For a Greener California…
*Native / drought tolerant plants
* “Smart” Self-adjusting irrigation controllers
Throughout the history of the arid West, water has always been an important issue. After all, no resource is as vital to its development, agriculture, and environmental preservation. California has always suffered from drought cycles, and while this year’s precipitation levels may give us some relief, current climate change models suggest that long droughts are likely to become increasingly common here, and rising temperatures are likely to decrease the Sierra Nevada snow pack which serves as our natural slow- release reservoir. With the states’ population expected to increase by 14 million people by 2030, we have to wonder: where is the water going to come from?
The largest, least expensive, and most ecologically sound source of water to meet California’s future needs is the water currently being wasted in every sector of our society. The average resident in Sonoma county uses over 160 gallons of water per day, with over half of that being used in the landscape.
With a little bit of thoughtful re organization, we can use the water we already have much more efficiently, and California will have plenty of water for today and for continued growth in the future.
Saving water means saving money, and is also one of the best ways to save energy, because distribution pumping of water requires a huge amount of electricity. The Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) has the biggest energy bill in the entire county, and 25% of all energy use in California is related to the distribution of water.
Native / drought tolerant plants
Lawns require a tremendous amount of water to maintain in our Mediterranean climate. Lawn watering uses more than half of all the water used by most California households.
A beautiful and productive native/drought tolerant landscape requires less than 15% of the water needed for a lawn of the same size.
The average American generates about 69 gallons of “Greywater” daily from their showers, sinks, and washing machines. Instead of being sent to the sewer, this water can be recovered and reused for irrigating gardens and trees.
Just think of paying once for the water, but using it twice!
Diverting the recovered water for irrigation doesn’t threaten anyone’s health. There is not a single documented incidence of a person in the US becoming ill from greywater irrigation.
A recent study from UCLA institute of the environment found that if only 10% of residents in the south coast region recycled their greywater for irrigation, the volume of water saved would be equivalent or larger than the capacity of a modern, large seawater desalination plant such as those proposed for California.
Greywater is not “waste”, but rather a valuable resource that should be reused.Policy change is beginning to reflect this perspective, and a new code (CPC Chapter 16A) was passed in California last year making it much easier to install simple residential greywater irrigation systems.
Rain, naturally distilled through evaporation, is one of our purest sources of water. An average size home (3000 sq ft roof) in Sonoma receives over 40,000 gallons of rain off its roof each year. Many landscapes have been designed with the view of rainwater as nothing but a nuisance to be sent “away” as fast as possible, into drains, sewers, and waterways. However, rainwater is a resource that can be put to use , as well as being safely channeled away from the house. After all – what’s better than using water that you didn’t have to pay for?
Rainwater can be captured and stored in many different types of cisterns (tanks) above or below ground, and used for anything from irrigation to drinking water.
By using simple earthworks such as basins and swales to “slow, spread and sink” the flow of rainwater into our land, we can replenish groundwater aquifers, while at the same time reduce contaminant load in waterways, and stress on overwhelmed waste water treatment plants.
13 million gallons of raw sewage is released yearly into the streams and lakes of San Francisco Bay due to storm water overflow in waste water treatment plants.
Paved surfaces (concrete sidewalks, asphalt driveways, etc.) block soil absorption of rain, shedding massive amounts of runoff, and often causing flooding and contamination. New innovative pervious pavement systems not only make your driveway and other hardscape areas look amazing- but also make them more environmentally friendly by making them permeable, allowing water to soak in. Vegetated paving systemsare made of a honeycomb of recycled plastic panels that can be interplanted with native plants, wild flowers, or vegetables.
“Smart” Self-adjusting irrigation controllers
are one of the biggest breakthroughs in landscape water conservation since the introduction of drip irrigation over 30 years ago. These new controllers automatically set and adjust watering levels according to local evapo-transpiration rate, microclimate, soil and plant type, slope, length of day, temperature, humidity, rainfall, etc. for a water savings of up to 50%.
The return on investment cost for these systems in water bill savings is typically less than two years.
A truly sustainable water culture begins with being conscious and responsible with our daily use right in our own homes and yards.