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City College Prof Collects Rainwater On Mt. Helix

Chris Baron purchased a home on Mt. Helix in 2007. The house sat on a half-acre of land, so he would have a rather large canvas to work with when it came to landscaping. He had some native plants early on and eventually bought some fruit trees. He wanted to plant more trees, but watering was expensive. To make matters worse, the state was in the midst of the 2012-2017 drought. In order to increase his orchard, he would have to think creatively. With the help of a friend who had some experience, he stepped into the soggy realm of rainwater collection.

In Bid For Cleaner Water, California Seeks Arranged Utility Marriages

Michael Salazar, in his mid-fifties and on government disability, is the reluctant president of South Kern Mutual Water Company. The tiny nonprofit enterprise supplies drinking water from a single well tainted by toxic substances to 15 homes in an unincorporated community just outside this city’s southern boundary, where almond orchards unfurl toward the horizon. The outgoing president, Sherry Settlemoir, who lives across the street, stepped down at the beginning of 2018 because the duties of the troubled water company were overwhelming. She had to file regulatory paperwork and administrative reports, collect bills, do basic maintenance, and pay contractors. Besides, she has an ill father in Oklahoma to take care of.

Olivenhain Municipal Water District Designated as State’s Medium Recycled Water Agency Of The Year

Olivenhain Municipal Water District (OMWD) was recognized late last month as the medium-sized Agency of the Year by the WaterReuse Association of California. The award honors OMWD’s development of local and regional recycled water resources that conserve potable water, as well as its leadership and its outreach to legislators, regulators, and large irrigators. OMWD was previously recognized by the WaterReuse Association in 2005 as the small-sized Agency of the Year for having significantly expanded its recycled water distribution system. That system is currently generating 14 percent of the district’s demands with recycled water.

OPINION: SB307 Goes Against California’s Water Needs

California is finishing one of its rainiest winters in decades, which leaves most of us pining for less water rather than more of it. But it wasn’t long ago the state was facing a devastating and persistent drought. Rain comes and goes, but this mostly arid state still has a growing population. There’s continual need for new water resources. That’s why we’re disappointed that Sen. Richard Roth, D-Riverside, and Assemblywoman Laura Friedman, D-Glendale, have reintroduced legislation designed to cripple a long-planned water project in the Mojave Desert. Senate Bill 307 prohibits water transfers unless two agencies agree that the transfers do not harm state and federal desert lands.

San Jose Water Bills Could Go Up, Despite Years Of Conservation Efforts

When California’s historic drought mandated that residents take shorter showers, cut back on watering their lawns and give up washing their cars, folks in San Jose did their part to save water. At the start of the drought in 2014, then Gov. Jerry Brown set down a 20 percent reduction target (from 2013 levels) for urban water suppliers. San Jose Water Company hit the mark every year from 2015 to 2018. Further, the water company put in place a “critical water reduction plan” in order to meet a 30 percent water-use reduction goal set by the Santa Clara Valley Water District and residents nearly achieved that goal during 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Santa Barbara declares End To Drought Emergency

The City of Santa Barbara declared an end to its drought emergency Tuesday. The city says the above-average rainfall this winter improved water supplies. Based on current water supply forecasts, the city believes it has enough supply to meet demands through 2021. On Tuesday, the City Council ended its Stage Three Drought Emergency, lifting drought water use regulations. The City Council first enacted the Stage Three Drought Emergency in 2015, requiring 25 percent water conservation initially. According to the city’s website, that conservation number eventually increased to 40 percent. Now that the drought emergency is over, that requirement will be lifted, however, the city will still enforce regulations against irrigation runoff and anyone who fails to repair a leak.

Upgrading California’s Water Grid For Future Needs

Lawmakers recently heard testimony about the needs of California’s water grid at a recent House Subcommittee meeting on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife.  Several experts presented information about the current conditions of western water infrastructure and what will be required going forward. “One of the first priorities is to really think about groundwater as a more active part of this grid; manage it more intensively and actively.  The second piece is fix what’s broken and expand capacity where it’s needed,” Director of the Water Policy Center at the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC), Ellen Hanak told the committee.

San Marcos resident Jeff Moore's landscape makeover won recognition in the 2018 Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: Water Authority

WaterSmart Landscape Contest Seeks Inspiring Entries

The 2019 WaterSmart Landscape Contest invites homeowners across San Diego County to share their landscaping makeovers to inspire and encourage more people to consider their own makeovers by showcasing the beauty and variety of water-efficient landscapes.

The winning landscape from each of the participating water agencies will receive a prize valued at $250 and be recognized in print and online publications. The deadline to apply is April 26. Enter the contest here:

Customers of these local water agencies are eligible: the City of Escondido, Helix Water District, the City of Oceanside, Olivenhain Water District, Otay Water District, Padre Dam Municipal Water District, Rincon del Diablo Water District, City of San Diego, San Dieguito Water District, Sweetwater Authority, Vallecitos Water District, Vista Irrigation District and California American Water.

Jeff Moore stands in his San Marcos front yard featuring his award-winning waterwise landscaping work. Photo: Water Authority

Contest rules vary with each agency, but all entries will be judged on the same criteria. Judges are looking for overall attractiveness of the landscaping including its curb appeal and whether the plants are well maintained; a design with adequate plant coverage and permeable soil able to thrive with less water; efficient methods of irrigation; and climate-appropriate plant selection with minimal turf.

Water-efficient landscaping is beautiful

Raised planter beds and a living wall are features in this award-winning Olivenhain area landscaping project. Photo: Courtesy OMWD

San Diego County residents have embraced the new WaterSmart approach to their landscaping, installing water-efficient gardens and removing thirsty turf in increasing numbers.

One of those swapping turf for sustainable landscaping is San Marcos homeowner Rhonda Holmes. She won the 2018 Vallecitos Water District Landscape District contest. Holmes transformed the landscape at her home shortly after buying it. Her outdoor remodel included replacing the front and backyard turf areas with water-efficient plants.

She designed a garden that was smart on water while being beautiful at the same time.

“It’s really easy to do,” Holmes said. “I’d love to see more people try to do their part.”

The contest aims to inspire residents to consider a landscape makeover by showcasing the beauty and variety of water-efficient landscapes.

Video of 2018 Vallecitos Water District winners

Many previous winners have taken advantage of the San Diego County Water Authority’s free WaterSmart landscape makeover classes to help them successfully create and complete their projects. More than one million square feet of turf has been targeted for removal by course participants, generating a water savings potential of 36 million gallons annually.

Interested residents can learn about the next series of Landscaping Makeover classes and register on the WaterSmartSD website.

In addition to the benefits of reducing water consumption, water-efficient landscaping can improve a home’s curb-appeal and value, and reduce the need for costly, time-consuming maintenance. Many native plant selections also have fire-resistant qualities and provide habitat for local wildlife.

Outdoor watering accounts for roughly half of statewide urban use, and more in inland areas, according to a Public Policy Institute of California report. Savings can come from installing more efficient irrigation systems and replacing thirsty lawns with less thirsty plants.

OPINION: California Can’t Save Fish By Diverting More Water From rivers

Recent decades have brought the slow collapse of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta and its salmon runs. A half dozen species face extinction. Lacking natural flushing, the Delta now suffers outbreaks of toxic algae. The salmon fishing industry suffered a shutdown in 2008 and 2009, which cost thousands of jobs. Science points to a clear cause: inadequate flows caused by excessive diversions. In some years, 90 percent of the Tuolumne River is diverted, leaving only 10 percent for salmon and the Bay-Delta. Every Central Valley salmon river also suffers from over diversion in many years.

State Wetlands Policy Returns To Original Intent

More than a decade in the making, a new state definition of wetlands will likely take effect early next year—as will procedures intended to protect them from dredge-and-fill activities. The State Water Resources Control Board adopted final amendments to the state wetland policy last week, after including changes that moved it closer to its original intent of limiting its application to agriculture. The California Farm Bureau Federation and other agricultural groups had opposed earlier drafts of the State Wetland Definition and Procedures for Discharges of Dredged or Fill Material to Waters of the State, because they would have unnecessarily harmed farmers’ and ranchers’ ability to manage their land responsibly.