Joke shaming water wasters works

Posted on | July 30, 2014 | 1 Comment

Denver Water "Don't be that guy" campaign. Photo: Courtesy of Denver Water“A lot of suburban water planners plan for yesterday,” says Eric Kuhn, general manager of the Colorado River Water District. But in Denver the national baby boomer vogue for suburban “ranchettes” with water-sucking lawns so big that you need a tractor to mow them is giving way to a millennial preference for downtown living in condos and lofts. SUVs are out, light rail, car and bike shares are in. And when it comes to water policy, Denver is behaving in a way that makes the future seem not only tenable but even bright.

Click here to keep reading in the Guardian’s Live Better Challenge about how Denver Water dealt with the potentially devastating loss of a massive dam project. It turned to conservation and a lot of jokes.

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Bracing for scarcity

Posted on | July 7, 2014 | No Comments

Cushion imprint of garden gloves after a late February early March rain in Los Angeles, 2014. Photo: Emily Green

Rain shroud: Imprint left by garden gloves on a sun cushion after a March 1st rain, one of the few in a sharply low rainfall year for Los Angeles County in 2013-14. Panelists at Thursday evening’s “Just Add Water” discussion at the Natural History Museum will explore the potential for landscape reform to both beautify Los Angeles and gird it for water scarcity. Photo: Emily Green

Carol Bornstein, head of the new gardens at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles, Pamela Berstler of G3 Green Gardens Group and Jon Christensen of UCLA’s Institute of the Environment and Sustainability will be my fellow panelists Thursday for the Natural History Museum’s “Just Add Water” talk on landscape reform. Before taking over the recently installed native and food teaching gardens at the museum, Bornstein was director of horticulture at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden and co-wrote the cult book “California Native Plants for the Garden.” Berstler, a landscape designer turned activist, now works with local coastal preservation groups and water companies to re-train landscape maintenance teams with low water, energy and pollution protocols. As a perk to those who attend Thursday evening at 6.30pm, the museum’s co-host for the talk, Jon Christensen, will be giving out copies of the centenary aqueduct issue of Boom: A Journal of California. Click here for more information.

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Cecil Garland, 1925-2014

Posted on | May 14, 2014 | No Comments

Cecil Garland. Courtesy of the Garland family.Cecil Garland, the Utah rancher whose name is synonymous with wilderness preservation throughout the Great Basin and in Montana, died Sunday of pneumonia according to an obituary issued through the Great Basin Water Network. Click here to keep reading

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Avoiding pollution, drought’s evil twin

Posted on | February 21, 2014 | 6 Comments

Leaf blower dust

A gardener aerosolizes dust when blowing leaves from a dry verge in LA County. Drought means that it’s more important than ever to stop this practice and that leaves be left piled near trees, grass left where it falls after mowing and that leaf blowers not leave the truck. Any foliage that spills into streets should be raked. Leaf blowers in drought send dry earth airborne to lethal effects for asthma sufferers, particularly children and infants. Photo: Emily Green

Drought means changing not only our outdoor water use, but also the way we tend our gardens, parks and schools. If you are a facilities manager, homeowner or invested tenant accustomed to fertilizing lawn and roses every spring, don’t do it this year. The chemicals, salts and nitrogen will concentrate in your garden, in the street-side gutters, in the storm drains, in our already impaired rivers, wetlands and beaches. The reason? They will have no dilution in the form of heavy winter storms sweeping the basin clean. At the rate we’re going, they won’t even have sprinkles. Joining fertilizer and pesticides in the Do Not Touch category should be leaf blowers, which will drive dry soil, mold and contaminants into the atmosphere and, count on it, into our lungs. Most gravely at risk will be gardeners, closely followed by children, the elderly, pets and wildlife. 

What should we do? Click here to keep reading

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Emptying reservoirs, empty words

Posted on | February 17, 2014 | 8 Comments

Rancho Mirage, where President Obama golfed last weekend, is located between Palm Desert and Cathedral City. The heavily irrigated areas, mainly denoting water-hungry golf courses, are highlighted in red.

Rancho Mirage, where President Obama golfed last weekend, is located between Palm Desert and Cathedral City. The heavily irrigated areas, many denoting water-hungry golf courses in California’s Mojave Desert, are highlighted in red. Source: NASA/Earth Observatory

*President Obama came to the Central Valley to address drought and climate change. Everyone “is going to have to start rethinking how we approach water for decades to come,” he said. After making the remark in a speech at a ranch in Los Banos, a farm town roughly 75 miles northwest of Fresno, the President spent the weekend at a golfing resort in the Mojave Desert.

*Republican Congressman Devin Nunes greeted the President’s outreach to the Central Valley by saying, “To blame the California water crisis on global warming is ludicrous.”

*The Mayor of Los Angeles highlighted local water harvesting as a way to relieve dependence on imports while posing in front of an infiltration ground parched by drought.

*The newly appointed sustainability officer of Los Angeles addressed climate change by traveling to a conference in South Africa. Describing the trip in a Huffington Post article, the mayor’s green deputy linked to the city’s sustainability page, where the background image is of a tap water lake surrounded by turf.

*At the Los Angeles County Arboretum and Botanic Garden, the lake surrounding Lucky Baldwin’s old cottage has been allowed to dwindle to a puddle while turf around it is emerald green and irrigation overspill still runs through the parking lot and down Baldwin Avenue. A sign posted next to the lake blames its state on drought.

Matt Petersen, the city of LA’s new sustainability officer, concluded his Huffington Post column with a call to action for citizens.  “While we need government to act, we each can be what I call citizen entrepreneurs. We can take responsibility as individuals for our corner of the world, and unleash the can-do attitude …”

Speaking as a citizen, if not “entrepreneur,” who has already installed low-flow devices, removed turf, planted a drought-tolerant garden and converted my home to zero-run-off for storm water capture, I must admit to feeling patronized and depressed by leaders at federal, county and city institutions whose actions belie their words.

Correction: Kevin Roderick of LA Observed wrote in a personal communication, “Never heard ever heard the Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage area referred to as the Mojave Desert before.” Meanwhile, Joshua Tree-based environment writer for KCET Chris Clarke wrote on Facebook, “A golf resort in the Mojave would have been better. In the Coachella Valley, one of the hottest sections of the Sonoran Desert, evapotranspiration is a double-digit percentage higher than it is in the Mojave.”

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