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Water is Colorado’s Most Critical Resource. So Why isn’t it Central to Every Local Land-Use Decision?

In the early 1980s, the small city of Woodland Park started strategically planning how to protect its water supply for the future.

“Because we have all junior water rights and a limited water supply, we knew we must be very careful about how we grow,” said Sally Riley, planning director for Woodland Park, which is home to approximately 7,500 people in the mountains west of Colorado Springs. “We’ve pretty much mapped out exactly how our 6.5 square miles are going to grow.”

To ensure that they don’t develop beyond the limits of their water supply, Riley says the city has closely integrated its land-use decisions with local water conservation and efficiency goals that align with the Colorado Water Plan.

Blog: Imperial Valley Conservation Efforts Benefit San Diego, Southwest

The San Diego County Water Authority’s Board of Directors visited the Imperial Valley January 30 for a day-long tour that highlighted areas critical to the agency’s Regional Conveyance System Study.

Legislature Plans to Address Groundwater Crisis in Rural Arizona

State legislators plan to tackle widespread problems of groundwater overpumping in rural Arizona this session, proposing bills that would make it easier to limit well-drilling in farming areas where residents have asked for help from the state to safeguard their dwindling water supplies.

At least four bills have been filed or are planned to strengthen groundwater rules and oversight in rural areas where there are no limits on pumping and where water levels have fallen dramatically. More bills are expected to be introduced in the coming days.

SoCal Sees Turnaround in Water Supply as Reservoirs Reach Historic Levels After Years of Drought

Just five years ago, the boat launch at Diamond Valley Lake barely met the water’s edge. Today, the same area is under water thanks to recent rain and snow.

It’s a turnaround that has the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California cautiously optimistic.

Water News Network Top 3 Stories of 2019

The Water News Network’s top three stories of 2019 reflect the San Diego region’s interest in water conservation, sustainable landscaping, and successful efforts to diversify water supply sources.

Top 3 WNN stories of 2019 - Water News Network

Water News Network Top 3 Stories of 2019

The Water News Network’s top three stories of 2019 reflect the San Diego region’s interest in water conservation, sustainable landscaping, and successful efforts to diversify water supply sources.

Conservation

Colorful art created by elementary school students communicated the importance of saving water. This was the most viewed story of 2019.  

January 2019
(L to R) 2019 poster contest winners Madeleine Inawen, Claire Zhang, Kate Hu, Alanis Huang, and Weiyi Xu with their winning artwork. Photo: City of San Diego

Creative Kids Educate Region About Water Conservation

January 13, 2019

Eighteen talented San Diego, Coronado and Imperial Beach elementary school students used their artistic skills to communicate the importance of water conservation in the City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department 18th annual Kids Poster Contest. Winning entries in the contest are featured in the 2019 Water Conservation Calendar, which debuts this month.

“The City of San Diego’s Public Utilities Department is proud to sponsor the yearly Kids Poster Contest,” said Brian Hojnacki, a supervising management analyst for city utilities. “It allows us to involve first to sixth graders through art while learning and thinking about water conservation in our region. It’s a win-win for us all.”

The theme “How Am I A Water Conservation Hero?” asked students to imagine themselves saving water from being wasted. They could draw, paint, color, cut and paste original artwork depicting one important message about water conservation.

1st Place – Madeleine Irawan, Black Mountain Middle School

 

Sustainability

People living in the San Diego region continue to take advantage of rebate opportunities that encourage sustainability. A program that provided incentives to remove grass and replace it with sustainable landscaping proved popular in the spring. The Water News Network story about the rebates was also popular and the second-most read story of 2019.

Top 3 stories of 2019 - WNN
There are new enhanced rebates for removing turf and replacing it with sustainable landscaping. Photo: Water Authority

 

Cash Rebates Increase for Grass Removal in San Diego Region

April 8, 2019

Removing grass can generate rebates of at least $2 per square foot for San Diego residents under new enhanced incentives that started this month.

As of April 1, the Metropolitan Water District is offering $2 per square foot for every square foot of grass removed from yards and replaced with sustainable landscaping.

“San Diego County homeowners and businesses know that sustainable landscapes are key to water reliability in our region,” said Joni German, who manages the Water Authority’s WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program. “With the help of local landscape architects and designers, our WaterSmart Landscape Makeover Program gives them the knowledge and skills they need to be successful. WaterSmart landscapes are an upgrade, not a compromise.”

Infrastructure

The San Diego County Water Authority sustains a $245 billion regional economy and the quality of life for 3.3 million residents through a multi-decade water supply diversification plan, major infrastructure investments and forward-thinking policies that promote fiscal and environmental responsibility.

California officials toured some of that infrastructure in July as they worked to prepare a water resilience portfolio for the state. Our reporting on the July 18 water portfolio tour was the third most read story of 2019 on the Water News Network.

The Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: Water Authority

During the water portfolio tour, state officials got a first-hand look at infrastructure, including the San Vicente Reservoir, Olivenhain Reservoir, and the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant. Photo: Water Authority

San Diego’s Water Portfolio Approach ‘Model for California’

July 18, 2019

State officials Thursday toured San Diego County water infrastructure to get a first-hand look at the region’s successful water portfolio approach for supply diversification.

California Natural Resources Agency Secretary Wade Crowfoot, Deputy Natural Resources Secretary Thomas Gibson, State Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary Karen Ross, and State Water Resources Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel were here to assess the region’s water projects as part of their new role in developing a water portfolio strategy for the state.

“San Diego has been a leader in the water portfolio approach,” said Wade Crowfoot. “We have to make the investments to build regional water resilience as part of the Governor’s order to develop a portfolio to manage water in California.”

Jim Madaffer tweet on water portfolio tour July 2019
San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer tweeted during the water portfolio tour.

Even in our arid climate, the first rainfall can add up to a lot of water runoff - save as much as possible in your landscape. Photo: Denis Doukhan/Pixabay

Prepare Your Landscape for the First Rain

After a dry spell, the first rainfall is the most important water to capture for your landscape. This is called the “first flush.”

In arid regions like San Diego County, this happens every year because there is a long stretch of dry weather in between rainy seasons.

Why is the first rainfall so important?

It washes away pollutants that have collected since the last rain. This water needs to be filtered as much as possible by landscaping before it goes anywhere else. Usually the next stop for this water is storm drains that empty into oceans. So your landscape can be a very important tool in preventing the buildup of pollutants in local water supplies.

In addition, the first rain in the fall is very important for your plants. New or established plants will want to grow deep roots in the fall and winter, and the additional water is essential. Capturing the rain with your landscape reduces the need for increasing irrigation.

How much water comes off your roof?

Measure the size of your roof to determine how much water will come off it. The shape of your roof doesn’t matter in this instance. The same amount of water falls on the roof whether it is sloped or flat. You can measure a sloped roof either using an aerial view or from the ground without worrying about the slope itself. Just measure the outside edges the same way you would if it was flat and calculate the square footage.

Flat roofs covering a building in one contiguous shape are easier to measure. Some roofs are more complicated. You can divide this type of roof into individual squares or triangles. Then, measure each one at a time and add the figures together for your total roof area.

Calculate your potential water capture

Once you know the total roof area, you can determine the amount of rainfall it generates in gallons, then use the following formula to convert square feet to gallons.

Formula: Rainfall in Inches x Total Square Feet x 0.62 = Gallons of Rainwater from the Roof

Here’s an example using a 1,000 square foot roof: 1 inch of rain x 1000 x 0.62 = 620 gallons.

Even in a dry climate, this rainfall adds up to a lot of water runoff. It’s easy to see how important it is to save as much of this water as possible in a landscape designed to be a sponge instead of a brick. Take the watershed approach to designing your landscape, and you can use the first flush of rain to your advantage.

The San Diego County Water Authority and its partners also offer other resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Opinion: California Rejects Federal Water Proposal, Lays Out its Vision for Protecting Endangered Species and Meeting State Water Needs

California’s water policy can be complex, and—let’s be honest—often polarizing.

Water decisions frequently get distilled into unhelpful narratives of fish versus farms, north versus south, or urban versus rural. Climate change-driven droughts and flooding threats, as well as our divided political climate, compound these challenges.

We must rise above these historic conflicts by finding ways to protect our environment and build water security for communities and agriculture. We need to embrace decisions that benefit our entire state. Simply put, we have to become much more innovative, collaborative and adaptive.

 

Jon Foreman of the San Diego band Switchfoot is among the many fans of The Water Conservation Garden in San Diego's East County. Photo: Water Authority

Water Conservation Garden Celebrates 20th Anniversary Nov. 16

Twenty years ago, people who saw a need to help people conserve water and preserve San Diego’s environment conceived the idea for a demonstration garden.

The Water Conservation Garden celebrates its 20th-anniversary Saturday, November 16 at 5 p.m. with a benefit concert featuring food and drink stations, dancing, auction items and live music provided by The Mighty Untouchables. More information and tickets are available on The Garden’s website.

Native San Diegan Jon Foreman of the Grammy-award winning band Switchfoot is among The Garden’s newest fans after a recent visit.

“It has been an amazing journey,” said CEO Jennifer Pillsbury. “We run six acres with educational exhibits for the public, but we also have a huge education program for the public. Last year we had 42,000 visitors and reached 88,000 kids. When we first opened, we were excited about 1,000 visitors.”

Water agencies and municipalities worked together to bring The Garden to life

The annual Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival is among The Garden's most popular annual events. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The annual Spring Garden and Butterfly Festival is among The Garden’s most popular annual events. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

A task force of water agencies and municipalities conceived The Garden in response to six years of drought in San Diego County.

Otay Water District, Helix Water District, and Cuyamaca College kick-started the effort in 1990. By 1992, the San Diego County Water Authority, City of San Diego, and Padre Municipal Water District joined the effort, forming the original Water Conservation Authority.

The following year, the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District approved the establishment of a 4.5-acre Water Conservation Garden adjacent to Cuyamaca College. With $700,000 in donated services, products, and labor from local nurseries and members of the California Landscape Contractors Association, the Water Conservation Garden came to life. San Diego County Supervisor Dianne Jacob presided over its grand opening in May 1999.

Over the past 20 years, The Garden has added its popular children’s exhibits, bird and butterfly gardens, the Dorcus Utter Memorial Sensory Garden, and the Dorcus Butterfly Pavilion.

“The Garden is here to inspire everyone to use all natural resources efficiently, not just water,” said Pillsbury. “When people see proper irrigation and the right plants in the right location with the right soil, having everything working together can be beautiful and efficient.”

Inspiring positive change in the living environment

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

Pam Meisner, also known as Ms. Smarty-Plants, started the conservation program in 2008 at the Water Conservation Garden. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Water Conservation Garden has been governed as an independent nonprofit organization under its own Board of Directors since 2011. Memberships, donations, grants, facility rentals, gift shop sales, and water district dues fund operations.

With additional land donated by Cuyamaca College, The Water Conservation Garden now covers six acres of displays showcasing water conservation through its themed demonstration gardens and how-to displays on mulch and irrigation.

Students in the Cuyamaca College Ornamental Horticulture program benefit from hands-on education just steps away from their classrooms.

“Students come through and learn plant identification and experience lab learning,” said Pillsbury.

New smart classroom available soon at The Garden

The Garden's amphitheater seats 300 and will host its 20th anniversary benefit concert on Nov. 16. Photo: Water Conservation Garden

The Garden’s amphitheater seats 300 and will host its 20th-anniversary benefit concert on Nov. 16. Photo: The Water Conservation Garden

The Garden will open a new smart classroom available for business retreats, meetings, and seminars. Pillsbury also hopes to book more events in the 300-seat amphitheater.

Through its evolution and innovation, the mission of The Water Conservation Garden remains the same as it did on its opening day 20 years ago: to inspire positive change in the living environment through water conservation and the protection of natural resources.

“We’re here to educate the community on efficient water use, but we also want to be a spot where people can come learn and explore together in so many ways,” said Pillsbury.

Admission to The Garden is free. Docent-led tours take place on the first Saturday of each month at 10 a.m.

San Diego County Now Offering Discounted Rain ‘Harvesting’ Barrels

The rainy season is coming, but you still have time to get a discounted rain barrel to “harvest” the upcoming rains, cut your watering costs and protect local beaches by reducing pollution. Through Oct. 13, County residents can get a discounted, top-of-the-line, $90 Ivy rain barrel — a cost that could shrink to as little as $25 — by ordering one online, thanks to San Diego County’s Watershed Protection Program and the nonprofit Solana Center.