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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.

Yorkshire Water Launches World’s First Poo-Powered Pub

In what will be the first time a public space has been powered by electricity made from poo, The Number Two Tavern is launching for a limited time in The Light, Leeds from 7th until 9th November.

The company is holding its first ever carbon week to spread the word and share knowledge about how we can all reduce our carbon footprint.

The power for The Number Two Tavern is coming from a ground-breaking process, called “anaerobic digestion,” which converts waste into biogas that can be used to generate heat and electricity. Yorkshire Water has charged a Hybrid Power battery with the poo-power, which is being created at Yorkshire Water’s Knostrop Recycling Centre.

Rep. Mike Levin and San Diego County Water Authority Board Chair Jim Madaffer on November 6, 2019.

Rep. Levin Touts Bipartisan Efforts to Fund Water Supply Reliability

Rep. Mike Levin said California’s innovations and investments in water supply reliability and renewable energy are a model for the nation – and that the state’s efforts protect the environment while growing the economy at the same time.

Levin, an attorney and congressman from San Juan Capistrano, represents the 49th District, which includes, Encinitas, Carlsbad, Vista, Oceanside and a portion of southern Orange County.

He made his remarks November 6 during a Legislative Roundtable at the San Diego County Water Authority attended by water agency board members and staff, local civic and business leaders and Citizens Water Academy graduates.

Water supply reliability through supply diversification

“We need a diverse array of resources for water,” said Levin. “Water is a finite resource that we often take for granted.”

The Water Authority periodically holds Legislative Roundtables to hear about water-related issues in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento. More than 60 people attended the Wednesday event, asking Levin a variety of questions about water, energy and climate change.

In his first 11 months in office, he has sponsored and co-sponsored the following bills:

  • Border Water Infrastructure Improvement Act
  • Desalination Development Act
  • Water Recycling Investment and Improvement Act
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund Permanent Funding Act
  • Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan Authorization Act

Desalination Development Act introduced

Levin cited the Claude “Bud” Lewis Carlsbad Desalination Plant as an example of the “deep innovation” necessary to increase sustainability, referencing legislation he introduced to increase federal funding for desalination projects.

He introduced that legislation in July 2019 to raise the funding authorization in the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act for desalination projects to $260 million.

Levin said his bill would help strengthen regional water supplies by supporting projects like the South Coast Water District’s Doheny Ocean Desalination Project and the City of Oceanside’s Mission Basin Groundwater Purification Facility Well Expansion and Brine Minimization Project.

California’s clean energy economy a ‘model for the nation’

He also said California has proven that a clean energy economy works to enhance environmental sustainability and jobs.

“We’re leading the way in California, and at the end of the day, we’ve developed a clean energy economy,” Levin said. “The state is a model for the country in how to protect the environment and grow the economy.”

Why Desalinating Water is Hard — and Why We Might Need To Anyway

In places like San Diego and Dubai, where freshwater is scarce, humans turn to machines that pull the salt out of seawater, transforming it into clean drinking water.

(L to R): Sandy Kerl, San Diego County Water Authority acting general manager; Cynthia Koeler, WaterNow Alliance executive director; Paula Kehoe, San Francisco Public Utilities Commission director of water resources; and California-Nevada Section of AWWA Executive Director Tim Worley. Photo: Water Authority

‘Big Ideas’ Diversify San Diego Region’s Reliable Water Supply

Ensuring water for future generations requires investing and investigating big ideas, according to Sandy Kerl.

Kerl, acting general manager of the San Diego County Water Authority, shared some of those ideas today in San Diego, as she delivered the opening remarks at the California-Nevada Section of the American Water Works Association annual fall conference, which runs through Thursday at the Town and Country Hotel Convention Center.

“Big ideas” diversify water supply portfolio

The theme of the conference is “Re/Source: Sustaining Life Through Diversity of Water.”

The Water Authority has worked for three decades to increase San Diego County’s water supply reliability through supply diversification in a region with few natural water assets.

“While we’re proud of the progress we have made, we know that we can’t stand still,” said Kerl.

She described three of the “big ideas” the Water Authority is exploring to increase its water portfolio to meet the needs of 3.3 million people and a $231 billion economy:

Conservation plays key role in sustaining water supply

Kerl also said San Diego County residents play a big part in making water conservation a success.

“I’m proud to say that our 2019 public opinion survey shows that virtually every resident believes in water-use efficiency as a civic duty,” she said.

During a panel discussion, Kerl talked about the importance of supply diversification.

“Creating new sources of supply is critical, but sustainability is really about having a balanced water portfolio approach to ensure a safe, reliable supply,” said Kerl. “Potable reuse is another piece of the puzzle, but you can’t recycle what you don’t have, so we need to look at creating new sources of water supply, such as desalination.”

Tap into resilience

The theme of resilience and sustainability was echoed by the other panelists.

Cynthia Koehler, executive director of WaterNow Alliance, said the organization’s “Tap into Resilience” initiative offers support for projects to enhance water resources now and for future generations.

“The initiative is a unique and comprehensive set of resources for water decision-makers, but also for utility staff and managers to help them implement sustainable water systems,” said Koehler.

Paula Kehoe, director of water resources for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, said drought, climate change, and, in particular for the utility, pending environmental regulation, could cause significant issues for water supplies.

“Conservation has been key to increasing our local water supply,” said Kehoe. “We also are pumping groundwater to increase local supply, and we have a groundwater storage and recharge program to build up groundwater supplies for future droughts.”

West Basin Municipal Water District Presents El Segundo Desalination Plant to Manhattan Beach Leaders for the First Time

The final environmental study for a proposed desalination plant in El Segundo will soon be released, the City Council for adjacent Manhattan Beach learned this week, when it received its first formal presentation on the potential project — even though the West Basin Municipal Water District first pitched the plant in 2015.

If approved, the proposed $400 million plant — which would border El Porto, in El Segundo — would be capable of converting 20-to-60 million gallons of ocean water to drinkable water each day. District officials have said the plant is crucial to diversifying the region’s water supply, in case there’s an emergency or a severe drought.

Supervisors Vote Wednesday on Withdrawing County as Groundwater Sustainability Agency for Borrego Valley Groundwater Basin

Borrego Springs, Calif. – Faced with a state mandate to reduce water use by 75 percent after years over over-pumping groundwater, major water users in Borrego Springs have submitted a stipulated agreement for reducing the desert community’s water use by an estimated 75 percent. On Wednesday, San Diego County Supervisors will vote on withdrawing as a groundwater sustainability agency for the Borrego Valley Groundwater Basin, with a goal toward transitioning into water management.

Water Authority Wins National 2019 WaterSense Excellence Award

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recognized the San Diego County Water Authority with a 2019 WaterSense Excellence Award for advancing water efficiency through its Qualified Water Efficient Landscape program, known as QWEL. The Water Authority received one of 25 WaterSense awards at the national WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas.

EPA WaterSense Excellence Award to San Diego County Water Authority for QWEL program.

Water Authority Wins National 2019 WaterSense Excellence Award

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency today recognized the San Diego County Water Authority with a 2019 WaterSense Excellence Award for advancing water efficiency through its Qualified Water Efficient Landscape program, known as QWEL.

The Water Authority received one of 25 WaterSense awards at the national WaterSmart Innovations Conference in Las Vegas.

Water Authority wins second consecutive EPA award for QWEL program

This is the second consecutive year the Water Authority has achieved the Excellence Award for the QWEL program, which is certified by EPA to significantly increase water management skills and knowledge among landscape professionals. Program curriculum includes 20 hours of classroom and hands-on training on principles of plant care, irrigation system design, maintenance, programming, operations and troubleshooting.

“Partnering with EPA has helped the Water Authority promote water efficiency by training hundreds of landscape professionals each year to adopt best practices,” said Jim Madaffer, chair of the Water Authority’s Board of Directors. “This approach helps to ensure that water-saving measures embraced by homes and businesses can be supported and sustained over the long term.”

San Diego County Water Authority Water Resources Specialist Efren Lopez accepted 2019 EPA WaterSense Excellence Award in Certification Program Growth.

San Diego County Water Authority Water Resources Specialist Efren Lopez (holding award) accepted the 2019 EPA WaterSense Excellence Award in Certification Program Growth on October 3 in Las Vegas. Photo: EPA

As one of the first QWEL providers in Southern California, the Water Authority has helped to expand the program’s branded outreach and educational outcomes. Since the January 2016 launch of QWEL, more than 1,000 San Diego landscape professionals have participated, making the region’s program one of the largest in the nation. More than 690 landscape professionals have earned QWEL certificates in the San Diego region over the past four years by passing a rigorous national test.

Water Authority Wins 2019 EPA WaterSense Excellence Award

The San Diego County Water Authority’s QWEL program is certified by the EPA and significantly increases water management skills among landscape professionals.

Water Authority’s landscape water efficiency classes

The Water Authority promotes English and Spanish QWEL training in collaboration with trade associations, faith-based organizations, English-as-a-Second-Language programs, community colleges and Master Gardeners associations. Nearly all (99%) program participants surveyed said the class would help them better manage landscape water efficiency, and 98% rated the class good or excellent.

San Diego County Water Authority Wins 2019 EPA WaterrSense Excellence Award

QWEL program curriculum includes 20 hours of classroom and hands-on training on principles of plant care, irrigation system design, maintenance, programming, operations and troubleshooting. Photo: Water Authority

Since 2006, the Water Authority and more than 2,000 other WaterSense partners nationwide have helped consumers save more than 3.4 trillion gallons of water. That’s enough water to supply the nation’s households for four months. In addition to water savings, WaterSense-labeled products and homes have helped reduce the amount of energy needed to heat, pump, and treat water by 462.5 billion kilowatt hours – enough to power more than 44.4 million homes for a year – and save $84.2 billion in water and energy bills, according to EPA.

“Our partners have made water-saving products, homes, and programs accessible across the nation and have educated millions on the importance of water conservation,” said Veronica Blette, chief of the EPA WaterSense branch. “These WaterSense award winners are leading the fight against water waste to save our most precious resource.”

The QWEL program is made possible in part from grants funds provided from voter-approved Proposition 84. The grant funds are administered by the California Department of Water Resources.

Amy Dorman, Deputy Director, Pure Water Operations, is pictured accepting the award for the City of San Diego. Photo: City of San Diego Utility of the Future Today

San Diego Public Utilities Department Honored for Sustainability

The City of San Diego Public Utilities Department has been recognized as a “Utility of the Future Today” for its outreach efforts for the Pure Water San Diego Program.

The honor was bestowed today by a partnership of water sector organizations, including the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the Water Environment Federation, the Water Environment & Reuse Foundation, the WateReuse Association and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The program recognizes the achievements of water utilities that transform from the traditional wastewater treatment system to a resource recovery center and leader in the overall sustainability and resilience of the communities they serve.

Pure Water Program ‘a national model’

“Being named a Utility of the Future Today further demonstrates the City’s commitment to producing a sustainable water supply for our citizens,” said Mayor Kevin L. Faulconer. “The Pure Water Program is a national model for finding an innovative solution to our water needs.”

The City received the award at the Water Environment Federation’s 92nd annual Technical Exhibition and Conference held in Chicago from Sept. 21-25. The San Diego Public Utilities Department was previously honored as a Utility of the Future Today in 2016 for its efforts in community engagement and water reuse.

Forward-thinking, innovative water utilities

“We take pride in our work and are very honored to receive this recognition,” said San Diego Public Utilities Department Director Shauna Lorance. “We strive to provide the very best service to our customers, and that includes planning for the future.”

The Utility of the Future Today concept was first introduced in 2013. It celebrates the achievements of forward-thinking, innovative water utilities that are providing resilient, value-added service to communities, particularly in community engagement, watershed stewardship and recovery of resources such as water, energy and nutrients.

Pure Water San Diego is the City’s phased, multi-year program that will provide one-third of San Diego’s water supply locally by 2035. The Pure Water San Diego Program will use proven water purification technology to clean recycled water to produce safe, high-quality drinking water. The program offers a cost-effective investment for San Diego’s water needs and will provide a reliable, sustainable water supply.