.riverscienceinaction.org/content/curriculum-packet-2-0
http://watermonitoring.uwex.edu/wav/monitoring/index.html
http://water.epa.gov/learn/resources/upload/2008_12_08_learn_science-projects.pdf
http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/swamp/docs/cwt/guidance/351e_bugstogo0414.pdf
http://www.dfg.ca.gov/abl/Lab/california_referencecollection.asp

The Dos and Don’ts of Snorkeling

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part five of our five part blog series (see part onetwo, three and four) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

Hey, everybody! Here I am for the last of the posts in this series (insert your own dramatic music here) about the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. This time to talk about snorkeling etiquette. Although this is a low impact activity, snorkelers – who flock to La Jolla Shores – can cause significant damage. In order to prevent this, we can follow snorkeling etiquette similar to the tidepooling. Be sure to take care of your safety by making sure you know the basics of snorkeling and are well prepared before you enter the water.

1. Check that your equipment is well adjusted before entering the water.

2. Check the water and weather conditions.

3. Always go with a friend – it is safer and so much more fun.

4. Use sun screen. Sunburns hurt.

5. Please don’t disturb sediment/sand. This can cause harm to defenseless sea creatures by burying them.

6. Be careful while swimming. The waves can throw you like a rag doll, pushing you against rocks and other people. Algae can block your visibility and impede your swimming. More info here.

7. It is very important to retain your energy and stay close to the shore, especially if you are not a strong swimmer.
snorkeling-sdck
8. Pay attention to your surroundings, as you may encounter other swimmers, boats, and even sea mammals.

9. Don’t forget to take your trash away. Be mindful of your gear and don’t forget it on the beach.

10. Wash all your equipment and let it dry for some time, before you visit other bodies of water. By doing so, you minimize the chances of carrying an invasive species with you.

You are key in preventing impact in a rich and beautiful environment like the tidepools. We can’t risk losing such an iconic, ecological, and economically important habitat – all the effort taken to protect the tidepools and other marine habitats will pay off in the end.

See you at the cove!

Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

Published in Marine Conservation

Tidepool Dos and Don’ts

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part three of our five part blog series (see part onetwo, four and five) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

Tidepooling is a great way to explore the outdoors and learn about nature. The gorgeous sea anemones, abundant mussels and luscious algae are great teachers of ecological relations in the sea (and can turn into beautiful pictures for Facebook). However, tidepooling can have a negative impact on the organisms that live there. Even though tidepool organisms are incredibly strong, they are still sensitive to human activity — you can kill several organisms in a single trip!

Tips To Reduce Your Impact

This isn’t the ultimate guide on tidepooling. You still need to use your good sense to navigate the pools. Here are some tips to help conserve the tidepools:

DO: 

too-close-wildlife-sdck

  1. Know before you go.
    Learning about marine life is a great way to prevent risks and increase enjoyment. Different places have different organisms and types of rock. These will change the way you need to behave. You can learn more at San Diego Coastkeeper’s website or California Marine Protected Areas website.
  2. Take only pictures
    Don’t take any shells, pebbles and organisms with you.  La Jolla is a Marine Reserve which means all of these are protected by law. It’s a temptation, I know; they are so pretty.
  3. Watch animals from a distance
    Bring your binoculars and camera; you will be able to see more without getting close! Because they are protected by law, you shouldn’t approach marine mammals. They can get aggressive if they feel cornered or threatened – have you seen how big they can be? You don’t want one angry at you.
  4. Leave your pets at home
    They may be attacked or chased by wildlife.
  5. And finally, take your trash with you.
    Bring a bag and keep this place beautiful for everyone!

 DON’T:tidepool-sdck

  1. Don’t touch animals
    Sea animals are divas: look, but don’t touch. Touching can cause damage and/or stress to the organism. You can also get hurt. If you feel that you really want to touch the organisms, Birch Aquarium has a pool where you can touch them.
  2. Don’t overturn rocks
    The rocks protect fragile and shy creatures; by overturning them, you are exposing animals to the elements.
  3. Don’t feed or try to attract animals
    The animals can become reliant on humans. Human food can make animals sick too.
  4. Don’t destroy or damage the landscapes
    Be mindful of the next tidepoolers.
  5. Don’t step on organisms
    Watch your step; avoid stepping on delicate marine life or dislodging animals. Trampling is one of the biggest damages of tidepooling; it can potentially change the pool community.

I hope that these tips help you to enjoy your time at the tidepools. I hope it also helps to diminish the impact in the sea life. Given how many people visit La Jolla Shores each year, keeping good tide pool etiquette is the only way to make sure that future generations will enjoy the same beautiful tide pools we enjoy today. Still have questions? Check out these other tidepooling guides: California State Parks BrochureMarine Wildlife Viewing Guidelines, and Whale Watching Guidelines.

 Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

Published in Marine Conservation

La Jolla Beaches: What You Need to Know

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

Welcome to part one of our five part blog series (see part twothree, four and five) on the best ways to enjoy San Diego’s very own ASBS and Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. La Jolla Cove and La Jolla Shores are both protected areas — the Cove and Shores are both classified as Areas of Special Biological Significance and La Jolla Shores is also a marine reserve known as the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve. These posts will show you how to enjoy these special places while not harming those that live there. 

Hello, my coast-loving friends! This is the first of a series of posts about the Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve and how to enjoy the best of the tidepools, while protecting our coast. A tidepool is a rocky habitat on the coast, squeezed between the waves and dry land. It is a somewhat extreme place to live on, but it’s great to explore. The activity of exploring the tidepool is called tidepooling.

La Jolla Shores is one of the busiest beaches in San Diego with its waters used by tourists and locals alike. It features bounded rocky formations, both in the North and in the South, where tide pools form during low tide. These are great places to watch the sea-life; to observe the lives of tiny animals and see the connections between different species and the elements. la-jolla-shores-sdck

During winter, low tides are much lower, creating the best conditions for tidepooling. However, during summer, the tides are higher and the water is warmer, creating perfect conditions for snorkeling. The best place for snorkeling is the rocky formations at the south of La Jolla Shores because the waves are smaller. Groups of snorkelers often flock to this area, looking for sea-life and unique rock formations.

Less known is the fact that La Jolla Shores is part of the of Matlahuayl State Marine Reserve (SMR) and subject to several rules and protection measures. Unlike in the Scripps tide pools, there isn’t a sign telling the beach-goers about the status of the area. 

According to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, a State Marine Reserve is a demarcated area to protect part of the marine environment, where “is unlawful to injure, damage, take, or possess any living geological, or cultural marine resource, except under a permit or specific authorization from the managing agency for research, restoration, or monitoring purposes”. It is the most restrictive of marine protected areas – you shouldn’t take anything but pictures.

Educational and recreational uses are encouraged, as long as they don’t damage the environment, so enjoy! There is so much you can do in La Jolla Shores: swimming, kayaking, surfing, snorkeling, tide pooling, or just chilling on the beach.

In the next posts, we will talk about two great ways to enjoy the reserve; tidepooling and snorkeling, and learn the best ways to reduce our impact and enjoy ourselves safely during these activities.

Written by Thais Fonseca Rech

 

 

Published in Marine Conservation

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

Written by San Diego Coastkeeper

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.