Tuesday, September 14, 2010
by Jack Sweet
Posted: September 14, 2010
A San Diego contractor shows there’s more than one way to save water.
Southern California, as many aren’t aware, is actually a kind of desert called chapparal. Almost all of the lush, vegetation that stays green all year long in the region has been imported. And all of it requires a whole lot of water. People do, too. We like big showers with torrents of water. Southern California residents used to have water to burn, so to speak, what with the California Aqueduct, bringing water from Northern California, and the Colorado River both full to the brim. Years of chronic drought, though, has everyone thinking both of ways to conserve water and alternate water sources that can be put to use for certain tasks.
K.C. Montgomery is the owner of Monty’s plumbing, a self-described “one-man show,” based in the Ocean Beach neighborhood of San Diego. Soon to be known as “Monty’s Plumbing & Sustainable Systems,” the 3-year old outfit earned its bones, so to speak, in service and repair. It will still handle those chores, Montgomery said, but the company now specializes in rainwater catchment, graywater systems and solar water heating: “I stick mostly to residential plumbing—service and repair,” the affable Montgomery said recently while driving out to have a look at a recent project in the nearby Mission Hills neighborhood. “But my real passion is sustainable systems.”
Driving through the old neighhborhoods in the west side of the city's hilly, winding streets, Montgomery talked about current eco-friendly plumbing trends in his sphere of influence. The biggest thing, he said, is that today, people are really into saving money. Instead of taking that as a cue to drop his rates Montgomery took a different tack:
“I drop subtle hints: ‘If you’re interested in saving water you can do this and this’,” he said. “Everybody’s looking to save money—water, natural gas, electricity—our precious natural resources are going up in price every year. Plus the American southwest is in a major drought and people are starting to become conscious of it and are wanting to do their part. Being green isn’t just trendy, it’s imperative.”
The project house turned out to be a winding, multi-level place on a wooded lot in a steep draw. The first part of the tour centered on the property’s graywater system, which catches some of the residence’s used water and diverts it for further use.
“They’re finally legal in California,” Montgomery said, noting graywater can’t be stored more than 24 hours. But, “just by changing to a graywater-approved soap you can set up your laundry machine and your showers to drain into your yard and water your trees and ornamentals and all that.”
The California Energy Commission’s Consumer Energy Center Web site notes a typical top-loading washing machine consumes about 40 gallons a load. Using a 2.5 gpm showerhead and a 10-minute shower sends 25 gallons down the drain, never to be heard from again. That’s a lot of water you can redirect for use in your yard so you don’t have to use your sprinklers as much.
He said plumbers who want to learn about graywater systems would do well to look into books on the subject by Montgomery’s “graywater guru,” Art Ludwig: “That’s the best way, if people are looking to get into that sort of thing,” he said, walking over to a large green tank on one of the property’s terraces.
That tank was the actual star of the show. This tank and five others of varying capacities located around the house provide a total of 3,100 gallons of rain water storage capacity.
“They have one system on one side of the house and another system on the other. One side of the house starts with a 200-gallon tank. When it fills up it overflows into a 1,000 gallon tank. When that fills up, it overflows down into a 700 gallon tank,” he said. “They have another system that’s very similar that holds 1,200 gallons on the other side.
Varying sources give San Diego’s average annual rainfall as a range between seven- and 13 inches. That’s not a whole lot—can you really catch 3,100 gallons of water with a maximum monthly rainfall of just more than 2 inches? Montgomery said when people think of rainwater harvesting they think of a 55-gallon drum in the back yard: But 55 gallons is really nothing when it comes to water and you’ll use that as quickly as it fills up.
“If you have a 2,000 square foot home you can easily catch 1,000 gallons of rain very easily in just the average rainstorm,” Montgomery said. “I’ve got a few of these systems around San Diego and these people use them and get them filled up twice a year with just a little amount of average rainfall but San Diego gets.”
He said most commonly the rainwater is used to water gardens. Some residents even use it to shower with because it’s “the purest water you can get and it’s softer than soft water,” Montgomery said. “A lot of people are into the whole lifestyle so they’ve torn up their grass and have planted vegetable gardens. It’s a hip neighborhood, but I have tanks in Tierrasanta and in Scripps Ranch and there are catchment systems here in Ocean Beach. We just put some rain tanks in at Cuyamaca College because we wanted to showcase what we do.”
Montgomery said one of his customers has taken the water-saving lifestyle to an extreme. Where the average San Deigan, he said, consumes about 160 gallons of water a day, this lady is down to consuming only 20 gallons of municipal water a day thanks to her rainwater catchment and graywater systems.
“Granted she’s more hard-core than average people,” he said. “You’re still using the same amount of water but you’re reusing half of it. If you do two loads of laundry a week with a standard type washing machine that’s 80 gallons. It’s a shame to see that much water go down the sewer when it could be reused. Here in San Diego, our water comes from the California Aqueduct or the Colorado River. It’s traveling 1,500 miles before it comes out of our taps. To me that’s asinine.”
Living in a city that gets just shy of 150 clear days a year (and who knows how many half-days owing to the area’s typical cloudy mornings) it sort of makes sense to take advantage and use some of that sunshine to heat some water. It makes sense to Montgomery.
“It’s green and sustainable and reusing the sun’s energy makes all the sense in the world to me,” he said. “I did some research and found you can reduce natural gas use by 30 percent by adding solar. You can pretty much power electric water heaters off and let the collectors do all the work.” Montgomery said adding solar is very attractive at the moment, what with a pretty penny to be had in the form of tax breaks and cash incentives from various state and federal agencies.
“You can get $1,000 federal tax credit for putting in an approved system. That’s on top of being able to get $1,500 off the cost of certain systems,” he said. “That’s potentially $2,500 off the cost of the system and people want to be part of that. A typical system’s total cost is in the $5,000-$6,000 neighborhood it can be installed in one day.”
As busy as things are for Montgomery these days, he said he’s placing great hopes in a section of the company’s newly designed Web site called The Sustainable Outpost. He said plans for the online store will be to offer any imaginable eco-friendly product: “Anything from low-flow toilets or showerheads all the way through complete solar hot water heating systems and anything you’ll need to install your own rainwater catchment system. Basically it’s a one-stop shop for all your sustainable needs. I’m hoping The Sustainable Outpost is going to outgrow Monty’s Plumbing.”
Monday, August 23, 2010
Friday, August 20, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
The Water Authority is executing a long-term strategy to enhance the reliability of our region’s water supply.This strategy includes diversification of the region’s water supply sources and major investments in regional infrastructure.This plan is already enhancing regional supply reliability.In 1991, the San Diego region was 95 percent reliant on supplies from MWD. Through developing new local and imported supplies and boosting conservation, in fiscal year2010 the San Diego region will have reduced its reliance on MWD supplies to 53 percent. The Water Authority is executing a $3.8 billion Capital Improvement Program to further improve regional water delivery and storage capacity. Major projects include raising San Vicente Dam in East County by 117 feet to provide up to 152,100 acre-feet of additional storage, and connecting Lake
Hodges to the region’s imported water distribution system. The Water Authority is working with local agencies to develop local supplies such as groundwater, recycled water, seawater desalination, and conservation. By 2020, local water supplies are projected to meet 40 percent of the region’s water demands. The Water Authority also has a long-term (45 to 75 years) water conservation and transfer agreement with the Imperial Irrigation District. The deal, reached in 2003, will provide San Diego County with 70,000 acre-feet of highly reliable water in 2010 and increases to 200,000 acre-feet annually by 2021. The Water Authority also has a separate, 110-year agreement to receive water conserved by lining parts of the Coachella
and All-American canals. These projects provide 80,000 acre feet of water to the region annually.
District of Southern California
Imperial Irrigation District
Water Supply Diversification by 2020
Metropolitan Water District
of Southern California 53%
Imperial Irrigation District
Water Transfer 10%
Local Surface Water 3%
Canal Lining Transfer 16%
Recycled Water 4%
Water Supply Diversification in 2010*
Dry Year Transfer 2%
*Projected available supply.
Friday, August 13, 2010
|Right now is the time to act if you would like to help reduce plastic pollution in California and the ocean.|
Thursday, August 12, 2010
First Flywheel Power Storage Plant Gets a $43 Million Cash Injection From the DOEBY ARIEL SCHWARTZMon Aug 9, 2010
Friday, August 6, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Wednesday, March 3, 2010
Sunday, February 28, 2010
Encinitas water district rates go up Monday
BY TANYA MANNES, UNION-TRIBUNE STAFF WRITER
FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2010 AT 12:04 A.M.
ENCINITAS — Encinitas residents who live within the boundaries of the city's water district will begin paying higher rates Monday despite a grass roots opposition effort launched by the city's taxpayer association.
The Encinitas City Council voted 4-1 Wednesday to approve the rate increases. It had received 1,070 signed protests from property owners. (Notices had been sent to 13,005 property owners.)
Councilwoman Maggie Houlihan, chairwoman of the water board, said that while she understands that people don't want to pay more, the increases are justified. Emphasizing the importance of investing in infrastructure, she said that keeping rates low and drawing on reserves may be easy, "but a couple of water breaks and it doesn't look so attractive."
An average family will see an increase of $9.88 per month if water consumption remains the same. If the family reduces consumption by a target of 8 percent because of the drought, the increase will be $6.09 per month. District officials said the rate increases reflect the higher cost of imported water, as well as capital costs, such as replacing the San Dieguito Reservoir Pump Station.
The San Dieguito Water District serves customers on the west side of the city, in Leucadia, Old Encinitas, Cardiff and parts of New Encinitas.
It is managed by Encinitas Public Works Director Larry Watt, who reports to its board of the directors, the Encinitas City Council. The Encinitas Taxpayers Association campaigned against the water rate increase, with its vice president, Kevin Cummins, calling for changes in governance of the water district.
About a dozen people spoke before the council to oppose the rate hike. Many said the city hasn't done enough to control costs. The speakers raised questions about whether the water district is subsidizing city operations. Some suggested reducing wages and benefits for certain city employees whose salary costs are shared by the water district.
Donna Westbrook said the increase should be put to a public vote, and she criticized the cost-sharing arrangement. "It's another way of padding expenses to get more into the general fund," she said.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth opposed the water rate increase. She said she was swayed by the public comments, even though she was on the subcommittee with Councilman James Bond who recommended it.
She said she recognizes the need for a rate increase, "but we have to get our house in order as well before we continually ask the ratepayers to pay more."
Barth suggested implementing a lower rate increase temporarily, and drawing on reserves, to give the city time to analyze its personnel costs and reopen talks with employee unions.
Bond disagreed, saying he wants to avoid labor strife.
Friday, January 29, 2010
Monday, January 25, 2010
Fill Out a Stakeholder Input Survey
60 seconds to have your opinion count!
The responses will be compiled and presented to the Building Standards Commission for the greywater hearing on July 30th.
Dear Greywater Stakeholders:
The greywater regulation revolution was started in 1989 in Santa Barbara, California. It spread from there to four other communities, then the whole state, via the Uniform Plumbing Code, in 1992.
Since then, while California's greywater innovation has been at a standstill, the rest of the west has left us in the dust (Greywater law history).
It is certainly true that "plumbers safeguard the health of the nation," and it is doubtless that building and plumbing codes have saved many, many lives.
However, California's greywater law not making a good example of the positive role codes can and usually do play in civil society.
There are about two million greywater systems in the state of California. One in ten thousand has a permit. There's been no reported cases of greywater-induced illnesses. (References follow below).
Perhaps you've heard the old English saying about "shutting the barn door after the horse is gone."
In California with respect to greywater, it is as if regulations have focused on keeping the barn door shut (pre 1992), and then very tightly regulated (since 1992 only a few hundred permits have been issued in the entire state).
Meanwhile, the barn has never had a back wall (there are two million unpermitted systems in the state; 15% of households), and it turns out that horses do just fine free range (there has not been a single reported case of illness).
Concern about public health is the oft-cited reason for keeping that barn door tight. It seems that concern about liability is the actual issue. This would explain why no one blinks about the absence of a back wall (not a liability issue), while few regulators dare open the door (could get sued).
The only people dissuaded by the tight control of the front door are building professionals—plumbers, builders, landscapers. It is hard for a homeowner to get help from a licensed professional to make an illegal system. So, they go out the back, and do it themselves.
The current greywater regulation approach hinders best sustainability practices, and undermines respect for codes in general.
Realistic greywater codes of the type adopted in Arizona (2001), New Mexico (2003), Texas (2005) and in process in several other states (NV, OR, MT...) are emblematic of the shift that occurs when the blinders come off and the full risk profile is taken into account in crafting policy.
If California regains its leadership position, the rest of the world is essentially certain to follow.
I look forward to working with you to get the new greywater standards headed towards this goalpost, as envisioned by the sponsors of the enabling legislation.
We've decided to put some resources behind this effort. Here's what we've come up with so far. We'll be adding more, including responses to HCD's and the Greywater Working Group's material.
Monty's Plumbing phone 619 823-5662 fax 619 546-9257