Proposition 3 would invest big in Bay wetlands and clean water

California voters this November have a tremendous opportunity to accelerate San Francisco Bay tidal marsh restoration and improve water quality statewide through Proposition 3.  This $8.8 billion bond measure funds projects that provide environmental benefits to people and wildlife, including habitat for endangered fish, safe drinking water for disadvantaged populations, improved resilience against drought, and adaptation to climate change.

Proposition 3 provides $200 million directly to the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority for grants to restore Bay marshes, one of Save The Bay’s top priorities for the last decade. This would expand habitat restoration beyond what Bay Area voters are funding  through the Measure AA parcel tax approved in 2016.

While Measure AA will provide $500 million over 20 years for grants to fund wetlands restoration, that only covers about one-third of the estimated $1.4 billion cost to double the total tidal marsh in the Bay and keep it healthy [Greening the Bay]. Demand for Measure AA funds is higher than annual AA tax receipts can support – twice as much money was requested for restoration projects this spring as was available.

Proposition 3 will add crucial state funds to improve the Bay’s health and resilience to climate change, especially important at a time when the President and Congress are trying to reduce federal investments in the environment. It is vital to commit more funds to the San Francisco Bay Restoration Authority while California’s economy is still booming and voters are open to approving bonds.

Save The Bay has endorsed Proposition 3 because it contains important water investments that benefit the Bay and Delta watersheds, including ten times more funding for San Francisco Bay than Proposition 68, the state parks bond that voters approved in June. These bond funds could be spent in the next five years and start revegetating more marshes sooner to stay ahead of sea level rise.

We’ve written more about the statewide benefits of Proposition 3, which you can read here.

Stay tuned for updates about Proposition 3 and other opportunities to Vote for the Bay at www.SFBayActionFund.org.

 

“5 Ways to Save Water in a Drought”

CLEAResult is a leading provider of energy efficiency programs and services. Through proven strategies tailored to clients’ unique needs and market dynamics, the combined strength of experienced energy experts and technology-enabled service offerings help CLEAResult change the way people use energy for hundreds of utility and business partners around the globe. For more information, visit www.clearesult.com.

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During one of California’s most severe droughts on record, we are all trying to look for ways to conserve water. From simple changes in behavior to large landscape projects, there are many ways to do your part to save water. Here are a few helpful tips to keep in mind and ways to contribute to the cause.

  1. Identify problem areas.

If you are not sure where to start, some water districts have water assessments or calculators to see how much water you currently use and ways to reduce your water usage. They review your water usage, provide faucet aerators and high efficiency showerheads if needed, and suggest water efficiency improvements. Santa Clara Valley Water District provides free Water Wise House Calls to identify ways to save water. San Mateo County and San Francisco County also have free water evaluation programs for residential customers.  The City of Palo Alto offers a complimentary advisor service called Home Efficiency Genie that allows residents to schedule a no-cost phone consultation with a certified water and energy expert to discuss their efficiency concerns. Schedule your free house call today, or check with your local water company to determine what programs are available.

  1. Cut time from your morning routine.

An important strategy for conserving water is behavior change. Make sure to turn off the faucet while brushing your teeth or lathering your hands. Cut five minutes off your shower time and turn the water off while you soap up and shave. Installing faucet aerators and high efficiency showerheads in the kitchen and bathrooms is an inexpensive way to save water. Most local water companies will even provide these items at no charge.

  1. Wait for full washing loads.

Instead of running the dishwasher every night, wait until you have a full dishwasher to run it. The same goes for laundry. Always wash full loads of laundry even if your machine has an adjustable load size setting. Wash your clothes in cold water to save on energy usage. High efficiency clothes washers can save water and energy usage up to 40%. Rebates are available through PG&E and most Bay Area water agencies for new Energy Star high efficiency clothes washers.

  1. Check for leaks.

Leaks from water sources can be a silent way to waste gallons of water. If you turn off all of the water fixtures in your home and see a moving dial on your water meter, you have a leak. Check your sprinkler system and toilets for leaks to ensure you are not wasting water. For the toilets, drop a dye tablet in the tank. If you see any color in the bowl after 10 to 15 minutes, you have a silent leak. Change out the rubber flapper to stop the leak. Check with your local water district about rebates for high efficiency toilets. If your water district does not have any rebates, Save Our Water is a rebate program for residents across California and provides up to $100 for qualifying high efficiency toilets.

  1. Replace your lawn with drought resistant pants.

Drought resistant plants can be a beautiful and smart way to save on outdoor water usage. Several water districts including Solano, San Mateo, Santa Clara, and Sonoma County provide rebates for replacing your lawn with landscapes that require much less water to maintain. The Bay Area Eco Gardens website has great resources, example photos, and plant lists for draught resistant landscaping.

Looking for other ways to save and be more efficient?

For Palo Alto residents, the Home Efficiency Genie is available to schedule customized energy and water assessments to reveal ways to improve your home’s overall efficiency.  Complimentary efficiency advisors are also available to analyze your utility bill and work with you to develop a customized roadmap for reducing your energy and water consumption. For more information about Home Efficiency Genie visit www.efficiencygenie.com or call 650-713-3411 to speak with an advisor today.

For Bay Area homeowners looking to conserve energy and interested in receiving up to $6,500 in rebates, the Bay Area Regional Energy Network (BayREN) provides complimentary access to Home Upgrade Advisors. Your advisor will work with you to identify ways to make your home more energy efficient and provide assistance throughout your efficiency project. For more information, visit www.bayareaenergyupgrade.org or call 866-878-6008 to talk with an advisor and learn more.

 

— Jeff Strauss, Program Manager at CLEAResult in San Mateo, California. 

Drought Shows Stark Contrasts

I just got back from a week-long backpacking trip in the High Sierras, and what I saw shocked me.

It’s impossible to escape news that California is in the midst of a terrible drought, but it took spending five days in the backcountry of Inyo National Forest and Kings Canyon National Park to give me perspective on just how dire the water situation in our state really is.  Creeks and rivers that should be raging are barely ankle deep.  Peak summits that should be encased in snow and ice are exposed and dry.  As soon as I got home, I downloaded photos from the trip, and started looking online for photos from previous years.

Below are two photos – I took the one on top two weeks ago looking West from the shore of Summit Lake in Humphrey’s Basin, at an elevation of roughly 11,000 feet.  The one below was taken by a fellow backpacker almost exactly 4 years earlier, on July 6th of 2010, a nearly perfect “average” snow year based on data from the Department of Water Resources.  The contrast is indeed stark.

Summit Lake, July 2014
Summit Lake, July 2014
Summit Lake, July 2010
Summit Lake, July 2010. (Photo credit – user: OLI, www.easternsierraforum.com)

So we know there’s a drought, and we can see the difference in charts and graphs that show snowpack and river flows.  But living in urban communities there’s a gap between what we know, and our behavior.  After all, the water still comes out of our faucets just as fast, and the price we pay for residential water has barely nudged, leaving both our perceptions and our pocketbooks intact.  Without additional action, there is little beyond personal responsibility to motivate people to conserve.

Earlier this week, the State Water Resources Control Board approved stiff new fines for conservation scofflaws.  Californian’s caught wasting water – hosing down sidewalks instead of using a broom, over-watering landscaping – may now be subject to a $500 per day fine.  But as we’ve seen with other environmental issues like Save The Bay’s efforts to enforce outdoor smoking bans, regulation means little without consistent enforcement.

While it remains to be seen whether the recent emergency drought declaration by Governor Brown, or the State Water Board’s approval of fines will change behavior, there are still significant gaps in how we manage water in California.  Statewide management of groundwater resources continues to lag behind other western states (although an interesting new court ruling may change that).  And the Bay Delta region continues to be one of the longest standing bureaucratic and political messes in the state.

As the adage oft attributed to Mark Twain goes, “Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting over.”

Cheers!

San Francisco Green Film Festival 2014

We’re excited to partner with the San Francisco Green Film Festival to co-present the film, Watermark, at the Roxie Theater in San Francisco on Sunday, June 1 2014 at 7:45 pm. The film is a visually stunning work that weaves together diverse global stories that show our relationship with water. The filmmakers’ message resonates within the San Francisco Bay Area in this time of severe drought, as it shows our dependence on and fight to control our most precious resource.

San Francisco Bay is an integral part of the Northern California’s watershed. The health of the Bay depends on the health of the overall water system which flows from the mountains west through the California Delta and out to the Bay.

You can check out the Green Film Festival’s other offerings and buy tickets here.

The festival runs from May 29-June 4 with robust programming for all who care about the environment and their place in it. The Green Film Festival was launched in 2011 to present new films and events that spotlight the worlds’ most urgent environmental issues and most innovative solutions. We hope to see you there.

A History of Bay Area Water Usage

Ohlone_image
Ohlone people using tule boats to navigate the waters of the San Francisco Bay.

Despite recent rainstorms, California is experiencing a severe drought. With the abundance of photos on social media, news articles, and nightly news coverage on the subject, the drought has been on my mind for quite some time. As someone who enjoys thinking about how humans interact with our environment, this drought got me thinking about how Bay Area residents have used water throughout time.

Over 8,000 years ago, the Ohlone people became the first human inhabitants of the San Francisco Bay Area. The Ohlone people lived in Northern California from the most northern point of the San Francisco Bay down to Big Sur in Monterey County. Since the Ohlone people lived a semi-nomadic life, they typically built their community villages near reliable sources of fresh water and moved when the seasons changed. Water was primarily used for drinking, bathing, and fishing.

In order to efficiently travel, the Ohlone people used a series of innovative boats made of bundled tule reeds to navigate the waters of the San Francisco Bay. When the seasons changed, the Ohlone people moved to smaller villages and camps to be near newly available plant and animal resources. Using functional land management practices, the Ohlone people would burn the brushy hillsides each year to encourage new plants to grow and have animals that fed on them. Today, Ohlone descendants are reclaiming the customs and traditions of their ancestors.

The population of the San Francisco Bay Area has changed dramatically since the Ohlone first settled along the shores of our beloved estuary. During the Gold Rush, San Francisco grew from a small settlement of 200 residents to a booming city of 36,000 residents in just 6 years. In order to supply enough fresh water for Bay Area residents, the state of California issued a series of dam building projects to provide fresh drinking water to the growing population. Today, there are approximately 1,400 dams in the state of California, with the majority of them located in the Northern and Central Coast.

Over the past 150 years, we have dramatically engineered our natural resources to accommodate a society whose members remain in one place. Unlike the original Bay Area residents, we can’t move with the seasons to find new sources of water. We have established a permanent society here, so it is in our best interest to protect and conserve these unique natural resources for as long as possible.