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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Through Isabelle’s eyes

Posted on | February 7, 2014 | 1 Comment

1967.Strange Landforms.charcoal on paper.DC.Tri-Co.alternate1998 hillside.Boney Textures.DC.Tri-Co.IG_2beach & marsh isabelle landscapeIsabelle Greene is best known for two careers — hers and her grandfather’s. The Pasadena-born landscape architect is the granddaughter of architect Henry Greene of the defining Arts & Crafts-era firm Greene & Greene. Study the ground that she has shaped and it’s tempting to define her as a carrier of her grandfather’s flame. The craftsman ethos shines through her gardens, whether the space is a quirkily embellished potager, or the oak-draped estates of millionaire clients dotted along the south and central coast, or the wind-beaten bluffs of beach houses of yet more millionaire clients, or the hillsides descending from La Casita del Arroyo meeting house in Pasadena. Yet an all-too-brief January exhibit in Santa Barbara of Greene’s early artwork revealed something else, something out of time, sexy and bohemian about her style that seems strictly hers. Study the drawings, etchings and watercolors done when Greene was a young bride of a botanist freshly arrived in the Central Coast in the 1950s and 60s, and it’s clear that the grande dame of California landscape architects has always been an artist whose work somehow jumped from paper to land.

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Marcie Edwards nominated to lead LADWP

Posted on | January 30, 2014 | 1 Comment

Marcie-Edwards-photo-JPG

Emphasizing his campaign theme of financial reform of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power, today LA Mayor Eric Garcetti nominated Anaheim City Manager Marcie Edwards to lead the largest public municipal utility in the US.

Marcie who?

That will become clear as a woman whose family has traditionally worked for the department — and who herself began there as a typist when she was 19 and then rose  through dispatch, energy control, operations, business, marketing and customer service  – clears approval by the department’s commissioners and Los Angeles City Council.

If approved, Edwards, who after what KPCC describes as 24 years at LADWP went on to run Anaheim Public Utilities for more than a decade, will become the first woman to hold the job created by Los Angeles Aqueduct builder William Mulholland.

Though made in the worst precipitation year since California’s record-keeping system began, the announcement stressing Edwards’ fiscal chops made no mention of her record on water management or conservation. According to the release, as Edwards is vetted by commissioners and City Hall, LADWP Water Systems Manager Marty Adams will assume leadership of LADWP wet work. Adams is best known among Los Angeles Aqueduct watchers for his insistence that LADWP has all but completed dust remediation work in Owens Valley and that further work orders by the Great Basin Air Pollution Control District are illegal acts of a rogue regulator. Click here for more on Adams and Owens Valley in the journal ‘Arid.’ LA Observed has statements from City Councilman Felipe Fuentes and Controller Ron Galperin.

 

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Why L.A. needs the “wicked witch” of Nevada

Posted on | January 27, 2014 | 4 Comments

Pat_Mulroy_Book_Page_01-350-300x231

In 2009, the Public Education Foundation issued a children’s book honoring Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager Pat Mulroy. The comical, faintly Soviet-style propaganda aside, she’s that respected in Las Vegas.

The last post was dedicated to jumping all over a High Country News article that UCLA journalist in residence Jon Christensen wrote about Los Angeles and sustainability, particularly LA and water. This post is to agree so completely with Christensen’s portion of a new column in LA Observed that we might appear to be tag-teaming Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. Were it in our powers, Christensen and I would appoint Pat Mulroy as new general manager of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power.

Christensen spots two stars aligning: One has Southern Nevada Water Authority general manager Pat Mulroy stepping down from her post in Las Vegas next month while the other has the leadership of the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power opening up at the same time.

I recommend reading Christensen. Here, for my part, is why I think California should snap up the woman who the US Senator from Nevada Harry Reid has relied on to carry the water for the most populous part of his state while joking that it has earned her the reputation as “the wicked witch of Nevada.”  Click here to keep reading

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