Tag Archives: tips for saving water

Keeping our storm drains free from pollution

By Marco Conci, Eagle Scout, Troop 36

I recently had the opportunity to work with the Town of Danville’s Clean Water Program Coordinator, Chris McCann and 12 Boy Scouts from Troop 36 to replace curb markers above storm drains.

Dumping anything into storm drains is not just wrong, it’s illegal. Storm water is often considered a nuisance because it mobilizes pollutants such as motor oil and trash. Pollutants such as oil, paint, pesticides, fertilizers, and soaps contaminate storm water and cause harm to our ecosystem. This affects ocean water quality and marine life.

Storm drain marking is an established method to increase community awareness about non-point source pollution. The Town of Danville has an established program to replace the storm drain markers and increase community awareness to educate the public not to dump pollution into our streets and waterways.

Unlike the water that flows down the drains inside your home which goes to sewage treatment facilities, the storm drain system is completely separate; water in the storm drain receive no treatment or filtering process. This means that any pollution that gets washed into the storm drains go directly to our creeks here in Danville and ultimately the Bay.

We can all do our part to keep storm water clean. So what can we do to make it better? There are a lot of things:

Keep trash and chemicals off the streets.  That means picking up litter when you see it, even if it’s not your own, and avoiding the use of harsh chemicals.

Make sure your car is in good working order so that the oil and gas doesn’t drip onto the pavement and eventually into the drain.

Pick up after your dog. You don’t want to swim in its waste the next time you go to the beach!

Be a community advocate.  Report full or clogged storm drains to your department of public works.

Here’s some other simple do’s and don’ts:

Don’t wash your car at home because the soapy suds join a polluted mix of grime, metals, petroleum products and chemicals that flow into the street, then into the drain which flow into our creeks and eventually the bay and ocean. Do take your car to a commercial location that has a drain that flows into a treatment facility where the water is cleaned before it is released.

Don’t water garden and lawns with the sprinklers running too long or spraying too far, the extra water can carry pollutants like fertilizers and animal waste into the drain. Do adjust your sprinklers so they work properly and only water areas that need it.

Don’t hose your concrete paths because the water can pick up other trash that flow into the drain.

Do use a broom (which is also a wise choice during our drought).

Here’s some other good storm water management ideas to consider.

In cities with lots of concrete, 75% of the rainwater runs into the sewer instead of being absorbed by the ground as it would in a natural environment. Counter this by using rain barrels to divert water from storm drains therefore, reducing pollutants.  Or use rain chains to direct water to your garden using water wisely and keeping it out of our storm drains—saving you money and helping with the drought.

Our State and regional water board support projects that include low impact development designs that capture water where it falls. For example, in new developments or in re-landscaping using trees and plants near sidewalks and roads work to soak up water into the ground to feed living things, instead of having the water roll of the pavement into the street and drains.

By keeping water on your property and preventing runoff, you’ll be doing your favorite beach a favor too. The less water that gets into our storm drain system, the cleaner our beaches stay.

As part of my project, we distributed flyers to houses throughout my neighborhood to educate the public on storm drain awareness. On the flyer, I asked Danville residents to pledge not to misuse the storm drain system with pollutant, such as pouring toxic materials in their streets that would flow to the storm drain.  You can show your commitment to our community, environment, wildlife, and bay clean and healthy by signing this online pledge: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/444/692/655

If you sign before September 15th, 2016 you will have a chance to win a Starbucks gift card.


drains to creek

For more information check out some of these sources:




Marco Conci, a gold palm Eagle Scout with Troop 36, is a Junior at Monte Vista High School. He is working toward his Hornaday Silver Award, which he will earn after completing four conservation projects.

Dollars for Turf and Toilets

Tip of the Month – September 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville

The California Department of Water Resources has announced new rebates to help replace old, inefficient toilets and lawns with water-saving alternatives.Besides the $100 rebate to replace one toilet per household, the bigger rebate is $2 per square foot for lawn replacement, up to $2,000 per household. www.SaveOurWaterRebates.com.

Now is an opportune time to replace your water-thirsty lawn because if the weather forecasts are right, we should soon receive El Nino soaking rains. My husband and I converted our front and backyard lawns in response to the 2008-09 EBMUD emergency requesting a 20% reduction in water use by residential customers. We stopped watering our lawns¾and plants¾with the idea that anything that couldn’t make it on once a month watering would be replaced.

front yard

There are many classes and free resources about drought tolerant plants including seasonal sales from The Garden at Heather Farm in Walnut Creek and the Horticulture Program at Diablo Valley College. I worked with Chris Finch, a drought tolerant plant expert that helped write the publication, Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry climates of the San Francisco Bay Region  to identify plants that appealed to me and would work in our community’s climate. EBMUD also has a resource list of local nurseries, demonstration gardens, classes and events, and books where you can learn about and view native plants.  Additionally, some local nurseries will design a lawn conversion planting plan for a fee and then rebate the fee as credit toward plants purchased. (Click here to investigate East Bay nurseries that offer significant “Tear Out Your Lawn” challenge discounts and free consultations.)

After laying a new path of Kentucky Blue Stone pavers, we tapped off our sprinklers that would later be converted to drip irrigation.  During the month, our neighbors and friends saved newspapers and cardboard to use for sheet mulching. This is an important step

in the conversion process because the sheet mulch kills the lawn and suppresses further weed growth while improving soil nutrients and structure and encouraging favorable microbial activity.  Sheet mulching is a wonderful labor saver because it spares you the hard work of actually tearing out the lawn.  However, if your lawn is full of tree roots you may have to do some additional digging or rototilling to rid the area of roots before you can lay down an effective mulch covering.  (Click here to learn more tips for sheet mulching success.)




Once we had our plant layout, we knew exactly where we needed water, so we converted our sprinklers to drip irrigation. This weekend project was accomplished with a trip to the local hardware store that offers a screw-on octopus replacement to sprinkler heads that make it easy to connect tubing and drippers.

pathway Once the sheet mulching was done, we covered it with 5 inches of compost. I was able to plant over 60 plants in one afternoon and because I used 4-inch sized pots and there was no need to dig into the cardboard/newspaper. While I was doubtful the plants would fill our yard, Chris assured me that they would be full-sized by spring. But she was right. I encourage you to visit lawn conversion page to see more pictures and learn more about the process.

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News




The Four Most Important Resolutions You Can Make for 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi, President Sustainable Danville Area

As I write this, we are in the midst of the wettest December in the Bay Area in history and the California drought has been downgraded from ‘exceptional’ to ‘severe’. Admiring the green hills that surround our homes, it’s hard to believe that all this water hasn’t replenished our resources for the year and beyond. The choice of descriptor says it all – we are still in a severe drought meaning we’re in grave, harsh, dreadful, terrible, seriously bad shape.  But the New Year is all about making resolutions, so I encourage you to make 2015 the year you value water for what it is – with only 1% drinkable water world-wide, its liquid gold.  So the number one most important resolution for 2015 – use water wisely.  Last month, we provided a list of ways to be less water wasteful inside and outside the home, but here’s one more way.

Central San is offering free recycled water for residential customers. While it’s not safe for drinking and shouldn’t run off into our storm drains, it can be used to water lawn, landscaping and gardens to save our precious drinking water. Recycled water has been used for years in our area to water parks, school ball fields and golf courses and now, like the Dublin San Ramon Services District, we can use free, recycled water to keep our gardens green.  For more information about the residential recycled water filling station, please call 800-646-1431.

It wouldn’t be a resolution list, if I didn’t include an item about health.  The second most important resolution for 2015 – eat organic, local whole food. US residents spent on average $2,273, or about 6.4 percent of their annual consumer expenditures according to the United Stated Department of Agriculture (USDA).  That is less than any of the 83 other countries for which the USDA tracks data.  Considering this statistic, isn’t it time to invest just a little more to protect your family’s health from harmful pesticides and questionable chemicals in the food you serve them – not to mention avoiding genetically modified food (GMOs) which have been banned in over 60 countries worldwide.  And choosing organic, local whole food, not only saves transportation dollars, protects you from pesticides, but allows you to capture maximum nutrition – since fruits and vegetables lose nutritional value as they age or are processed.

With respect to the continuing hunger problem in the US – and Contra Costa County – visit www.thebountygarden.org and learn how you can help get organic, local, whole food to those in need. The Bounty Garden is a 100% non-profit program committed to providing a source of fresh vegetables to the local Food Banks of Contra Costa and Solano Counties.  The program brings together community volunteers in a fun and friendly environment to grow for this purpose and is a great activity for the entire family.

The third most important resolution for 2015 – lose the plastic. Here’s a New Year’s challenge. Pick an average day for you and your family and see if you can get through it without touching anything made of plastic. Can you do it?  Most of us have heard about the importance of being ‘BPA-free’ (referring to the chemical identified as a disruptor to growth development in infants, children and even adults), but do we really know what other chemicals used in plastics are doing to us? Relying more on organic, local, whole food will reduce packing materials – especially if you bring your own re-usable bags, but I bet you can do more.  Look for alternatives like glass and steel for food storage and please, lose the drinking straw. Take the challenge and you’ll see there is a myriad of opportunity to replace the plastics in your life.

As we enter the fifth year of Sustainable Danville Area, our 100% non-profit invites you to participate in our activities.  In fact, please hold the date for the Town of Danville Earth Day Festival 2015 on Sunday, April 19th from 11am – 2pm.   Join us as a volunteer, you don’t have to be an environmental expert – most of us aren’t. You simply have to care about people and the planet- and maintaining an Earth that will not only sustain us today, but many generations beyond.  Learn more at www.sustainabledanville.com or visit us at www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea

Oh and the fourth most import resolution for 2015 – make every choice count.




RUB-A-Dub-Dub, Less Water In The Tub

TIP OF THE MONTH – March 2012

By Rachel Egan, Sustainable Danville Area 

Have you ever wondered where your water comes from? Of course you know that the water comes through your pipes and into your sink every time you turn on your faucet, but did you know that every time you flush the toilet, brush your teeth, take a shower, water your lawn or run your dishwasher you are using a portion of the world’s minimal potable water?

Potable water is that which is available for human and animal consumption. Although the earth is comprised of over 70% water, 97% of that is salt water, 2% is frozen in ice caps and glaciers, which means that only about 1% is fresh water available for human use. Some even argue that, at the rate at which we use fresh water, we will run out of the resource within the next 20 years.

That really puts your water usage in perspective, huh?

In winters as dry as the one we are having now, it is especially important to conserve water so that the water that is available can be allocated to areas such as agricultural land and other industries that require water in order to thrive.

There are, however, steps you can take in order to reduce the amount of water you use in your daily life. Don’t worry; you don’t have to go as far as collecting rainwater off your roof, instead there are smaller, more manageable steps you can take in order to conserve water and make sure you aren’t overusing this limited resource.  Not to mention, using less water saves you money too!

Here are some tips for water conservation in your home, especially through this dry winter, but also throughout the rest of the year:

  • Water your lawn deeply instead of daily,and do so in the early morning hours before dawn. By watering your lawn early in the morning, you are giving the soil and plant roots adequate time to absorb the water without it being evaporated by the sun first.  For more helpful instructions, check out this helpful guide from EBMUD:  http://www.ebmud.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/WateringGuide_0.pdf
  • Reuse water from cooking to water plants inside and outside of the home (using water from cooking spaghetti, rinsing vegetables or boiling potatoes are wonderful places to start).
  • Wash your car in carwashes such as Sponges or at gas stations rather than in your driveway. Car wash stations have special draining systems that prevent pollutants from soap and car grease from entering into the groundwater and fresh water supply – they also recycle their water and use just the right amount of water needed to rinse your car (instead of letting the hose run while you’re not using it.)
  • Turn off the water when brushing your teeth. If you brush your teeth twice a day for the recommended 2-3 minutes and leave the water running – even using a low flow faucet – you would be wasting up to 3,285 gallons per year.  Imagine a family of four could fill an average backyard pool instead of letting this water ‘go down the drain’.
  • Make sure all of the pipes and taps in your house are tightly sealed so as to prevent leaking and water loss. According to the National Environmental Services Center, one drop of water per second can add up to 2,700 gallons per year. (Hint: put a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank. If you start getting color in the toilet bowl without flushing, there is a leak.)
  • Only do laundry if you have a full load – when washing laundry, do so in cold water (this reduces the amount of electricity used, as well as prevents colors from bleeding).
  • Take shorter showers. (You may even want to try turning off the water when you are lathering up with shampoo, soap, or conditioner.) On that note, you might also want to take a look at the gallons-per-minute (gpm) ranking on your showerhead and if more than 2.0 gpm, then new models provide wonderful pressure for a wonderful, relaxing experience.
  • Compost organic waste instead of using the garbage disposal – this will reduce your water usage and you can use the compost as fertilizer, all at the same time!
  • Don’t use water to wash porches or decks; instead, use a broom.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and East Bay Mud (EBMUD) have many more water conservation resources on their websites. To learn more about how you and your family can conserve water, please visit http://www.epa.gov and http://www.ebmud.com, respectively.

Want to know more about this precious resource?  We do…so Sustainable Danville Area and San Ramon Valley High School Environmental Club are bringing you two events in March to help us learn more about global and local water issues.

Join us on Tuesday, March 13th at 7pm at SRVHS’ Performing Arts Center 501 Danville Blvd. for a screening of the award-winning documentary Blue Gold that sheds light on the approaching crisis of dwindling water supplies. Suggested donation $5.

And to compliment movie night, join us on March 21st at 6:15pm at San Ramon Valley High School in Room S3 in the Administrative Building (upstairs).  Our speaker, Leslie Dumas, Hydrologist and Senior Project Manager with RMC Water and Environment will help us gain an understanding of our local water resources and future vulnerabilities.

Reprinted with permission from Danville Today News