H2OME has moved!

You will be automatically redirected to the new address. If that does not occur, visit
and update your bookmarks. Thanks! - Brook

Monday, November 21, 2011

Observation Shows Us What Nature Intends

The rainy season is a good time for us to begin to observe what works and what doesn't work. Your observations can begin up at the top of your watershed in the mountains nearby, or down at the estuaries leading into the oceans, or even in your own neighborhood and yard. When it rains, watch the rain pouring off your roof to see where it flows. Watch the water coming out of your downspout: where is this resource being directed. Watch the water moving off your driveway, walkways, soil: where is water flowing, pooling. We can learn so much about what small steps we can use to harness natural energies.

I noticed this, this morning after a day of rain yesterday and got so excited about the teaching opportunity exhibited. Here the street is eroding so there are areas where sediment gets deposited when the water flows. Soon enough, weeds have populated this area and grown enough to impede the flow of water just enough to catch debris during the water's journey down the storm drain and out to our river and ocean. A "healthy" collection of cigarette butts, plastic, leaves, seeds, sediment, and things we can't see see trapped by this debris like oil, copper from car brakes, bacteria from animal poop populate the area upstream of this weed. Additionally, more seeds have been able to germinate in the building sediment and nutrients accumulating (can you spot the milkweed growing?). This is what happens in nature!! Far upstream starting in the mountains, where the water flows are occurring naturally, plants filter all kinds of contaminants out of the water flow as well as slowing the water flow so it can have a chance to soak into the ground along the way to hydrate the soil and plant life in these areas. What happens when we raze a hillside and pave it with rooftops, driveways, and storm drains with no opportunities for this natural filtration? We get huge volumes of water flowing at difficult to manage velocities, with massive amount of pollutants, headed straight for our waterways which are ill-equipped to naturally handle the influx of volume and bacteria. Thus our beaches are shut down, our aquatic flora and fauna are threatened, and flooding creates more need for $$ to build infrastructure to handle all of it!

Small changes like this are the first step to helping us rebuild what we have destroyed. If only we can use our observation skills in combination with our problem solving skills in combination with our compassion for each other as well as even the smallest living thing, we may have a chance at building something at least not degenerative... maybe we can even strive beyond sustainability to regenerative design (leaving something better, more productive than how you found it).

Friday, September 9, 2011

Water Security Now.

Sitting in a candlelit room talking about the effects and concerns of the recent power outage with friends, our immediate thoughts were for basic needs. With threats of the outage lasting 2-3 days, and several hungry kids to feed, our concerns were real. Do we have enough food? Besides the fact that refrigerated food will go bad, we can't even BUY food from the store because the cash registers don't work! How can we cook, unless we have gas or solar ovens? Being a water geek, of course my thoughts turned to water... Is the water okay to drink? How is that water going to get to us if there is no power to pump it over the mountains, treat it and distribute it? What about the water that is going down the drain? How are the sewage treatment plants going to run if there is no power? What's going to happen to all that sewage?

Sure enough, they were valid concerns. The power outage was the cause of beach closures due to 3.2 million gallons of sewage seeping into the Los Penasquitos Lagoon. Additionally 120, 000 gallons leaked into the Sweetwater River which flows into San Diego Bay.

Not to mention several neighborhoods had a boil order placed on them because backup generators weren't sufficient to guarantee that the water coming out of the tap was indeed potable.

According to The California Energy Commission 19% of California's energy use is dedicated to moving water around the state. 2%-3% of our state's energy is specifically directed at pumping water coming from Northern California over the Tehachapi Mountain Range to Southern California. According to a report by the NRDC, another half of the energy it takes to pump that water up and over the mountains is required to treat our sewage, before it is released into the waterways. We have seen in a microcosm (only a few hours without power) what our life without energy will be like. We can imagine how quickly our quality of life will degenerate without the electricity that feeds us our water.

The failure here seems that we, as individuals, don't have control over our basic resources. We are at the mercy of large, complex systems. However, we all have the ability to regain some measure of control over ensuring not only individual health, safety, and welfare, but also community health, safety, and welfare by educating ourselves and creating change in our own backyards, so to speak.

In this emergency, more than ever, it is apparent that greywater harvesting on the home-scale is imperative to help create water security for our communities. If each residence around San Diego, and beyond, had laundry and shower greywater systems in place, we could reduced the amount of water being sent from each home to the sewage treatment plant by half. This is a small investment in infrastructure compared to the grand scale of municipal water treatment. These systems are simple and cost effective when implemented at the homescale level. The result is that when the sewage treatment facilities aren't functioning, the yard IS. The landscape is designed to capture and treat this slightly used water in the soil, with mulch basins and plants providing high levels of microbial activity which bioremediate any solids or pathogens in the water. This compared to high volumes of water with added solids and pathogens from toilets spilling out directly into our waterways?

Additionally, residential rainwater storage
demonstrates a very specific value in this situation. It can be argued that storing rainwater is expensive considering how cheaply our water comes from the tap. Many will argue that there is simply not enough rainfall to make storage feasible. However, did you know that a 1000 square foot roof will shed 600 gallons in a 1" rainfall, and we get 10" here in San Diego. So the question becomes: Where do I put it all? If water supply gets cutoff or if water supply becomes unpotable because of energy failures at the treatment facilities, where will we get our water from? The rivers and lagoons that the sewage was just released into?

Even if a small percentage of our 1.3 million people, let's say about 2.5% or 25,000 people put 1000 gallon rainwater tanks in at their homes, we would have 25,000,000 gallons of water storage available within San Diego. We can assume that by this time of the year most people will have used up a large portion of their water on landscape needs, so maybe we have 1/10th of that supply: 2,500,000 gallons. Wow! When you look at that number and realize that's only 2 gallons of water per person, 2 days worth of emergency water rations, it almost seems like it's not worth it. But when you consider 3.2 million gallons of drinking water, pumped over mountains using huge amounts of power, was flushed down toilets, sinks, and showers and directly out into waterways polluting huge swaths of coastline in just a few hours of life with out power, you have to ask yourself, at what cost? 1000 gallon rainwater tank, $1000 investment in individual and community water security. What does 1000 gallons of municipal water cost if there is no power, on the front end, on the back end, to us, to our community, to our environment, to environments upstream and downstream?

Even if you are a renter, don't have a yard, want to do something but don't have the money, please start this conversation with people you know who may be able to invest in these strategies, discuss these technologies and issues with your local representatives: city council, state legislature, water agencies. Let's move this conversation up a notch and demand a paradigm change where we all have a part in creating local water resources.

If you want to learn more about greywater, there is greywater workshop at Wild Willows Farm this Saturday from 10-4. Also, keep an eye out for an October Mid-City Water Harvesting walk/bike ride demonstrating several different water harvesting sites throughout College, Talmadge, Kensington, North Park, Normal Heights, and University Heights. If you have a site you would like to see included, please contact me at brook@h2o-me.com

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Should we end the mandatory watering restrictions?

Does Mayor Sanders really think that anyone needs to water more than they have been? Does he think maybe that we should start washing our cars weekly in our driveways, or washing off our sidewalks with drinking water?

There is a time and place for a lawn. I'm not opposed to them outright, despite the a bumper sticker on my car demanding "Kill Your Lawn". However, I saw something sickening today that needs to be addressed. I was in Scripps Ranch helping a friend plant some fruit trees... she's got a landscaping plan to replace her front lawn with fruit trees; a brave family in a sea of green lawn. It was 9AM on a sunny San Diego day, and water was running out of almost every drain from every yard into the storm drain. Was it precipitation from the roofs? I think not! Gallons and gallons of good drinking water that is apparently such a cheap and expendable resource that we can send it right out to the ocean without even using it. You may argue that it was used to water the lawns, keep San Diego green. But, the lawn didn't use it. This was extra. If that was happening here in Scripps Ranch, how many other beautifully manicured communities are doing it? How many thousands of gallons are we paying to pump over mountains, hundreds of miles, only to dump into the ocean?

Now, Mayor Sanders is calling to end the mandatory watering restrictions? He specifically mentions lawns. Now why, after these last two years does anyone need to water more than three days a week? Those who got rid of their lawns did so because they didn't want to pay for water, not because three days a week was too little to keep it green, so they aren't affected by the restrictions. So, I guess it's just those people that can afford to water a green lawn that are affected by the restrictions. But, if their lawns are still green, why do they need to have the option of watering more if they want? This seems like just an excuse to let people be wasteful.

Maybe "mandatory" is a word that we don't want in our world of imagined democracy. But let's rethink our use of this resource and put "guidelines" into place to help us all take better care of our watersheds. I think three days a week is fair. I think fines for gross neglect are fair. Overwater amounts to stealing water from others, although we can justify it because we are paying for it "fairly and squarely", but not really. Water is cheap. I know you may not think so, but at 0.005 cent/gallon, we have cheap water. This means, we don't think much before we waste a gallon here or a gallon there. There is only so much drinkable water in the world, and plenty of people don't get what they need. Thus if we take more than our share, we are stealing from others. I talked to a woman from St. Croix, an island without the luxury of snowpack and hundreds of miles of pipe bringing water from far off rivers. They get what they get out of the sky, and if that runs out, they pay $2-$5/gallon to have water trucked in to fill their reserves. People in remote parts of Africa and India walk miles to fill their jugs of water. We turn on the tap and then complain that water prices keep rising. How else can we force people to take heed of how precious this resource is if not by mandating or at least encouraging strongly a different way of doing things? Mayor Sanders is calling for the elimination of the mandates. But is he calling for any far reaching changes that offer a solution to limited local water supply? Everything is not back to normal now that it rained a little bit more than we hoped for. Extra rain this year doesn't change the circumstances that are causing us to raise our eyebrows at the sources of water we draw from like the Delta, and the judiciary measures reducing our water draw, or the Colorado River and the potential reduction of water there with other cities clambering for their share of the River that we have been using up until now.

Please, let's encourage City Council to refuse Mayor Sander's request. Let's encourage them to come up with a better solution before revoking the "emergency restrictions". Let's all save our rainwater, use greywater, keep stormwater onsite, and reduce our landscaping irrigation needs. This alone could account for reducing our need for outside water sourcing by half!

Did you know: Grass requires about 50 inches of water a year to stay green. We get 10 of that out of the sky. A 500 square foot lawn, therefore requires about 13,000 gallons of municipal water a year to stay green. Check your waterbill. See what 1 HCF (748 gallons) costs you. Figure out how much you could save a year by getting rid of that 13,000 gallons of water use a year. Better yet, sheet mulch that 500 square feet and put in some fruit trees irrigated with greywater. Now, not only are you not using that 13,000 gallons of water a year, you are getting free fruit in your yard (saving you the fuel of going to the store and giving you the peace of mind knowing that there are no pesticides and the fruit didn't come from thousands of miles away), using water you've already used once and which is higher in nutrients now that you've added some nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus to it via your detergent.

Monday, May 2, 2011

" A Watershed Tale"

“A Watershed Tale” A site-specific performance at Wild Willow Farm

Through the creativity of puppeteers, cardboard, papier mache, stilt walking, cantastoria and song “A Watershed Tale” explores the story of a farm, Tijuana Estuary plants and animals, greed and, eventually, goodness. The performance will take place at the Wild Willow Farm along the Tijuana Estuary, where guests will follow the characters for a roving performance. Suggestion donation is $10; all proceeds contribute to the Wild Willow Farm & Education Center.

The Wild Willow Farm & Education Center supports healthy bodies, communities, economies, and ecosystems. Mid-City Propagators is a collaboration of farmers and artists led by Julia Dashe, David Krimmel and Ellie Sherman.


Saturday, May 7th, 2011
4:00 pm: “A Watershed Tale”
at the Wild Willow Farm

Saturday, May 14th, 2011
4:00 pm “A Watershed Tale”
at the Wild Willow Farm

Saturday, May 21st, 2011
4:00 pm “A Watershed Tale”
at the Wild Willow Farm
5:30 pm Potluck

For directions to Wild Willow Farm & Education Center and updates please visit.

David Krimmel
619/ 200-8150