H2OME has moved!

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Question of the Week

This is a good opportunity to do some simple math that can help you understand how useful a greywater system can be for you and how changing your landscaping can help much more substantially!

My last water bill used 46 HCF for 61 days.  If we could skim at least 22 HCF off per cycle, that would keep me in the bottom two price ranges (tiers).

…We do about 10 HE laundry loads per week.  Would just setting up grey water from the washer be enough to cover those 22 HCF

The answer to this is twofold.  First of all, a high efficiency washing machine uses about 10 gallons per load these days.  So 10 loads would equal 100 gallons per week.  That adds up to 400 gallons per month.  You could be watering 3-4 mature fruit trees with that water!

On the other hand, 1 HCF (hundred cubic feet) is 748 gallons.  So you would only chip into your water use by just over 1/2 HCF a month which isn't really going to make a dent in your water bill!

Now, if you consider lawn (the biggest water user in our landscape), which can't really be watered with this greywater without substantial investment in pumps, filters, and specialized irrigation ($5K +), you'll find that 500 square feet of lawn uses 13,000 gallons of water a year.  That's over 1K gallons a month, which is about 1.5HCF.

So getting rid of just this much of your lawn (which is free if you sheet mulch it) will save you 3 times the amount of water the above greywater system ($600-$800) will save you.

The key point here is to start with a good landscape design.  Know what you absolutely want in your yard.  And put the elements in efficient relationship to each other and to water sources.  Things that are going to be using shower greywater will rely on gravity and need to be placed downhill from the shower.  Things that are going to be using laundry greywater can be higher because of the pump on the washing machine.  And make sure there's places that can catch water falling off the roof in a rainfall and allow it to absorb in!  That's free water!

There's so much more to it than this.  This is why consulting with an expert can save you a lot of money and time in the end.  Before you implement an expensive system, reducing your consumption and efficient placement will get you off to a better start!

For more information, call or email me for a consultation or contact my friends Kevin and Christopher from Savanna Agriculture to get a design for your space with edible and water efficient landscaping.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Upcoming Events

15 - Water Harvesting Open House

This is your opportunity to get up close and personal with very simple and productive water harvesting features such as rainwater tanks and greywater systems. We'll take you on a tour and explain the many aspects of rainwater tanks, Laundry-to-Landscape Systems, and a shower greywater system including materials, costs, do's and don'ts, rebates, and permitting.

22 - Master Gardeners Spring Seminar

This is the Annual Master Gardeners Spring Seminar. It's a great opportunity to take a wide range of class offerings covering all things plant and garden. I'll be discussing rainwater harvesting from 10:30 - 12 and look forward to seeing you there!

29 - Greywater Installation Workshop

This hands-on workshop will teach and inspire participants to install their own “Laundry to Landscape” greywater system. Learn how easy it is to use the washing machine to irrigate fruit trees and more with this cheap, easy, and permit-free legal method of greywater reuse. By the end of the day, participants will be able to design and install their own laundry to landscape greywater system with confidence. Cut down your water bill and grow an ecological and food producing garden. This class includes many handouts related to greywater design to help you further setup up your own system.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Food Water Connection

Most of you know that I do consultations as well as installation.  One of the best parts of my job is connecting people to resources.  I certainly don't claim to be able to do everything.  But I know some amazing people and resources in our community that I'd like you to know about too. 

We all know water is precious.  The other basis for human sustenance is food.  We all know it takes water to grow food, but what we may not realize is that food grown outside of our community takes far more water than food grown here locally.  The additional water costs are related to transportation/petroleum energy as well as crops grown in places they shouldn't be (like lettuce in the Imperial Valley) but due to water allocations and special pricing for agriculture, it can be justified for the price points you see at the store.  

If you really want to conserve water, besides planting yards that use only onsite water, if you can harvest additional water supplies (like rain from your roof in tanks, or greywater from your showers and laundry) you should grow food.  Then these technologies which are generally expensive and have 5+ years ROI minimum become more viable because you are generating additional cost savings, by decreasing your spending at the grocery store. 

Now to the resources:
1.  You want to redesign your space to grow food.  About half the time I go out to a consultation, what you want to do is grow food.  Logically you want to "plant the water" first.  But aren't sure what you want to grow with it.  This is a great time to call Kevin and Christopher with Savannah Agriculture.  They can develop a plan for growing a combination of drought tolerant, local, native, and edible plantings according to all your water resources.  Kevin Muno <kevin@savannaag.com>

2.  You want to grow veggies in your yard.  You'd rather not start slow and spend time and energy trying a bunch of techniques that might not work.  You might not have time and energy to do a great job but you have the space.  You should connect with Mia from Good Neighbor Gardens She has a backyard CSA program that provides ongoing maintenance and harvests from your yard combining your abundance with other yards in the community to create a wonderful biweekly box of veggies/fruits/ and other yummies.  AMAZING!  Why hasn't anyone thought of this before?!   

3.  You want to learn everything you can about growing your own food and holistic design.  Have you heard about the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute?  Have you heard about Permaculture?   I can guarantee after this class, you will see the world through different eyes.  You will have tools and resources you need, as well as having made connections with other like-minded people here in San Diego to be able to work towards designing your space and maybe creating a career combining forces with others to create change in our community.  

4.  You want to meet these people and be inspired by a functional local non-profit farm!  Check out the Kale Festival coming up Saturday, February 22 at the San Diego Peace Garden in City Heights.  And if you love the Peace Garden you can come help out and learn all about growing food on Wednesday mornings!

5.  You want another chance to meet these people, AND see water harvesting in action in the form of 2 x 500 gallon tanks, shower greywater, and laundry greywater in a highly productive and beautiful garden.  On March 15th, we will open a charming yard in South Park where you will be able to meet all the people above as well as see these water harvesting features.  We will have someone from the Water Conservation Department on hand to discuss the current rebate programs.  And I will give a tour demonstrating all the features and describing all the costs associated with the different water harvesting elements.   You can find more information at http://www.h2o-me.com  and RSVP at www.sdsustainable.org

6.  If you want to learn to install a greywater system yourself, check out our upcoming Greywater workshop on March 29.  http://sdsustainable.org/event/laundry-to-landscape-greywater/

7.  Here's some other local edible landscapers you might want to check out:
and a drought tolerant/native landscaper

Keep on Growing!
Brook Sarson
Smart Water Savings

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Where is the Rain?

I know I'm not the only one who has finally gotten to the point where this beautiful San Diego weather is actually feeling quite ominous.  The politicians are using the word "drought" to secure funding for water projects of all shapes and sizes.  You can read the various articles linked in this paragraph to see several different takes on what the drought means to us at home and at the state level.  Meanwhile, I argue that we all have a responsibility to our community to ensure adequate local water resources.  Don't wait for politicians and agencies to satisfy your water needs.  Please, please do reduce your water consumption.  Also consider storing water onsite in the guise as rainwater.  Also consider watering your thirsty plants with your gently used shower or laundry water in the guise of greywater!

Consider this:  There are over 290,000 single family homes in San Diego City alone.  If each of those homes put in 500 gallons of rainwater storage (4' diameter tank, $400 rebate from the city, $75 rebate from the county), we would have almost 15,000,000 gallons of local water onhand.   Relative to total water use this is just a drop in the bucket, but considering the multilayered cost of 15,000,000 gallons from our existing sources (environmental, economic, sustainable, disaster proof) this is a significant step we can all take to be part of the solution.

Here is a link for City Rain Barrel Rebates

Here is a link for County Rain Barrel Rebates

Also consider that a typical 4 person household with a newer, efficient washing machine, washing 4 loads a week produces 40 gallons a week, which equates to over 2000 gallons for the year.  Do you do more or less than this?  Is your washing machine old?  If so, you may be producing 50 gallons per load!   To put in a greywater system to water your trees, shrubs, and vines with this water can cost as little as $250 (DIY)  and usually not more than $750 (installed).   Wow!  2000 gallons for every washing machine in San Diego to ensure that we have trees and shrubs and vines that can feed us or at least reduce the scorching heat island effect by softening the sun's reflective potential.  It's worth it San Diego.  

What's really cool is that the Sweetwater Authority is giving $75 rebates for greywater systems in their region!! 

When can we have that from San Diego City?  And all the other parts of the County?

And that's certainly not all you can do.  Check out the following events and classes to learn more about reducing water consumption and living within our water budget.  Do it for yourself, and for your community!

  • This Saturday, January 25 at the Museum of Natural History in Balboa Park from 10-2, join me and a ton of other water related experts while we showcase strategies, technologies, and complexities related to water in Southern California
  • Take a Permaculture Class with the San Diego Sustainable Living Institute in May.  Learn more about creating a holistic design for your home, garden, community including choosing water strategies and plant pallets that are appropriate for our spaces. 
  • While you are at it, check out the Great Greywater Challenge.  Donate, offer your home as a workshop site, put your greywater system on the map.
  • For those of you further north, check out the Ecology Center in San Juan Capistrano!  It's an amazing education resource for sustainability.  With a number of classes including water harvesting, natural food prep, and backyard gardening, to it's Eco-Apprenticeship Program, and it's onsite store it's a wealth of information and resources.