Jump to Navigation

water sustainability

Programs or features which protect water quality, or conserve water quantity

Runoff as resource instead of problem

Deborah K. Rich, SF Gate, Special to The SF Chronicle
Saturday, December 6, 2008

"The first year we were here, the water would just sheet down from the property higher up the slope, and this area would be mud. I couldn't even walk out here; it was just slosh and goop," she said.

Her home is near Occidental in Sonoma County, which can receive 60 inches of rain a year. "My husband and I were wondering what we were going to do, and how we were going to figure this out."

Davison met a teacher at her sons' school whose husband, Erik Ohlsen, had recently launched Permaculture Artisans, a landscape design and installation business.

Permaculture - the word plays on "permanent culture" and "permanent agriculture" - strives for sustainability by incorporating ecological cycles and principles into land altered for human use. Ohlsen took his first permaculture class in 1999 from Brock Dolman, who directs the Water Institute at the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center.

Interaction with water in the landscape has become fundamental to Ohlsen's permaculture design practice.

"I was inspired by the concepts of water harvesting, ecological watershed management practices and erosion control and everything to do with water in Brock's course," Ohlsen said. The storm water that turned the property into muck could instead provide a foundation for the garden Davison wanted.

"The Davisons were clear that they wanted an ecological landscape that provided food for their family," Ohlsen said. "Water harvesting wasn't something they had foreknowledge of, but the way we design ecological gardens, water harvesting is always the first piece designed into the system."

Swales and berms
Ohlsen used a small excavator to build a series of parallel swales (a shallow ditch) and berms (a raised area adjacent to the swale) on contour (meaning that they lie across slope, their elevation remaining constant). He dug the first swale along the upper property line and the last where the property levels off.

Each swale is roughly 5 feet wide; its adjoining berm is 2 1/2 feet tall and 6 feet wide. A smaller berm lies across the end of each swale to prevent water from running out the end of the swale.

The swales and berms harvest rainwater by pooling and slowing the water on its downhill course, giving it time and space to soak into the soil. Rock-lined spillways connect the swales and allow water to flow from one to the next if the water pools in the swale more than 8 inches.

In the Davisons' loamy soil, all the rainwater will generally soak into the swale where it is caught, and water will spill from one swale to the next only during a very heavy rain. "We design for catastrophe," Ohlsen said of the oversize catchment systems. Encouraging Davison and her boys to work along with him, Ohlsen planted the berms with an eye toward both feeding the family and creating a self-sustaining ecosystem.

"We chose plants that provide multiple functions - for example, leguminous plants which can provide edible pods while, at the same time, fixing nitrogen in the soil and attracting beneficial insects and hummingbirds, which can then manage pests," Ohlsen said.

For entire article, please visit website.

Get out of the drain age, into the retain age

By Deborah K. Rich, SF Gate
Saturday, December 6, 2008

Embedded in both urban and suburban lot design is the "pave and pipe paradigm," according to Brock Dolman, director of the Occidental Arts & Ecology Center's Water Institute. It favors grading, piping and paving properties to drain away rainwater as quickly as possible.

But rapidly draining water off landscapes rather than allowing it the time and space to soak in causes a host of problems downstream and in the pipes. Culverts pour water into gullies and seasonal creeks, overloading and eroding the natural drainage area and rushing sediment into rivers, streams and estuaries, where it imperils fish.

Downspouts, gutters and sloping driveways conduct water into the storm water and sewer systems, which can dump raw sewage when overloaded. After we're finished draining our properties, we pay, increasingly dearly, to pipe water back into our homes and landscapes.

Dolman advocates replacing the "drain age" with a new "retain age," wherein we capture and store storm water for future use and resculpt yards and gardens to allow water to percolate into the ground.

To take a step into the retain age, consider harvesting rainwater from your roof and banking more water in your soil.

Harvesting roof water
Every inch of rainfall on 100 square feet of roof surface yields 55 to 60 gallons of water. For a 2,500-square-foot home, that translates to 1,375 to 1,500 gallons of water per inch of rain. This water can be caught and stored in above- or belowground cisterns and used for drinking, in-house nonpotable uses or irrigation, depending upon what filtration systems are installed and upon local regulations.

For entire article and web references on Water Harvesting, please go to website below.

Slowing of Bottled Water Market Marks Anniversary of Pepsi Announcement, A year later, competitor Coke still refuses to reveal..

Slowing of Bottled Water Market Marks Anniversary of Pepsi Announcement, A year later, competitor Coke still refuses to reveal Dasani's source as tap.
Published on Aug 1, 2008 - 7:21:13 AM
By: Corporate Accountability International
BOSTON, July 31, 2008 - One year ago, Corporate Accountability International and its allies pressured industry leader Pepsi to spell out the source of its water on its Aquafina brand labels -- the tap.Since that time, leading market competitors Coke and Nestle have refused to make a similar commitment despite growing concern about what people are getting in the bottle. Such concerns, when coupled with the struggling economy, are contributing to signs of a downturn in the growth of the bottled water market at large.In May, Nestle reported that its bottled water profits had dropped, acknowledging a ˜criticism of bottled water' as a factor in decreased sales. According to Beverage Marketing Corporation, last year the U.S. bottled water industry experienced its slowest annual revenue growth in more than 15 years."In these difficult times, people are tired of being sold of bill of goods in a bottle," said Gigi Kellett, national director of Corporate Accountability International's Think Outside the Bottle campaign. "We believe these corporations shouldn't be putting a dollar value on this essential resource. So long as they are, the least they could do is let people know they are charging a thousand percent mark-up for water that comes directly from the tap."Up to 40 percent of bottled water comes from public water supplies. To profit from this packaging of a public good, bottlers pump water from municipal systems to resell to consumers at hundreds, even thousands of times of the price of what households pay per gallon for the essentially same water from the tap.This week, more than 1400 people have contacted Coke to ask that their Dasani brand follow Pepsi's lead. Corporate Accountability International is leading the call-in effort as part of its ongoing Think Outside the Bottle campaign, which has catalyzed dozens of cities, universities, religious organizations, restaurants and small businesses around a shared commitment to opt for tap over bottled water.The corporation and its trade association have worked to block stronger labeling and consumer-right-to-know laws in California and across the country.Coke also blocked a vote on a shareholders' resolution this year that would have similarly required the corporation to report on the health and quality of its bottled water brands in a manner comparable to the reporting of public water utilities."Coke is working very had to avoid addressing reasonable questions about product quality testing and disclosure, even while touting its supposedly rigorous safety and quality requirements," said Kellett. "People are wondering what exactly this corporation has to hide. It's in Coke's best interest to come clean about the misleading marketing the corporation employs to promote the Dasani brand."Nestle is also contributing to growing concerns about the lack of transparency in the bottled water industry. The corporation was recently forced to recall a batch of its Pure Life brand due to contamination from a cleaning compound. Pure Life is a processed tap water brand.Coke has yet to react to consumer requests for more information. Most callers are told, in essence, that 'Coke believes people have what they need to make informed choices about their purchase of bottled water.'Too bad what information people have is not by way of the corporation itself.Website: www.StopCorporateAbuse.org

OSHA ruling kills UNR effort to recycle water

By Lenita Powers • lpowers@rgj.com • July 21, 2008
The University of Nevada, Reno's attempt to go green and save money by recycling more than a half-million gallons of water annually has been shot down by a disagreement with a state agency over a tiny pump.

University safety officials said the pump would have allowed the campus to use 600,000 gallons of water annually to water landscape instead of sending it down the drain. But UNR was ordered to remove the pump last week because Nevada Occupational Safety and Health Administration officials said it violated a code that prohibits any nonessential equipment in the room that houses the air conditioning system that cools the Joe Crowley Student Union building.
John Sagebiel, UNR manager of environmental affairs, said the disagreement is over the intent of a building code.
"The (OSHA) inspector is hinging everything on this one word in the code that says you are not supposed to have 'nonessential' equipment in chiller room," Sagebiel said. "The reason is there is a potential safety issue in chiller rooms."  The chiller room at the student union houses the huge industrial air conditioner, which contains refrigerant composed of stable chemical molecules that are potential asphyxiants, he said.
"So we have to have leak detectors in the room and the room has to be ventilated. It's all for safety, but this pump doesn't put anyone in the building at risk," Sagebiel said.  "Yes, the code says you can't have nonessential equipment in a chiller room, but the intent of the rule is to protect people. But this pump doesn't pose any danger, and it is essential for the overall efficiency of that room in that it reuses water that otherwise would be wasted," he said.
The OSHA inspector could not be reached for comment.
"This pump is a tiny little thing," Sagebiel said of the beer keg-sized apparatus. "It's a pipsqueak pump."

New solar-powered water purification technology in testing process

Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Reported by: Joe Vignolo, Scott Budman, NBC News

Our nation has troubled waters, but there may be some technology that can help.

They are already floating in some Bay Area lakes and reservoirs, trying to keep things clean. They're high tech, they're green, and they're working to purify the water you drink.

With both wildlife and home life watching closely, new technology is being tested in the Silicon Valley to help keep our water clean.

It may look like a small floating barge; it's actually a solar powered, lean, green, way to help keep contaminants out of our water supply.

It's called an aerator, aeration being the process of pulling air from the atmosphere into the water to keep pollutants like mercury from getting into the food chain, already used to keep some of your water clean.

Rainwater as a Resource, report (TreePeople)

A Report on Three Sites Demonstrating Sustainable Stormwater Management

Are our cities beyond repair?
TreePeople doesn’t think so.

As part of its Natural Urban Systems Group, TreePeople has been involved in the implementation of several retrofits designed to restore the natural functions of urban sites. From single-family homes to large public sites such as schools and parks, we’ve helped show that integrating nature’s cycles into the urban landscape is not only technically and financially feasible but also highly desirable for individuals and cities alike.

By incorporating stormwater best management practices (BMPs) such as swales, retention grading, cisterns, infiltrators and strategically-planted trees in building and landscaping designs, a multitude of benefits can be realized, including: improved water quality; a decreased risk of flooding; a reduced need for water importation; heat-island effect mitigation; a reduction in contributions to global climate change; and an augmented supply of local groundwater. These are just some of the benefits that are possible when urban sites are allowed to work in concert with nature’s cycles of flood, drought and waste – and together, they create a sharp improvement in the quality of life in the neighborhoods in which we live, learn, work and play.

The newly published report Rainwater as a Resource shares the details of utilizing these concepts and sheds light on the many opportunities to implement the wide array of available technologies. We encourage you to peruse this report to learn more about using these principles as a means of moving cities closer to sustainability.

The report is attached here in pdf format. Appendices you might find interesting include some project as-built drawings, and O&M and inspection costs at this website:

Sustainable Infrastructure for Water & Wastewater

Energy and Water: EPA site for information regarding:

Reducing climate impacts, saving money, and saving water – these are the goals of projects and programs that exploit the nexus between energy use and water use. Identifying approaches to integrate energy efficient practices into the daily management and long-term planning of the water sector also contribute to the long-term sustainability of water infrastructure by reducing operation costs and adding to a utility’s bottom line. This page provides information on a number of activities EPA is supporting to improve energy efficiency at water utilities across the country.

On this webpage, find:
Basic Information
How much energy do drinking water and wastewater utilities use?
Does energy efficiency save money?
Does water efficiency save energy?
Benchmarking Energy Use at Utilities
Managing to Maximize Energy Efficiency
On-site Energy Generation
Auxiliary and Supplemental Power
Paying for Energy Efficiency
State Efforts to Promote Energy Efficiency

Rainwater harvesting guide

Welcome to the Rainwater Harvesting Guide, where water is gold.

The best way to learn about rainwater harvesting is to read books on the subject, here are my current reviews.

This website explains the rationale behind collecting rainwater, contains lists of equipment producers supporting rainwater collection, gives books/contacts, upcoming events, research, technical discussions, and posts as references.

Syndicate content