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Every drop of water is precious. Maximizing irrigation efficiency goes a long way toward conserving our water resources. Photo: Ju Irun / Pixabay

Boost Your Irrigation IQ

To support and protect your investment in waterwise landscaping, you need to have a strong irrigation IQ and understand the basics. You’ll be able to best maintain and maximize your system’s efficiency, which is vitally important during times of drought in the San Diego region.

Conventional irrigation systems can be inefficient

Letting sprinklers run to excess is an example of a poorly performing irrigation system due to bad design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management and it's unacceptable. Photo: Wolfgang Bantz irrigation IQ

Letting sprinklers run to excess is an example of a poorly performing irrigation system due to bad design, inadequate maintenance, and improper management and it’s unacceptable. Photo: Wolfgang Bantz

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

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.

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

Intelligent irrigation systems operate efficiently

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 alternative is 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 is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

California’s Sustainable Farms, Models for Agriculture in Warming World, Need Help Surviving It

The bustle of birds and insect pollinators is the first thing you notice at Full Belly Farm in Guinda, about 100 miles northeast of San Francisco in the Capay Valley, where Judith Redmond and her partners started farming four decades ago.

New Projects On Colorado River Keep Coming Despite Water Shortage

The Bureau of Reclamation recently declared a water shortage on the Colorado River, but that hasn’t stopped states from proposing new water projects.

Just about every drop on the Colorado River is accounted for. But climate change has reduced the amount of water in the system.

Gary Wockner is with Save the Colorado, a conservation group that is tracking new projects.

John Carroll worked as the senior wastewater operations supervisor of the North City Water Reclamation Plant, where he oversaw the operation of the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Demonstration Facility. Photo: City of San Diego Pure Water San Diego

National Awards for Pure Water San Diego’s John Carroll

John Carroll, the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Treatment Plant superintendent, received the 2021 Robert O. Vernon Membrane Plant Operator of the Year Award from the American Membrane Technology Association and the American Water Works Association.

This award recognizes outstanding contributions to water supply improvement by an individual working at a membrane filtration, desalination, and/or water reuse facility. Carroll was selected in recognition of his service and dedication to membrane operations and for his leadership within the industry.

“My selection would not have been possible without the support of many dedicated and talented individuals, the fellow coworkers, consultants, and volunteers to whom I owe all my success,” said Carroll.

Carroll plays key role in Pure Water Demonstration Facility

John Carroll will become Pure Water San Diego's first superintendent. Photo: City of San Diego

John Carroll will become Pure Water San Diego’s first superintendent when it is completed. Photo: City of San Diego

Carroll worked as the senior wastewater operations supervisor of the North City Water Reclamation Plant, where he oversaw the operation of the City of San Diego’s Pure Water Demonstration Facility.

“When Pure Water came along, we needed staff to step up,” said Tom Rosales, Assistant Director for the San Diego Public Utilities Department. “John established protocols and procedures. He participated in training incoming staff. He led public tours. I can’t overstate his involvement from day one.”

From student to teacher

“Since I had no operational experience with Advanced Water Treatment technologies prior to my role at the City’s Pure Water Demonstration Facility, my approach was that of a student, with the caveat of knowing I would need to become a teacher out of necessity to build our internal knowledge,” said Carroll.

In July, Carroll was promoted to be the first superintendent of the North City Pure Water Facility, currently under construction. It is the latest step in a career that started with a part-time job in the City’s Lakes Division. He studied water and wastewater treatment at Palomar College and completed the Water Authority’s Regional Water/Wastewater Internship Program in 2009, launching his career with the City of San Diego in plant operations.

“The encouraging and supportive public servants I’ve met throughout my career continue to add to my sense of community here,” said Carroll. “Ultimately, I like to think I am following in my mother’s footsteps who worked at the City’s Otay Water Treatment Plant.”

National award recognizes Pure Water San Diego

Senior Wastewater Operations Supervisor John Carroll gives viewers a bird's eye view of the facility. Photo: City of San Diego

Senior Wastewater Operations Supervisor John Carroll gives viewers a bird’s eye view of the facility. Photo: City of San Diego

Each year, AMTA confers multiple awards to recognize exceptional individuals and organizations like John Carroll and Pure Water San Diego for their efforts in advancing the understanding and application of membrane technology to create cost-effective and reliable water treatment solutions.

“This is a national award,” noted Rosales. “John’s peers and others agree that he’s deserving of this award. You want someone like John to be on your team to stand it up and lead it.”

“Membrane technology continues to make considerable advances in creating safe, affordable and reliable water treatment solutions because of industry innovators and a dedicated network of forward-thinking membrane professionals,” said Jill Miller, AMTA President.

The award is named after the late Dr. Vernon, a professional geologist who contributed to water resources management at various levels of state and federal government in Florida and who was a former president of the American Water Works Association.

This year’s winners were announced at the 2021 Membrane Technology Conference hosted in West Palm Beach, Florida in July.

(Editor’s note: The City of San Diego is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

Compost-Conservation Corner-sustainability-WaterSmart-sustainable landscaping

Become a Compost Champion

Once your sustainable landscape makeover is in place, commit to best practices in maintenance. This includes regular composting.

Compost can also be used as mulch, applied directly to the soil surface. It can prevent erosion and help plants, and soil filter pollution, especially hydrocarbons and metals from road surfaces. Most greenwaste-based composts can be applied to a depth of three inches. Composted biosolids should be no deeper than two inches.

If you don’t produce your own compost on-site, it should be obtained from a reputable source that guarantees high quality. Commercially produced compost quality can vary significantly due to the diverse nature of feedstock, composting processes, and maturation standards.

Using compost as a soil amendment

For native plants in your sustainable landscaping, use roughly 15 percent compost by volume to repair disturbed or damaged soils.

Clay-based soil amended with compost will lead to more productive and healthy plant growth at a lower cost than amending the same soil with the necessary 45 percent sand.  In general, poor soils that are compacted, lifeless, or subsoils should be amended with three to six cubic yards or high-quality compost per 1,000 square feet to improve soil structure,

Biosolids-based composts should be used sparingly if they are high in ammonium nitrogen.

How do you know when it’s ready to use? Your compost is ready to use when it has an earthy smell, when it’s cooled off, and when it doesn’t reheat when stirred. The color should be uniformly dark brown or even black. You shouldn’t be able to identify any of the original particles.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org. 

Pure Water San Diego-EPA loan-August 2021-water recycling-Phase 1-potable reuse

Mayor, EPA Chief Celebrate First Phase of San Diego’s Drought-Resistant Water Recycling Project

Mayor Todd Gloria, along with state and federal leaders, formally kicked off construction of Phase 1 of the city’s Pure Water program August 20. The project is intended to provide nearly 50% of the city’s drinking water by 2035 and reduce the need for imported water.

Helping the mayor celebrate the historic occasion in University City were Rep. Scott Peters, California Senate President Pro Tempore Toni G. Atkins, Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Michael S. Regan and California State Water Resources Control Board Chair E. Joaquin Esquivel.

Water recycling project

“Today, we celebrated the launch of the largest, most ambitious infrastructure project in San Diego’s history,” said Gloria. “The Pure Water program will guarantee us a local water resource that allows San Diego to be drought-resilient and environmentally sustainable. This is a key part of how we will provide clean drinking water to our residents for generations to come.”

Two Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act loans from the EPA are providing funding for up to $733.5 million toward the program’s Phase I projects. Additional funding for the construction of the project will come from Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans in the amount of $665.1 million, and more than $80 million in federal and state grants, which do not need to be repaid.

The city will also receive a $340 credit from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California for every acre-foot — enough water to supply up to four households for a year — produced for 25 years. This corresponds to a credit of $285.6 million over the life of the agreement, project leaders said.

Read the complete story from Times of San Diego here: https://bit.ly/3zgns1q

Pure Water San Diego is one of three potable water reuse or recycling projects under development in the San Diego region. The City of Oceanside is working toward creating 50% of its water supply locally, including Pure Water Oceanside, by 2030.

The East County Advanced Water Purification project would recycle 15 million gallons of annual wastewater discharge into drinking water, meeting 30% of the demand for potable water in East San Diego County.

(Editor’s note: The City of San Diego is one of the San Diego County Water Authority’s 24 member agencies that deliver water across the metropolitan San Diego region.)

North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition Awarded Over $6 Million in Federal Funding to Improve Local Water Supply Reliability

Encinitas, Calif. — The North San Diego Water Reuse Coalition has been awarded a $6.1 million grant from the United States Bureau of Reclamation’s Title XVI program. The coalition is a group of nine water and wastewater agencies in San Diego County working beyond jurisdictional boundaries to maximize recycled water use and reduce demand for imported water.

Landscape makeover-Escondido-landscape checklist-water conservation

Sustainable Landscaping Project Checklist for Success

When you’re beginning a sustainable landscaping project, it can be challenging to remember all the things you need to research, measure, and decide along the way. But it’s not a good idea to overlook these details. They all contribute to the success of your new sustainable landscaping project.

WaterSmart San Diego’s Sustainable Landscaping Guide has a helpful Project Checklist to help guide your effort, allows you to stay on track, and make good decisions to achieve your goals.

This beautiful landscape makeover winner from the 2021 Otay Water District content can help guide your own efforts. Photo: Otay Water District checklist for success

This beautiful landscape makeover winner from the 2021 Otay Water District content can help guide your own efforts. Photo: Otay Water District

Important considerations for a successful landscape makeover include:

Taking the steps you need to prepare your property.

Making all your plans before you start digging.

Choosing your plant palate and creating your plant design.

Beginning your project installation including your new plants.

Updating and adjusting your new irrigation system

Establishing and stewarding your new landscaping.

And most of all, taking time to admire and enjoy your new yard. You’ve worked hard to accomplish your goals and should celebrate your success.

Instructional videos on demand are available on the WaterSmartSD website. The example below explains how to shape your space.

Many home landscapers also return for refresher sessions by returning to WaterSmart Landscape Makeover classes. You can also consult local gardening organizations for help, or visit the Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon for inspiration, like many of the winners in annual regional landscape makeover contests.

The Water Conservation Garden in Rancho San Diego can help provide inspiration and advice for your landscaping plans. Photo: Water Conservation Garden checklist for success

The Water Conservation Garden in El Cajon can help provide inspiration and advice for your landscaping plans. Photo: Water Conservation Garden

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org. 

 

Native plant-sustainability-garden-landscapetracting pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies. Image: Water Authority

Setting Objectives for Waterwise Landscaping Success

It takes time to learn about the concepts behind the watershed approach to creating a healthy and sustainable landscape. Once you have these concepts mastered, the most important step of all comes next.  Consider the goals you want to achieve in your garden for landscaping success.

It might be difficult to know where to start. Many people accept an ocean of green but thirsty lawn and never give much thought to landscaping goals. Consider one of these worthy objectives.

Waving goodbye to grass

Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures, so summer plant care is easy with a little planning. Photo: Annie Spratt/Pixabay

Most native Southern California plants do well in hotter temperatures, so summer plant care is easy with a little planning. Photo: Annie Spratt/Pixabay

  • Removing a thirsty lawn without using any chemicals, in a way that preserves the healthy soil microbes
  • Planting local California native plants that will attract birds, butterflies, and bees for pollination
  • Creating a child or pet-friendly garden without thorns or sticky grass seed heads
  • Planting fruit trees, edible vines, and shrubs, or vegetable gardens

Using irrigation efficiently

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

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

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

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

Converting spray irrigation to micro or drip irrigation, with the intention of turning it off after establishing your waterwise landscaping

Making pathways and driveways more permeable

Making your landscaping an art project

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

San Marcos resident Jeff Moore’s landscape makeover including artistic touches won recognition in the 2018 Landscape Makeover Contest. Photo: San Diego County Water Authority

Making room for a small patio with room for an outdoor table or seating

Adding pathways, Zen gardens, and interesting materials and patterns

Integrating 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. We can all agree on this definition of landscaping success no matter your individual goals.

This article is part of a year-long series inspired by the 71-page Sustainable Landscapes Program guidebook. The Water Authority and its partners also offer other great resources for landscaping upgrades, including free WaterSmart classes at WaterSmartSD.org.

Nothing Icky About ‘Toilet-to-Tap’: Water Recycling Explained

Wastewater that recently swirled down a toilet bowl may be coming to your tap, in purified form, especially if you’re in a drought-stricken area where drinking water is increasingly scarce.

More municipal water systems in the West are considering water recycling, known in some places as “toilet-to-tap.” And Congress may begin supporting the idea as water systems scramble to find secure water supplies amid a decades-long drought driven by climate change, which may be the worst the region has experienced in more than a millennium.