Yes, that is the way it has always been in recent history. But there are new products coming that will allow us to stop that soon. Watch the following video to wet your appetite. Garden Solutions Landscaping is looking into products that can recycle shower, bath, sink and laundry water, for use in flushing toilets, irrigation, and other uses. It only makes sense to use water multiple times to save this valuable resource!
The Monterey Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club including family and friends picked up about 40 pounds of trash yesterday on Del Monte Beach. Our focus was from the wharf, down the recreation trail about .25 miles and back up the beach. It was a beautiful day with temperatures in the low 70's. Afterwards, we celebrated our day at the London Bridge Pub with some well deserved fellowship! MPSRC has signed up with Save Our Shores to sponsor our beach clean ups. This is our club's 3rd beach clean up in the past year which also included Carmel Beach and Del Monte Beach. Save Our Shores provides the collection tools and forms to document what we found and removed into recycling or trash containers. The results were surprising. When you walk onto Del Monte Beach or along the recreation trail, most peoples first impressions is "wow, this beach looks really clean!" On this date we collected 1,559 pieces of debris in 1.5 hours. It breaks down as follows- 340 plastic pieces, 20 styrofoam pieces, 842 smoking related items, 141 glass pieces, 119 paper pieces, 74 metal pieces, 6 beach related items, and 16 "other" items. Several things stood out as we analyzed our debris. First of all we collected 835 cigarette butts! Although I don't like smoking personally, I can't understand why some people who smoke just toss their cigarette butts! We collected the equivalent of 42 packs of cigarettes just with our small group of 10 volunteers in a small area of the beach. We also found AAA batteries, lighters, lipstick, matches, nail clippers, and an unopened 1 gallon can of Rustoleum Paint for striping blue wheel chair accessible areas. The label clearly marked it. The can had been tossed into a bush. This isn't paint the average homeowner goes out to buy to take to the beach. This particular paint is used to stripe wheel chair accessible areas in parking lots. It seems like the folks responsible can do better! But that is true of all the debris collected. We can all do better to make our beaches on the shore of the Monterey Bay Marine Sanctuary clean and enjoyable. As residents and users of the beaches this is our responsibility to each other and the environment. It is our responsibility to sea creatures who live in our oceans so they can thrive, rather than be endangered from the debris they mistake as food. Join the Monterey Peninsula Sunrise Rotary Club on September 19, 2015 for our next Del Monte Beach clean up. We will meet at 10am near the wharf and behind the recreation trail. We are a merry band of "Rotarians at Work". Come join us! For more information go to www.montereysunriserotary.org.
For more information on the Intewa Aqualoop grey water system please use my contact page.
Over the past few weeks there have been many Earth Day events in the Monterey Peninsula community! Garden Solutions Landscaping has participated as an exhibitor in these events to help educate the community on collecting rainwater as an alternative to supplement the municipal water system run by Cal Am. These events are well planned, educational, and entertaining! I would like to thank the folks at CSUMB Focus-the-Region, Sustainable Pacific Grove, MEarth, Good Shepherd Church, and the Marina Garden Club for hosting these events!
The picture above was taken at Carmel Point and represents about 270 degrees of panorama. It was taken after a recent rain storm just before sunset after I discovered my iPhone 4S can now take "panorama" pictures. For some reason I remembered a song from 40+ years ago I sang as part of a group of students who played guitars at a Sunday service. I remembered that rain storms didn't always make me feel joyful and if there was a lot of wind involved it sometimes scared me! Now with many rainwater installations under my belt and many clients who can't wait for the rains to come, I do feel joy when it rains! I gaze out at the storms and think of all the rain cisterns that are filling up with water to be used later in the year for irrigating vegetable gardens or flowers or washing a car etc. I can't wait to go out to my patio in the morning after it rains to view my Mickey Mouse Wizard rain gauge to find out how much it rained! I love getting emails from my clients telling me how full their cisterns are after the rain. It feels good knowing this water was collected to be purposefully reused instead of letting it be storm water runoff that provides no benefit. So far this year the Monterey Peninsula has received over 10 inches of rain and we are just entering the rainiest time of the year. With any luck we will surpass our average of 17 inches per year. If you want an alternate source of water to provide for your needs without the extra cost why not evaluate and install a rainwater harvesting system. Garden Solutions Landscaping can design and install your system so you can experience the joy a rainstorm can truly bring!
I'm always looking for ways to reduce water usage in my landscape. The cost of water on the Monterey Peninsula is ridiculous and getting worse every year. The Central Coast of California is mostly oak trees, chaparral, and coastal scrub. Average rainfall is about 17 inches per year. That isn't so bad, but the rain only falls between late October and April typically, so we have a long dry period. The Monterey Peninsula's water supply comes from the Carmel River and the Seaside Aquifer. We have no access to state or federal water projects that supply the majority of California's water needs. According to the State, the local sources have been over-drafted for many years impacting the Carmel River ecosystem. A cease and desist order has been served on our local water purveyor, Cal-Am Water, to reduce pumping from 14,000 acre feet per year to approximately 3,000 acre feet per year by 2016. The local stake holders are working on a replacement source, most likely a Desalination Plant and waste water recovery. A multi-tier water rate system is in place to encourage water conservation. The more you use, the more you pay! It isn't unusual for many large landscape residential property owners to be paying greater than $1,000 per month for their internal and external combined usage. Anyway, I have been able to keep my summer water bill less than $300 per month so far. That Our landscape covers half an acre. We have no grass, and mostly drought tolerant and native plants. About 1/3rd of our usage is internal and 2/3rds external. Our landscape and drip irrigation system was installed 10 years ago with 7 zones. Many plants in some zones don't need any water or very little water at this time. But, the system was set up so everything in every zone is watered whether it needs it or not. I have areas on each side of my driveway (see pictures below) that have 20 plants each with two, 2-gallon emitters on each plant. Each area has Grevillea and Juniper on both sides of the driveway marking the entrance. These plants are mature and I have been trying to figure out how to isolate them so I can control when they get water, while other plants will be watered on my regular irrigation schedule. The picture above shows my solution. Pretty simple really, but I didn't figure this out for a long time. Each of these areas has a separate irrigation line that terminates at the end of the plantings. We bought 3/4" ball valves at the local irrigation supply store with glue in adapters for irrigation hose. Next we identified where the installation should go, dug a hole, cut the hose, installed the ball valve, and a small circular valve box to protect it from being stepped on. I can now close the ball valve and turn these two areas off while the rest of my landscape gets watered on its regular schedule. This saves 320 gallons per month or about 5% of my external usage. This is just my way of attempting to be more diligent, efficient, and thoughtful about our water use. I can't wait to tell you what I figure out next. Please let me know what you are doing so I don't have to re-invent the wheel!
About a month ago upon a site visit I made to an installation we did last October, I found the pump was not working correctly. For no apparent reason, it was continuing to cycle on and off, when it should have just shut down awaiting for the irrigation valve or hose bib to open and call for water. After discussing the problem with the technical folks at the supplier, I pulled the submersible pump out of the tank and returned it. The supplier verified the problem and sent a replacement pump. I installed the replacement pump and after a few minutes the submersible pump started doing the same thing. I called the technical staff back and we lowered the water level to make sure the internal plumbing from the pump to the side of the tank was working correctly. It was! We also checked the floating extractor on the intake side of the pump and it was working correctly and there wasn't any air in the lines. From the hose bib water flowed as expected. But the pump still cycled on and off even though everything was off. So this time I pulled it out again, the technical staff had me open it up to make sure nothing was stuck in the internal valve, and nothing was. I closed it up and re-installed it one more time, taking my time to document the process and results. The same issues happened again which wasn't surprising. Next I decided I had enough with this submersible pump and after consultation with the client we decided to return the pump for credit as it was still under warranty. We also decided to change the design and install an external pump. After gathering all the parts, I installed the pump last week and am glad to say it has worked flawlessly since then. When the hose bib or the irrigation valve calls for water the pump turns on as expected, and turns off, shortly after they stop. I don't know if there is a moral to the story, but it was clear after trying to get the pump to work properly several different times without success it was time to develop and implement Plan B! I'm glad we did and the new external pump came up and worked as expected the first time!
Whether it is in the Monterey Herald or just talk among the neighbors water bills for most homeowners seem to be going up significantly. Stories in my own neighborhood of water bills over $1,000 per month are not uncommon! For the most part it's not that folks want to spend that much money on water either. The biggest issue is that folks are seeing their bills going up, but don't know why, or what to do about it. Our bill this past month was $275. Believe it or not we pay about $120 for a sewer hook up and the balance is for connection fees and actual water usage. We used just over 12,000 gallons last month and based on our internal usage in winter time when the irrigation system is off I estimate we used somewhere between 7,000 and 8,000 gallons in our landscape. Several years ago when I let the gardeners manage the irrigation controller we routinely used over 30,000 gallons per month in the summer time. Once I started monitoring how much water we used I took over control of my irrigation controller and told my gardeners not to touch it.
My wife and I have a lot size of .7 acres and it is fully landscaped with mostly drought tolerant plants. When it was originally landscaped 10 years ago, the landscape architect used mostly 1 gallon and a few 5 gallon plants. What we have found over time is the 1 gallon plants that looked so small and were planted close together have grown up into large plants that grow into each other. We have a process we call "editing" where we walk around the yard and see what plants are adding "value" and what plants aren't! When we first started this process several years ago I estimated we had 900 plants in our yard. I now estimate we have 700 plants due to our "editing" and in fact we are happier with the look of the landscape now. You can see the plants that are left, they aren't hidden or damaging others because they have grown into each other. Why do we edit? The main reason is to reduce our water usage on plants that in our estimation no longer add value to our home's curb appeal. Water rates continue to go up every year and I hate to pay for what we really don't need, so editing provides a value to us.
This weekend I have been "editing". I have probably removed 30 plants that we perceived had no value to the look of our landscape any longer. The first thing I do is find where the drip lines are to those plants and uncover them so I don't damage any lines when I dig out the plant. Next, I dig out the plant, and then remove the drip line from the main hose and plug it. In our case each plant has 2 each two gallon/hour drip emitters, so in this editing process I removed 60 drip emitters that were emitting approximately 60 gallons per week based on my irrigation controller's schedule. Over a month that is a savings of 240 gallons and in six month that saves 1,560 gallons. My wife and I try to edit several times per year.
While I was editing, I decided to open my valve boxes and turn the system on to make sure I plugged all the drip lines I removed. In the process of doing that I found one of the valves in my valve box was leaking! I called my landscape guy who was working at another home in our neighborhood and he came over about 30 minutes later. He tightened the nuts on the valve to clamp down the gasket further and that stopped the leak. I checked the other valve boxes while he was here and noticed a second leak. He tightened that one as well. I will check back later to make sure that really solved the problem. I don't really know how much water was leaking per day, but if it was 1 gallon per day on two leaky valves then we stopped another 60 gallons per month from leaking.
Below I have some pictures of how my yard looked this morning and the leaks I found in the irrigation box. I know we will keep "editing" to reduce our water usage, but I will also be checking my valve boxes more regularly as well.
If I were to poll our customers at Garden Solutions Landscaping that have chosen to install a rainwater harvesting system why they did it, the reasons are typically as follows. 1) Fear, 2) Distrust, 3) Cost, 4) Control. Ok, let me elaborate on these.
1) Customers are fearful that a water moratorium on external watering is coming! The State Water Resources Control Board has issued a Cease and Desist order to Cal-Am for over-pumping the Carmel River and Seaside Aquifer. In the next few years Cal-Am will ramp down what they are pumping and providing to Monterey Peninsula residents and without a new source of water coming on line in a timely manner a moratorium may be the result.
2) Customers have watched for decades the struggle over water between the state, local agencies, and our water provider; Cal-Am, and distrust the players ability to bring new sources on line in a timely and cost effective manner. The bottom line is no new water sources have been brought on line after years of talk. Now our backs are against the wall, the Regional Project has been declared dead, agencies and people are suing each other over costs and conflicts of interest, water rights are up in the air, Cal-Am doesn't want to partner with a local municipality, an analysis of the desalination options between 3 or 4 proposals hasn't been completed, Pacific Grove is going down a path with one option while other local cities are trying to get a joint powers authority working, and it therefore isn't clear what the final outcome will be or when! How can anyone trust that the multitude of local and state agencies, local stakeholders, and Cal-Am, will pull off a solution that will benefit the community for the long term given the track record to date and the time frame necessary . It certainly isn't clear who is leading the effort in the community but it does appear the PUC is trying to provide some structure. It is safe to say we are all not on the same page!
3) Assuming the best happens and new sources of water are brought on-line in time, what is the cost of that water to the consumer? There have been opinions about what the cost of an acre foot of water from various new sources might be, but no one has quantified the cost to the consumer. Given pumping water from the Carmel River and the Seaside Aquifer is relatively low, new sources are likely to drive rates up further.
4) Many of our customers have voiced their need to make sure they have water. By putting in rainwater harvesting systems they can guarantee water availability for their vegetable or flower gardens etc. If a moratorium is put in place for a period of time they want to be able to bridge the gap and not lose thousands of dollars in food or landscaping.
None of the folks we have installed rainwater harvesting systems for have lawns! They typically have mostly drought tolerant plants, vegetable gardens, and are very conscious of their water usage and want to know what they can do to improve their conservation efforts. Rainwater Harvesting is not a panacea for the communities water problems but it does offer an alternative water source, more independence, and some control for local residents. Beyond that we all need to continue to be involved in meetings and forums and push our local governments to bring a long term water solution to the Monterey Peninsula.
Recently I had the pleasure of visiting Hoover Dam. The Bureau of Reclamation completed the Hoover Dam in 1935 ahead of schedule and under budget. Quite a feat for a project of this magnitude built during the Great Depression. The dam rises 727 feet above the bedrock it is poured on, and creates a reservoir 110 miles in length and a holding capacity of 32,350,000 acre feet. To provide a picture of how much water this is, imagine the state of Connecticut with 10 feet of water covering it. The primary purpose of the project was flood control of the lower Colorado river. In addition the Hoover Dam generates power that supplies millions of people in the southwest.
What I saw was an immense rainwater harvesting system! The catchment area supporting the Colorado River includes seven states and collects the rain and snow melt in its watershed. A roof is a catchment area and can be viewed as the watershed for your rainwater harvesting system. A roof has slopes and valleys and sheds water into gutters and downspouts. The Colorado River Watershed therefore catches rain and snow fall and then focuses the runoff down the slopes and canyons to the river. The river, like a gutter, moves the water to the collection system. The Hoover Dam created Lake Mead or the reservoir that collects and stores the water. In a rainwater harvesting system the reservoir is created by an above or below ground tank. One of the issues with all dam projects is the problem of silt. The river carries silt which is deposited behind the dam and builds up over time. Silt will reduce the storage capacity of the dam and limit its life. A rainwater harvesting system can also capture organic solids that flow off your roof, but because the size and scale is so much smaller, excellent ways of filtering debris have been created to reduce or eliminate the debris from entering the rainwater harvesting tank. It is very important to screen the debris from entering the tank for several reasons. Organic material in a closed container can breakdown and significantly reduce the water quality over time. Typically, when you want to use the water to irrigate your property, debris in the system may clog or ruin a pump or clog emitters in a drip line and therefore reduce irrigation performance. In the case of dam projects there is no simple way to screen out silt or debris as there is in rainwater harvesting projects. Another aspect of the Hoover Dam are the overflow spillways on each side that protect the reservoir from overflowing the dam itself. When the water in Lake Mead rises to a certain level it begins to overflow and is released downstream. Similarly in a rainwater harvesting system the tank fills and also flows through an overflow when it reaches its maximum capacity. The overflow water can be sent into the yard and passively used in bioswales to infiltrate into the soil and improve its moisture content. The Hoover Dam also uses four intake towers to direct water to the turbines at the bottom of the dam to generate power. The water is then released back into the Colorado River and flows downstream. A rainwater harvesting system also has one or more methods of distribution on the tank. A spigot can be installed to allow the water to flow via gravity based on the pressure built up by the height of the water in the tank. Or a pump can be installed to receive the water and pressurize it for a larger irrigation system or whole house water system. Once the water is used either for non-potable or potable uses it can then be sent on passively into the soil or as gray water or black water and processed appropriately.
So, as I was standing on the new interstate bypass bridge being buffeted by 50 mph winds and taking pictures it also gave me pause to recognize the immensity of this project, what an engineering and construction marvel it is, and allowed me to compare how this project was similar in many ways to a rainwater harvesting system. If you ever have the chance to visit the Hoover Dam, do it! And if you have the chance to build a rainwater harvesting system I would be glad to help you design and install it!
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