Tag Archives: Water savings

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:

http://www.swrcb.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/stormwater/

http://www.cccleanwater.org/prevent-pollution/safe-disposal-recycling/

http://www.cleanwaterways.org/residents/

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.

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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.)

 

cardboard

 

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

 

 

 

Save Every Drop

Sustainable Danville Area – Tip of the Month – August 2015

By Cynthia Ruzzi

I’m optimistic! The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has reported a 90 percent chance of El Niño lasting through the winter. I don’t want to appear insensitive to the hardship of severe weather, but a moderate to strong El Niño usually means a ‘wetter’ California. In case my ‘rain dance’ delivers, the National Weather Service says it’s best to be prepared, so I’m getting ready to save every drop!

I’m ready to catch that rain right out of the airor at least off my roof. Previously, our small house had five downspouts funneling rainwater from the gutters away from our foundation and into pipes leading to the storm water drain at the end of our street.

No More! Over five years ago, I purchased a 75 gallon rain barrel. The simple installation included:

1. Choosing a downspout close to the area where I would use the collected water

2. Placing the rain barrel where the overflow would be able to soak into the ground in my yard. Working with the grading of your property will avoid drainage problems affecting your foundation or your neighbor

3. Balancing the rain barrel on concrete blocks to give extra clearance for my bucket under the spigot and gravity to move water through a hose

4. Preparing my downspout meant disconnecting the line where it leads to the storm drain and sawing above the top of the rain barrel. Leave room for the elbow to be attached. The elbow is a flexible plastic or metal sleeve that goes over the metal of the remaining downspout directing water into the top of the barrel. A few screws or glue between the elbow and downspout and I was ready to put the barrel in place.

Please don’t drink the water from your rain barrel I use the collected water on flowers, trees, shrubs and before I replaced my thirsty grass that too.

A visit to Bend, Oregon was the inspiration for replacing the other downspouts at our house. Many homes in Bend have large chains hanging from their roofline. Instead of trying to hide ugly, noisy downspouts, these rain chains move water from their gutter to the ground in lovely cascading waterfalls. Some folks let the water fall into basins that trickle over pebbles, minimizing the splash and creating Zen-like sounds. Most home had large, rustic chains, but others used copper cups that let the drops fall from one cup to another, creative an entertaining visual on a rainy day. Back at home, I found more inspiration on Pinterest and Houzz,my go-to Internet sites for all things home décor.

Rain chains or Kusari doi’ have been used for hundreds of years in Japan to transfer rainwater to large barrels for household water usage. The philosophy of feug-shui implies that rain chains can bring a positive energy flow into your home by transporting the water element with a sense of tranquility. If this energy is the calmness I feel listening to the gentle sounds through my window, then I agree that rain chains are a wonderful way to add an outdoor ambiance to your home.

Rain chains are not only pleasing to the eye and ear, but they are also environmental friendly. Retaining water on your property helps to reduce soil erosion and water pollution and may even help reduce uneven house settling. Local clay soils are prone to ‘shrinkage’ due to lack of moisture. Dry spells, like the current drought, can cause soils to contract causing uneven settling of building infrastructure which leads to cracks in foundations and walls. Wonder if this explains the hairline cracks in the newly ‘re-stucco-ed’ walls of our home? Either way, I’m saving every drop for a non-rainy day.

What about you? Join us at http://www.facebook.com/sustainabledanvillearea or http://www.sustainabledanville.com

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

Winter Water Saving Tips: The Summer is Over, But Not the Drought

By Loren McDonald

As winter approaches for residents of Diablo Valley, now is not the time to lose sight that California continues to experience one of its worst droughts in recorded history.

Governor Brown declared a state of emergency in January, which included a voluntary request that citizens reduce water usage by 20%. Locally, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) asked customers to reduce usage by 10%, and while they have met the goal, it really isn’t enough.

Hopefully, winter will bring plenty of snow and rain to Northern California, but we can’t count on it and residents must continue to reduce our use of water both inside and outside of our homes.

The average person living in a single-family home within the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD), used 175 gallons per day in 2013. That’s a lot of water, but there are several ways, many costing nothing or very little, that can reduce your water usage significantly.

Get a Handle on Your Current Water Usage

The first step in saving water is to understand your current usage and where opportunities exist to cut back. Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

  • Read your water bill and compare previous years and billing periods.
  • Are your summer months off the charts? Have you reduced or increased your usage in the past year?
  • Compare winter months’ bills to summer months to get a handle on your irrigation usage.
  • Test for leaks. Place a toothpick on your water meter and then don’t use any water for 30 minutes and look to see if the needle moves. If it does, you have one or more leaks inside or outside your home. If you have separate valves for the yard and house, turn off one so you can isolate if the leaks are inside or outside and then watch again to see if the meter needle still moves.
  • Test your toilets for leaks. A kit with a blue die tablet is available from EBMUD.

Once you have a sense of your water usage and if you have any leaks, create a game plan to reduce your consumption. Tackle bad family habits first, such as taking long showers and overwatering your yard. Depending on your budget, replace inefficient appliances, showerheads and toilets.

In your yard

Thirty percent of residential water usage in the United States is devoted to outdoor uses, with the majority of this used for irrigation, according to the EPA. And half of outdoor water use is typically wasted according to the EBMUD.

To reduce your winter outdoor water usage, consider the following tips:

  • Turn off sprinklers and use your manual mode to turn them on for a day here or there during any lengthy winter dry spells.
  • Replace inefficient sprinklers with drip irrigation.
  • Upgrade a conventional irrigation controller to a smart system – either weather- or soil moisture-based.
  • Fix leaks and any broken pipes. Dig up those buried sprinklers and cap them off if not needed.
  • Replace thirsty lawns with drought-resistant trees and plants.
  • Give rain barrels a try – perhaps for a winter vegetable garden or raised bed near your rain gutters.
  • Cover your garden with mulch and put that compost you’ve been brewing to good use to improve soil condition.

Inside the Home

About half of the water used indoors is from the bathroom, according to the American Water Works Association Research Foundation. Here are a few tips to cut back water use inside your house:

  • Toilets are typically the highest user of water inside the home, from 28% to 40%, according the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • Replace older toilets that might use 3 to 6 gallons per flush (GPF) with models that use 1.28 to 1.6 GPF. Don’t worry, many of these low GPF toilets flush better than your older, water guzzlers.
  • Replace older showerheads that typically flow at 2.5 gallons per minute (GPM) with a newer low-flow type that emits as low as 1.5 GPM. Many use aerating techniques to make the water flow feel just as powerful as the older, higher GPM models.
  • Capture the cold water flowing to your showerhead in a bucket or jug. Use this “warming-up water” in the winter to water houseplants, outdoor containers and winter gardens.
  • Wash clothes and dishes using full loads. If your appliances are old, consider replacing them with more energy and water-efficient models.
  • Install low-flow water faucet aerators in bathrooms and kitchen sinks.
  • Turn off the tap when hand washing dishes and brushing your teeth.
  • Use this winter to get your water usage under control by changing family habits and replacing inefficient toilets, showerheads and water-sapping lawns. Many of these purchases also qualify for rebates from EBMUD. (www.ebmud.com)

Reducing your water usage is not only becoming a necessity in California, but also saves you money on your water bill. So get started and start saving!

Loren McDonald is a Danville resident, member of the Sustainable Danville Area organization and blogs about green issues at Loren-Green.com

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News

Brown is the New Green

Tip of the Month – August 2014

By Cynthia Ruzzi, Sustainable Danville Area 

Homeowner associations can no longer fine residents who stop watering their lawns or take other conservation measures during droughts under state legislation passed recently.  While yards must still be maintained and neat – eliminate dry grass and weeds that might be flammable – there’s no requirement to keep a lawn green or even to keep the lawn. We ‘lost our lawn’ the last time a 20 percent water reduction was required to preserve this very limited and precious resource. 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 only about 1% is fresh water available for human use. My husband and I still chuckle whenever we see somebody spending their weekend mowing their lawn.  And, while the drought has made it acceptable and even trendy to be ‘Brown’, going ‘lawn-less’- doesn’t have to mean being colorless.  Check out this lovely gallery of native and drought tolerant gardens posted by the East Bay Municipal Water Utility District (EBMUD) https://www.ebmud.com/water-and-wastewater/water-conservation/lawn-goodbye-landscape-gallery.

EBMUD drought tolerant gardenEarn ‘Cash for Grass’ from EBMUD’s landscape and irrigation equipment rebates.  Upgrade your yard, replacing grass with California native and climate-appropriate plants, or permeable hardscapes with materials that allow water to pass through.  A single residence can earn up to $2,500 to create low water use landscaping, improve irrigation efficiency and LOWER your water bill.  Commercial properties and multi-unit residences with more than 5 units can earn up to $20,000. Get all the details by visiting https://www.ebmud.com/for-customers/water-conservation-rebates-and-services/lawn-conversion-irrigation-upgrade-rebates

We found the EBMUD publication Plants and Landscapes for Summer-Dry climates of the San Francisco Bay Region an invaluable resource during the plant selection process.  EBMUD also has a resource list http://www.ebmud.com/sites/default/files/pdfs/LRP%20resources.pdf 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.

Looking for other ways to lower the water impact of your yard? Instead of using fresh, drinking water in your yard, consider a gray water system – safely and legally.  Reusing the water that usually goes down the drain after bathing or laundry can keep your landscape healthy and   recharge our depleted groundwater sources. Up to 80 percent of indoor water can be captured and reused as gray water.  EBMUD offers rebates to offset the costs of installing hardware, equipment and systems that result in predictable water savings.    Learn how you can save water and dollars, regulations, health and safety, soaps and products at a Gray water workshop sponsored by EBMUD on Wednesday, August 13th or Wednesday, September 10th.

Even if you’re not ready to go native, you can save dollars by watering your lawn deeply instead of daily.  It’s also best to water in the early morning hours before dawn to give the soil and plant roots adequate time to absorb the water instead of being evaporated by the sun first.  However, it’s best not to water at night to prevent fungus and disease that is encouraged in the wet of foggy nights. For more helpful instructions, check out this helpful guide from EBMUD.

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 EPA and EBMUD, respectively.

Let us know if you have questions, write to us at sustainabledanville@gmail.com or join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook:  @greendanville and www.facebook.com/sustainabledanville.com  Post a picture of your ‘lose the lawn’ project and tips you have for our followers.

For more information, visit: Save Water and Energy with a Lawn Conversion  and Reasons to Convert Your Lawn

Reprinted by permission: Danville Today News