Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Water & Landscaping in Orange County, CA

How do we keep Orange County so green in what is, more or less, a desert region and at what cost are we paying for such extravagance?

As our population in Orange County and around the world continues to grow, we'll need to use more water for the things we need to have and less water for things we'd like have.

To my knowledge, the amount of fresh water on earth has not changed much in recent history. So with the same amount of water being available to us year after year and more and more people demanding it, those who control water rights and the communities that use their resources most efficiently will reap the rewards. Which is why many argue that the wars of tomorrow will be fought over water rights instead of oil.

Why should Orange County become more water efficient?

The benefits in becoming water efficient as an individual, a city, a county and a state are massive! Besides the destruction to wild habitats we cause by importing water to support our excessive lifestyles, it's COSTING US A LOT MONEY and putting our well being in unnecessary jeopardy! As tax payers and consumers of water, we're subject to higher energy and water rates. The more water and energy needed to push it to us in order to sustain our lifestyle, the more costly infrastructure we need to support our thirst.

I recently attended one of Mesa Consolidated Water District's workshops and was confused as to why they want me to buy less of their product in the first place. They must be getting some sort of rebate from the State of California (Tax payer money) for reducing their costumer's water needs like Southern California Edison does with their electricity consumers, I thought. In fact, it seems that it's more profitable for Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, the water company that sends us water from other regions, to reduce our consumption by sponsoring events like the one I attended than it would be to build more reservoirs to support or gluttony.

Orange County’s groundwater basin supplies about 60% of the water needs for residents and businesses in Anaheim, Buena Park, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Fountain Valley, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Irvine, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Orange, Placentia, Santa Ana, Seal Beach, Stanton, Tustin, Villa Park, Westminster, and Yorba Linda. So cities South of Irvine rely entirely on imported water! Not to mention the other 40% of water we need for Northern Orange County's current needs.

Why is Landscaping so important?

Our landscaping demands roughly 50% of our water consumption needs. It's an easy change for us to make and will save us money personally and as tax payers. Native and drought resistant landscaping, when done right, looks beautiful. Increased property value and lower utility bills are the result. Who's going to argue with that kind of outcome, right?

The overall design of your landscaping should be well thought out. Using a Landscape Consultant will save you money in utility bills, purchasing plants the first time to prevent you from having to buy them a 2nd time after they die because you don't know what you're doing. Mixing plants with similar needs like water consumption, sun exposure and soil type isn't something that everyone will be able to figure out or have the time for on their own.

Watering systems should be seriously considered. Especially with all of the upcoming changes to many city watering codes. Residents should have a 2nd opinion from a professional in regards to the placement and type of watering systems they need. Many water districts will come out and consult you for FREE.

I prefer California Native landscaping or at least something that is compatible with local wildlife. Using drought resistant plants or Xeroscaping are also beneficial to your wallet and your community.

Growing your own food is another smart thing to do. With the rising cost of oil or the weakening of our dollar, food will continue to rise in price significantly. The majority of pesticides and herbicides are derived from petroleum and of course we need to truck them to the Ralph's Grocery Store down the street, right?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba began to spiral into a severe economic depression known as the Special Period. Without the Soviet Union's steady flow of oil, Cuba was unable to transport goods from one region to another. People nearly dying of starvation lead to a sustainable agricultural revolution! Residents began growing their own food locally as well as small urban farms and I believe they're better for it. Hopefully our transition from agriculture supported by cheap oil to a more sustainable model won't be as severe.

Using natural, organic fertilizers to grow your own food will keep you healthier as well. So have fun and plant some fruit trees and try your luck with a small vegetable garden!

How to learn and do more?

I'm so happy you asked. The first goal is to keep this issue in our thoughts to help spread the idea, influence our actions and the way we consume.

In Orange County there are all sorts of opportunities for us. Environmental conservation groups like OC Parks or Back to Natives have regular events where residents have the chance to remove non-native plants, clean-up and repair habitats alongside local experts.

Check with your water district to find out about upcoming workshops, if they'll come out to your home and give you a free consultation, water saving tips and tax rebates for things like new toilets and sprinkler timers.

Attending local social groups that share an interest in sustainability can be another great resource.

Useful Web-Sites:

Upcoming workshops and events:
  • March 28th - Organic Dinner & Water Pollution Presentation - info on meetup
  • March 29th - Tour of Tanaka Farms - info on meetup
  • March 29th - Aliso and Wood Wilderness Park Volunteer Day
  • March 30th - Adult Wildflower Walk
  • March 30th - Fire Ecology
  • April 2nd - Eco-Friendly Gardening Practices: w/ Gisele Schoniger
  • April 5th - Bolsa Chica Hike: Salty Air in the Spring!
  • April 6th - Weed-a-Thon at Mason Regional Park
  • April 9th - Stewardship Days at Upper Newport Bay
  • April 12th - Friendly & Native Plants - Santa Margarita WD
  • April 12th - 2nd Saturday Restoration at Mason Regional Park
  • April 13th - Earth Day Weed-a-Thon at Mason Regional Park
  • April 19th - Keep It Wild Volunteer Day
  • April 23rd - Orange County Water 101 - info on meetup
  • April 26th - Landscape Design Basics - Santa Ana College
  • April 27th - Natives with Back to Natives - info on meetup
  • May 3rd - Mini Course - South Coast WD
  • June 7th- Mini Course - Metropolitan and OC WD
  • June 21st - Sprinkler Systems - Santa Margarita WD
  • June 21st - Mini Course - Santa Ana College
Click Here to view more details about many of the events listed above:

Environmental Conservation Groups:

Orange County Water Districts:

Sustainable groups:

Written by, Evan T. Little

Realtor®, EcoBroker®
Volkl Investments Inc.
949.939.9687 phone

My other blogs:
Orange County, CA Community
Real Estate in Orange County, CA


Anonymous said...

Hello. I wonder where your endorsements of Landscape Architecture firms that practice sustainable designs are? If low water use is your aim, California natives are not the only solution.

Evan Little said...

I prefer to advocate California native landscaping because of its positive impact on local wildlife. Reducing water usage is most important, but using natives is the gold standard, in my opinion.