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Making plans and preparing a checklist before you start digging can help you stay on track and achieve your landscaping goals. Photo: Pixabay

Use Our Sustainable Landscaping Project Checklist

When you’re beginning a sustainable landscaping project, it can be challenging to remember all the things you need to consider along the way. Use our Sustainable Landscaping Guide Project Checklist to stay on track and achieve your goals.

  • Take the steps you need to prepare your property.
  • Make all your plans before you start digging.
  • Create your plant design.
  • Begin your project installation including your new plants.
  • Update and adjust your new irrigation system
  • Establish and steward your new landscaping.

And most of all, take time to admire and enjoy your new yard!

Download the project checklist on pages 53-56 of the Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook, and refer to them when you aren’t sure how to proceed.


This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

OMWD Board President Ed Sprague with 2019 poster contest winners (L to R) Sayla Egger, Addison Bowe, and Delaney Owens. Photo: OMWD Water Awareness

Encinitas Students Take Home Honors in OMWD’s 2019 Water Awareness Poster Contest

Olivenhain Municipal Water District’s Board of Directors recognized the winners of the 2019 North County Water Agencies Water Awareness Poster Contest at its May 22 meeting.

Fourth-grade students living or attending school within OMWD’s service area were invited to enter the contest earlier this year. The top three posters all hailed from Mrs. Goyette’s class at Flora Vista Elementary in Encinitas.

Sayla Egger’s first-place poster features a superhero pup and encourages people to conserve water by recycling it.

Sayla Egger’s first-place poster features a superhero pup and encourages people to conserve water by recycling it. Photo: OMWD

Sayla Egger’s first-place poster features a superhero pup and encourages people to conserve water by recycling it. Photo: OMWD

Addison Bowe, the second-place winner, designed a poster that highlights the connection between water conservation and pollution prevention.

Addison Bowe, the second-place winner, designed a poster that highlights the connection between water conservation and pollution prevention. Photo: OMWD Poster Contest

Addison Bowe, the second-place winner, designed a poster that highlights the connection between water conservation and pollution prevention. Photo: OMWD

The poster that received third-place honors was created by Delaney Owens and portrays a side-by-side comparison of a world with water and a world without.

The poster that received third-place honors was created by Delaney Owens and portrays a side-by-side comparison of a world with water and a world without. Photo: OMWD

The poster that received third-place honors was created by Delaney Owens and portrays a side-by-side comparison of a world with water and a world without. Photo: OMWD

Contest encourages students to think about the importance of using water wisely

“We are fortunate to have such talented young artists in our area,” stated OMWD Board President Ed Sprague. “The annual poster contest is a great way for them to show off their talent and gets students thinking about the importance of using water wisely.”

The annual poster contest asks fourth-grade students to use their imaginations to create images that raise awareness on water-related issues. This year’s theme was “Be Water Smart.” The competition has occurred on a yearly basis for 26 years, and is an opportunity to teach students that everyone can take actions to use water efficiently, regardless of age.

Each winner received a prize along with a certificate of honor. North County water agencies will feature the winners’ artwork in their 2020 Water Awareness Calendar which will be available for free from OMWD later this year. The images will also be displayed in OMWD outreach material and on district vehicles.

 

Setting Your Landscaping Objectives for Success

When you’ve taken the time to learn about the concepts behind the watershed approach to creating a healthy and sustainable landscape, you should step back and consider the goals you want to achieve in your garden.

If you’re facing an ocean of grass lawn and you’ve never given much thought to landscaping goals, it might be difficult to know where to start. Here are a few ideas.

Saying goodbye to grass

Remove a thirsty lawn without using any chemicals, in a way that preserves the healthy soil microbes.

Plant local California native plants that will attract birds, butterflies, and bees for pollination.

Create a child or pet friendly garden without thorns or sticky grass seed heads.

Plant fruit trees, edible vines and shrubs, or vegetable gardens.

Using water efficiently

Build healthy living soil that will act like a sponge, even if it rains a lot.

Capture all the rainwater from the roof and re-routing downspouts to fill rain barrels instead of running onto hardscaping.

Convert spray irrigation to micro or drip irrigation, with the intention of turning it off after establishing low-water use landscaping.

Make pathways and driveways more permeable.

Create a garden as a personal art gallery

Make room for a small patio with room for an outdoor table or seating.

Add pathways, Zen gardens, and interesting materials and patterns.

Integrate beautiful objects such as an art piece, interesting container collection, or items like sundials.

One goal we can all support: creating a beautiful sustainable landscape that reduces your water use by 70 percent or more.


This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Prospective students tour the Cuyamaca College Water and Wastewater Technology lab facilities during a recent open house. Photo: Water Authority

Aging Water Workforce Spurs Industry Recruiting Efforts

A flood of water industry professionals nearing retirement has prompted local agencies to form a task force charged with assessing ways to develop the water workforce of the future. Education leaders are stepping up outreach to fill their career training programs, and water agencies are looking for new ways to attract employees.

“For many years now, we’ve been talking about the ‘Silver Tsunami’ of aging baby boomers who are going to be leaving the workforce, but it really is coming to fruition now,” said Don Jones, who helped spearhead Cuyamaca College’s new Center for Water Studies housing the college’s Water & Wastewater Technology program. “Almost one-third of water industry professionals will be at or nearing retirement age in the next few years. When you combine that with the fact that the unemployment rate is already at record or near-record lows and other industries are facing the same challenges and going after the same people we are, we have some serious work to do.”

Those concerns have spurred the San Diego County Water Authority and other agencies to convene a regional task force comprising utility directors and general managers, which has been meeting for months to assess workforce-related challenges, collect and analyze employment data, and craft a plan for moving forward.

Water industry offers competitive salaries

At the Fallbrook Public Utility District approximately 40 percent of the agency’s 68 employees will be eligible to retire within five years. Seventeen percent are currently eligible for retirement. Photo: Fallbrook PUD

Approximately 40 percent of the Fallbrook Public Utility District ‘s 68 employees will be eligible to retire within five years. Seventeen percent are currently eligible for retirement. Photo: Fallbrook PUD

The regional water and wastewater industry expects to need to fill approximately 400 positions annually to keep pace with retirements and vacancies caused by employees leaving the area.

The challenges face both large and small agencies. In the City of San Diego, 640 of approximately 1,600 water industry professionals will be eligible to retire within the next three to four years. At the Fallbrook Public Utility District approximately 40 percent of the agency’s 68 employees will be eligible to retire within five years. Seventeen percent are currently eligible for retirement.

“These are good-paying jobs with good benefits, but you just don’t find a lot of people coming out of school who are interested, and we are struggling to attract skilled employees from the private sector,” said Jack Bebee, Fallbrook general manager.

Bebee pointed to the recent posting of a senior engineering position at the utility that pays an annual salary of close to $150,000. The district thought the salary would be competitive enough to draw people from the private sector, but only one of four applicants was from the private sector. When Bebee was hired for a similar position nine years ago, he competed against 40 other applicants.

A 2018 Brookings Institution report notes the employment void exists even though water workforce occupations not only pay more on average compared to all occupations nationally, but also pay up to 50 percent more to workers at the lower ends of the income scale. In San Diego County, water and wastewater plant and systems operators are earning an average salary of $70,000 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Skilled workers needed to operate increasingly complex systems

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that fewer people may be needed in coming years as water and wastewater plants become more automated, a skilled workforce is required to operate increasingly complex controls and systems. Some of the most advanced facilities in the world are in Southern California, including the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant, the naton’s largest desalination plant.

Local educational efforts in the industry are addressing the potential worker shortage:

  • Palomar College’s Water and Wastewater Technology programs, provides pre-employment training and advanced courses for people who want to become certified as a water or wastewater operator.
  • The Water Authority’s student internship program pays $12 an hour and has interns working at four different water agencies throughout the year.
  • California State University, San Marcos Certificate in Water Management & Leadership program is geared toward workers already employed as intermediate-level supervisors in the water industry and offers training and skills needed for higher management positions.
  • The Center for Water Studies at Cuyamaca College.

The Brookings report noted the glut of retirements offers an opportunity to diversify the industry. In January, the Center for Water Studies held the first in an annual series of Women in Water symposiums, attracting several hundred women and high school girls from throughout Southern California interested in a new career.

“Challenges can prompt people to get together and look at new ways of doing things,” said Greg Thomas, general manager at the Rincon del Diablo Municipal Water District in Escondido. “This is a great industry, it pays well, and you’re doing something good for people and society.”

 

An irrigation map that clearly shows the layout of your irrigation system can be very helpful when you need to locate components for repair. Photo: Markus Distelrath/Pixabay

Make a Map of Your Irrigation System

It’s easy (and fun) to produce a landscaping plan showing where every shrub and flower is placed on site. Drawing what you can see is relatively easy.

But what about the irrigation system underneath your landscaping? Do you know the location of your water mainline, irrigation system clocks, valves and sprinkler heads?

Understanding the layout of your irrigation system is important so you can accurately locate components for seamless repair. If you plan on adding to or upgrading the system, you’ll want an irrigation map to guide construction.

Steps to making your irrigation map

First, locate all of the sprinkler heads on your property and mark their location on a copy of your landscaping site plan. Also mark the location of the following elements:

• Water meter or irrigation sub meter, and where the water comes from the street onto your property (the main line)
• Irrigation controller
• Shut off valve for turning off the irrigation system
• Pressure regulator – this may be for the irrigation system separate from the house. If your irrigation comes from a pipe that first serves the house, it may be located before it enters the house.
• Irrigation valves
• Hose bibs
• Backflow preventer – if you don’t have one, your sprinkler valves probably do, so don’t worry

Observe and color code which sprinklers go on at the same time when a valve is turned on.

Adapting your existing irrigation system to a new efficient system

Use your irrigation map to determine which parts will work with a new, more efficient system without abandoning everything and starting from scratch. If you’re removing or renovating most of your landscaping, you might need to alter the irrigation. In that case, starting from scratch can end up being the most cost and time efficient alternative.


This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Well designed and operated irrigation systems can reliably deliver the water your landscaping needs without waste or excess. Photo: AxxLC/Pixabay

What’s Your Landscape Irrigation IQ?

Learn the basics of most irrigation systems, the key components of intelligent irrigation systems, and how to employ low pressure to maximize your system’s efficiency.

Conventional irrigation systems are notoriously inefficient

Conventional irrigation systems can suffer due to poor design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management. Well designed and operated systems can reliably deliver the necessary water to sustain your landscaping without waste or excess.

A shutoff valve (ball valve) can be manually operated to cut off the water supply in the event of a leak, a malfunction, or a major repair.

When activated by an irrigation controller, the anti-siphon valve delivers water through a PVC pipe lateral irrigation line and ultimately reaches the sprinkler head, which applies the water to your landscaping.

Intelligent irrigation systems operate with efficiency

Efficient irrigation components are designed to operate at lower pressure levels, as specified by each product manufacturer. Devices are more likely to fail under excess pressure, and damage can occur.

A pressure regulator will eliminate excess pressure.

A submeter can be installed where the irrigation system tees off the mainline to the house. It is a recommended option for large properties to keep track of the actual volume of water being applied to the landscape.

Single family homes typically have a single mixed-use meter which doesn’t distinguish between indoor and outdoor water use. An alternativeis to install a flow sensor working in tandem with a smart controller.

Low-volume irrigation devices like rotary nozzles and micro or drip irrigation are designed to deliver water to the landscape at a slower rate. This better approximates the infiltration rate of the soil and reduces runoff.

Smart controllers will automatically adjust irrigation schedules in response to changing weather conditions. They come in two varieties. ET controllers monitor weather conditions. Soil moisture-based controllers directly sample the moisture in the ground. These devices also have features like “cycle and soak” functions that can help eliminate runoff. When selecting a controller, look for brands with the EPA WaterSense® label.


This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

 

Alfred and Audrey Vargas with Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer after they were awarded first place in the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair for designing a device that could treat wastewater and generate electricity. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego County Students Shape the Future of Water

On April 25, the San Diego County Water Authority Board of Directors honored the latest group of water-related award winners from the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair as part of the agency’s effort to inspire young people to pursue water industry careers.

This year’s middle school and high school science and engineering projects displayed a wide range of innovative ways to solve a variety of water issues people face today.

In the senior division, Alfred and Audrey Vargas won the first place award with the design of a new device to treat wastewater and generate electricity simultaneously using hydrogen fuel cell technology. The siblings, who attend Sweetwater High School, also won their division last year and continue their work in designing devices and systems that can potentially be used in developing countries where resources are scarce.

Alfred and Audrey Vargas combined their passion for science and engineering with an awareness of water issues to design a device that treats wastewater and generates electricity. Photo: Water Authority

Alfred and Audrey came back this year to win the senior division for the second time. Alfred is heading to UC Berkeley in the fall to study chemical engineering, and Audrey will continue developing their designs in her last two years of high school. Photo: Water Authority

Alfred and Audrey have been competing in science fairs since they were in middle school and have always been inspired by a drive to solve world water issues in affordable ways.

“As we’re looking for the next generation of water industry professionals, events like the Greater San Diego Science and Engineering Fair are the perfect opportunity to connect with and support students who are already interested in relevant water issues,” said Water Authority principal public affairs representative Risa Baron, who helped select the winners. “These young thinkers and inventors can make huge strides in solving future water challenges around the world.”

Finding inspiration in the natural world

Cambridge School student Emily Tianshi won the second place award in the senior division. She looked beyond the ocean views at Torrey Pines State Park to see the intelligent ways that nature sustains itself and how those can be imitated.

Emily spent the past three years perfecting a design for a device that can capture moisture from the air like Torrey Pine needles do. Using 3-D printing technology to bring her project to life, Emily demonstrated that the naturally occurring ridges of Torrey Pine needles efficiently collect water, and she designed a model of a device that would mimic the shape of the needles.

Middle school students display stellar scientific knowledge and creativity

The winners of the junior division show off their awards with Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. Photo: Water Authority

The winners of the junior division show off their awards with Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer. Photo: Water Authority

In the junior division, Brendan Cordaro and Max Shaffer from Saint John School in Encinitas teamed up to win first place with “The Water Maker,” a homemade device that transformed a miniature refrigerator into a means of collecting water from the air.

Oliver Trojanowski, who is also a middle school student at the Saint John School, won the second place award in the junior division. Oliver surveyed several sites in the region to test for water quality and determine toxicity levels in stormwater runoff.

Matthew Angulo from the Corfman School in El Centro earned the third place award in the junior division. He travelled over 100 miles to showcase his results from several tests of water samples from the Colorado River.

Welcoming the next generation of water professionals and leaders

More than 2,800 people across all levels of educational attainment work at the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies to provide safe and reliable water supplies to the region.

The Water Authority and its member agencies are committed to fostering the next generation of industry professionals and leaders. Engineers, system operators, maintenance technicians, customer service representatives and utility workers are just some of the many careers available in the water industry.

Alexander Schultz, Otay Water District geographic information systems technician, operates a drone in front of a district water storage tank. Photo: Otay Water District

Drones Offer Water Agencies Cost, Safety Benefits

Water agencies across San Diego County are saving time and money while improving employee safety with drones.

Industry analysts say drone use by water agencies worldwide is growing. The Helix Water District, Otay Water District and the San Diego County Water Authority have embraced the technology, using drones to inspect and monitor facilities, and to map and survey inaccessible areas.

Helix used a drone in February to check rooftop air vents on a water storage tank in El Cajon, rather than send employees high in the sky to do it. The agency determined it was too risky for employees – even with safety equipment – and too costly to have staff inspect the vents outside the 120-foot-high Fletcher Hills Combined Tank.

“We continually look for ways to utilize technologies where appropriate to minimize facility down time and to keep staff safe,” said Carlos Lugo, general manager at Helix. “Drone technology is proving to be a useful and cost-efficient way to survey and keep the district’s facilities properly maintained.”

Drones provide a safe and cost-effective alternative for inspecting the condition of storage tank vents without placing employees at risk or taking the storage tank offline. Photo: Helix Water District

Drones provide a safe and cost-effective alternative for inspecting the condition of storage tank vents without placing employees at risk or taking the storage tank offline. Photo: Helix Water District

Helix uses drones to inspect interior roof supports of its water storage tanks. The supports are especially vulnerable to corrosion because they are constantly exposed to humidity and heat.

Drone image of a roof bracket inspection. Photo: Helix Water District

Drone image of a roof bracket inspection. Photo: Helix Water District

Inspecting the storage tank roof supports requires moving 30-foot-high scaffolding from one support to the next, a time-consuming and labor-intensive process. To cut down that time, Helix used a drone to get high-resolution images of the supports. The drone images showed which ones needed repair without moving the scaffolding to each support.

A drone helps reduce the need to move scaffolding to each bracket during inspections. Photo: Helix Water District

A drone helps reduce the need to move scaffolding to each bracket during inspections. Photo: Helix Water District

“Using drones for this type of inspection work is a simple, elegant and safe solution,” said Jim Tomasulo, Helix’s director of engineering. “We anticipate using drones for this and other purposes.”

Drone inspections of reservoirs, treatment plant

The Otay Water District also is finding drones useful to save money and improve employee safety.

After a two-year study and evaluation period, the district is now using two camera-equipped drones to assist with preliminary inspections of its water facilities in eastern and southern San Diego County, including 40 potable water reservoirs, four recycled water reservoirs, 20 pump stations and a recycled water treatment plant.

Drones Reduce Risk

Countywide, the Water Authority uses drones to monitor rights of way and to survey inaccessible landscapes.

When a drone was used to get images and video of steep terrain on the Second Aqueduct west of Interstate 15 and south of the San Luis Rey River, the images were 10 times higher resolution than stock aerial images. Using the drone also kept staff from being exposed to potentially dangerous conditions.

The Water Authority is also exploring using drones for future surveys and potentially at water transportation, treatment, and storage facilities, where cutting-edge technology is used to save ratepayers money.

Drones are helping the Water Authority monitor rights of way, particularly in areas of rugged terrain.

But the potential of drone use is not limited to visual photography of elevated water tanks and surveying remote areas.  Water quality monitoring is another potential application.

Water agencies can use drones with infrared cameras “to monitor water areas remotely at higher spatial resolution than ever before, at low cost and at any time,” Michal Mazur, with Drone Powered Solutions, told Waterworld.com in a recent article about the advances in drone use.

The “San Diego Grown Photo Contest” on Instagram and Twitter highlights the significance of agriculture to the regional economy. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego Grown Photo Contest Highlights County’s Agricultural Bounty

The San Diego County Water Authority is hosting a social media photo contest during Water Awareness Month in May to celebrate how safe and reliable water supplies fuel the region’s local farms and food production.

The “San Diego Grown Photo Contest” on Instagram and Twitter highlights the significance of agriculture to the regional economy. As one of the nation’s top producers of avocados, ornamental trees and shrubs, flowers, succulents, lemons, and other agricultural products, San Diego County’s farms generate nearly $4.8 billion in total annual economic activity on some 250,000 acres.

The contest is part of the Water Authority’s ongoing Brought to You by Water outreach and education program, designed to convey the importance water supply reliability for sustaining the region’s 3.3 million people and its $231 billion economy. The Water Authority and its 24 member agencies work together to meet current and future water demands, while promoting water-use efficiency.

“Safe and reliable water supplies help more than 5,500 farms to thrive in our region – not to mention countless backyard gardens, community gardens and farmers markets,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “This photo contest offers everyone a chance to showcase their favorite locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers and nursery plants, and to win some great prizes donated by sponsors who share our commitment to our region’s most precious natural resource.”

Agriculture: brought to you by water

The Water Authority is coordinating with the nonprofit local chapter of the Farm Bureau, which is supported solely by more than 2,000 dues-paying members. Established in 1914, it serves the needs of the San Diego agriculture community through a variety of advocacy and education initiatives.

“Farming is a foundational piece of our regional economy and quality of life – but it doesn’t happen without a reliable water supply,” said Eric Larson, executive director of the San Diego County Farm Bureau. “Our farmers are constantly innovating to use water more efficiently through adopting new technology and more-efficient crops.”

Reliable water supply helps drive regional economy

Entering the photo contest is easy: Take a photo of your favorite locally grown fruits, vegetables, flowers or nursery plants and post the photo to Instagram or Twitter using #B2UbyH2O between May 1-31. Participants must be at least 18 years old to enter.

Qualifying submissions are eligible for prizes generously donated by local businesses and organizations including Specialty Produce, the San Diego County Farm Bureau, and Jimbo’s …Naturally! Winners will be drawn randomly each week from posts that meet contest rules here, and they will be announced on social media.

Over the past year, the Water Authority has highlighted an array of the region’s core industries – including tourism, manufacturing and brewing – that would not exist without substantial investments in water supply reliability by the Water Authority and its 24 member agencies.

The best type of irrigation system for your landscape can depend on many factors, including the size and shape of your landscape and types of plants you have. Photo: California Department of Water Resources

Spray Versus Drip Irrigation: Which is Best for You?

Spray irrigation emits water in an overlapping pattern, while drip irrigation delivers water directly to the roots of plants. How do you decide which meets the needs of your landscaping?

The case for spray irrigation

Spray irrigation can be an efficient way to irrigate large landscapes with groundcover or uniform plant materials like lawns or meadows.

Spray systems apply water in gallons per minute (GPM), so if you know the application rate of each spray head, the distance between the heads, and the pressure of your system, it is relatively easy to figure out how much water is applied every time you run your irrigation.

Low volume spray heads apply water at about one-third the rate of conventional spray heads. Newer spray irrigation heads have improved spray with heavier droplets more resistant to wind. Landscaping with grade changes using spray heads should have check valves installed to prevent water flowing out of the lower point heads.

Challenges of spray irrigation include narrow areas surrounded by hardscape, or irregular patterns. Irregular patterns are particularly challenging, because spray irrigation requires head-to-head coverage to be efficient. Odd-shaped areas may be under or over watered. High-volume spray heads that emit water at a much higher rate than soil can absorb should be replaced.

The case for drip irrigation

Drip systems apply water in gallons per hour (GPH), so they often need to run for longer periods of time than spray systems. But the actual run time must always account for precipitation rate and runoff.

Installing subsurface systems (under at least two inches of mulch) is the most efficient way to irrigate nearly every type of garden area. Since the tubing is flexible, it can accommodate a variety of irregular shaped areas or rectangular areas when laid in a grid pattern, and in rings you can easily expand as trees or shrubs grow.

Challenges of drip irrigation include application of water too quickly for your soil to absorb. This needs to be considered when dripline grids are installed. Drip irrigation operates the most efficiently at low pressure (between 15 and 30 PSI). To achieve optimal performance, pressure regulation either at the valve or at the point of connection of the dripline to the buried lateral lines must be used. It is also essential to install some type of filtering system to keep the emitters from getting clogged.


This article was inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook available at SustainableLandscapesSD.org. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.