When was the last time you thought of a natural disaster in California?

Natural disasters are seldom thought of in California, aside from earthquakes. Disastrous earthquakes occur relatively infrequently, in fact. For example, the last “disastrous” earthquake took place on October 17, 1989. That was 22 years ago. Other regions of the Unites States, for instance, must endure natural disasters on a seasonal basis. Some regions face droughts much more severe than those we see in California. Other regions deal with tidal surges, hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms. Should California be worried about natural disasters other than earthquakes? According to the Water Education Foundation, Californians should be prepared for flooding.
The Central Valley, ranging from Redding in the north to Bakersfield in the south has experienced serious flooding in the past. Emmy award-winning producer Stephanie Locher has produced a 30-minute documentary called Overcoming the Deluge: California’s Plan for Managing Floods. This documentary focuses on the past, present, and future flood management techniques and strategies of California’s Central Valley. This short documentary will air on Wednesday, November 9th at 7:00 pm; Friday, November 11th at 4:00 pm; and Sunday, November 13th at 6:00 pm on Sacramento’s KVIE Channel 6.
This documentary includes stories from Central Valley residents who have first-hand experience of severe floods. The documentary also features interviews with water experts from the California Department of Water Resources, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, The Bureau of Reclamation, The Central Valley Flood management Program, and other environmental groups. The goal of this documentary is to educate interested parties about the sustainable, integrated, holistic flood management plan that is being implemented in the Central Valley.
Brian O’Neill
boneill@waterwise-consulting.com
http://www.waterwise-consulting.com

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Don’t forget to adjust your irrigation controllers soon!

Don’t forget to adjust your irrigation system to coincide with the seasons. Many people program their irrigation controllers when they are installed, and then forget about them. While this is undoubtedly the easiest and carefree way, this method is also the most expensive and causes the most problems for plants. Plant water needs biologically fluctuate with the seasons-plants both expect and need more water during the dry season than the rainy season. By programming your irrigation controller and forgetting it, plants receive the same amount of water year-round.
The simple fix for this common problem is programming your irrigation controller to water less (if any, at all) during the rainy season. Ideally, irrigation systems water more as the rainy season ends, and peaks around July or August (in California). From then until about November, the irrigation tapers off until the rainy season provides 100% of the needed water.
Another simple fix for this problem is to install a “smart” controller. A smart controller is one that uses local weather data to automatically alter the amount of irrigation. The smart controllers do this by using local weather data from nearby weather stations to calculate the evapotranspiration rates of each plant type your controller is programmed for. Evapotranspiration rates are the amount of water that effectively flows through a plant, which is directly related to the plant’s individual water need. If you are interested, please visit our homepage for more information on smart controllers, and how WaterWise can help you get one for cheaper, with rebates!
Brian O’Neill
boneill@waterwise-consulting.com
http://www.waterwise-consulting.com

Conserve water with smart landscaping

Often the most wasteful areas of water use is that of landscaping. Irrigating landscape often uses immense amounts of water because many decorative plants have high water demands. Also, poor landscape design can lead to wasted water by causing excess runoff and even small-scale flooding in areas.

Landscape irrigation often requires immense amounts of water because of the non-native choices that many homeowners make when designing their landscape. In California, for example, many gardeners select ornamental plants for the colorful flowers that last only a few weeks at a time. In order to significantly reduce the amount of water used to irrigate your garden, you should consider planting native species in your garden. Many of these plants have beautiful flowers and attract native wildlife such as birds and various mammal species.

Another significant cause of wastewater in landscape is poor landscape design. Extensive areas of non-permeable hardscape cause small-scale flooding because the water often has nowhere to drain. In my own yard, for example, there is a section of cement approximately 10’ wide by 25’ long that was used as a patio by the previous owner, which now fills with water every time it rains. One of the easiest solutions to this problem is replacing non-permeable hardscape with a permeable version. You can buy cement pavers at local hardware stores, and these allow the water to pass between each piece, helping drain water and replenish underground storage basins. When water is unable to enter the ground, it is most often channeled into sewage systems where it must be treated and re-released into the environment.

For more information, visit http://www.waterwise-consulting.com
Brian O’Neill
boneill@waterwise-consulting.com

What one company is doing to change the world

For many farmers in developing nations, water is the most precious resource-even more so than gold or silver. That is because water is the only long-term solution for starving populations. Debatably one of the main reasons for these nations to remain in the “developing” state, as opposed to “developed” is because they do not have the resources to fuel their growing population. Most notably—these nations simply are unable to feed their citizens. One of the common methods for food production in developing nations is self-production. This is where individual families tend to their small farms, and grow just enough food for themselves. In bountiful years, their surplus food is either kept in storage for drought years, or it is traded in a market for other goods, such as tools. However, families often cannot grow enough food to sustain themselves—let alone create a food surplus to barter with.
There are two ways to grow more crops with water: either use more water, or use the same amount of water more efficiently. One small startup company founded by Stanford graduate students has developed a mechanism to use the same amount of water more efficiently. Similar to a drip system, this mechanism is a tube with holes in very cheap tubing. This tubing evenly distributes water over individual plants, instead of flooding rows of crops, or entire fields. This mechanism costs as little as $5 to supply enough tubing for an entire farm. For $15 extra, the families are able to grow crops during the dry season, likely due to a water storage tank.
By enabling farms in developing nations to grow surplus food, people will be able to trade it in the market, obtain tools to further increase food production, and repeat the cycle. This cheap, $5 device could create a source of income for impoverished families world-wide. As a result, nations would have stronger populations and more ability to create economic change and power.
Brian O’Neill
boneill@waterwise-consulting.com
http://www.Waterwise-consulting.com

Teenager’s innovation may help determine water quality with a cell phone

Allison Bick was recently awarded the 2011 Stockholm Junior Water Prize award for a project involving using cell phones to measure water quality. The award was presented to Miss Bick by H.R.H. Crown Princess Victoria of Sweden during the World of Water Week in Stockholm. Miss Bick’s project combines cell phones with indicator chemicals, such as Colilert-18 to measure the quality of water. This innovative project stood out against the others because it uses readily available and affordable technology, such as cell phones, to test water quality. The process developed by Miss Bick takes 18 fewer hours for results and costs 1/200th the price of standard tests. These new and improved tests can be implemented both developing as well as developed countries to test for water quality.

To read more about Allison Bick’s award or her project, visit: http://www.siwi.org/sa/node.asp?node=1253

Or, download: http://www.siwi.org/documents/Resources/Prize_Nominating/SJWP_Finalistkatalog_2011_web.pdf

Brian O’Neill
boneill@waterwise-consulting.com
http://www.Waterwise-consulting.com

Somalis paint the picture of what resilience really means

Peter Greste posted an interesting photographic article about how drought in Somalia affects the local residents. Peter wrote small two or three-sentence descriptions of each photograph he took, and explained what each photograph was of. While some articles can appeal to the audiences’ emotions, including photographs is a nearly sure way of doing this. Each photograph was carefully taken to demonstrate the harsh living conditions of Somali refugee camps. However, the photographer also skillfully demonstrates how Somalis are thriving the best they can in this situation.
Somalis have been forced to coexist with droughts for many years, and thus they have evolved to cope with the hardships that follow. For example, some of the photos demonstrate how different people in the refugee camp have been able to create personal businesses to raise money for their families, as well as help their fellow refugees. One resident refugee was able to carry a sewing machine on his back, all the way from home. He now has a small business repairing clothes for his fellow Somalis. Best of all, he doesn’t even need to advertise. Other creative Somalis spend their time collecting firewood to sell to others. One creative man tied some thorn branches together and draped a few cloths over it to create a shop. He now sells small bags of salt, sugar, and limes.
If Somalis are able to function this well in a refugee camp, after living with drought for many years, how would a drought affect Americans?
To read the original article, visit: http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/inpictures/2011/07/2011727134147853102.html
Brian O’Neill
boneill@waterwise-consulting.com
http://www.waterwise-consulting.com