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Trees – Great Managers of Stormwater

Rains and storms have been sweeping California for the last couple of months, making 2017 a big wet year.  While this is so great,  relieving the state’s historic, 5-year drought, and lifting half of the state out of drought, now we face another issue opposite the drought: stormwater runoff, and in some places, flood and mudslide.  Due to mudslide, some free ways in North Cal have to be closed. Stormwater Flood How can we better manage stormwater and reduce the hazard? One of the key answers lies in something we see all the time – trees.

Trees Reduce Runoff by Drawing a Large Amount of Stormwater

For their critical function of photosynthesis and other functions, trees need a lot of water.  They take water from soil, finish the processes,  and evaporate it into air.  Each tree is like a sponge that absorbs away a large amount of rainwater that sinks in soil. In addition,  the branches and leaves of trees, like arms and hands, can catch and absorb a big amount of raindrops falling from sky, reducing that falling on ground. As trees draw away so much rain water, they reduce runoff. Trees Draw Water

Trees Reduce Soil Erosion By Slowing Down Rainwater

The canopies of trees can slow down raindrops falling through them significantly, reduce the force they hit the ground; On the ground, trees block and slow the current of stormwater, reducing its force to carry soil; underground, the roots of trees bind soil tightly so they are not as easily washed away. All together, tress lessen the impact of rainfall for soil, effectively reduce erosion and mudslide. Trees Reduce Erosion by Stormwater

Trees Improve Quality of Soil and Increase Storage Capacity for Water

The root systems of trees break up the soil, create space for air and water, support the growth of living organisms and worms; the fallen leaves, and the waste of animals live in the trees further add to the organic matters deposited onto the soil.  Together they improve the quality of soil, and its capacity to hold water. According to USDA, “Each 1 percent increase in soil organic matter helps soil hold 20,000 gallons more water per acre.”   When the heavy rains come, healthy soil helped created by trees can absorb much more water than barren soil, reduce runoff and its hazard. Trees Increase Water Holding Capacity

Trees Transform Pollutants Into Less Harmful Substances

From the long course that stormwater flows over, especially in cities, it usually carry a certain amount of pollutants, such as metals, chemicals, etc.  When trees draw water from soil for its photosynthesis and other functions, they also draw pollutants with it.  After the processes, these pollutants are transformed into less harmful substances, and delivered to all parts of trees.  Trees are natural purifiers that filter out the harmful substances, making water and environment for us cleaner and safer. Trees Transform Pollutants in Stormwater

Include Trees In Water Efficient Gardens

Trees have always been an important part of water efficient gardens. In dry times, along with native and drought tolerant plants, trees can beautify the landscape, cool down the area, reduce demand for water, improve soil quality and enhance overall capability of water conservation. In rainy season, as trees are such great stormwater managers, they can help the community reduce runoff and loss of soil. Quite a few popular trees, i.e., Crape Myrtle, Fig, Avocado, Pomegranate, etc, which qualify for Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Conversion Rebates, are good choices to be included in a water efficient garden.  With such a tree in your garden, not only will you enjoy its shade and fruits, but also that great feeling that they are strong helpers in rainy season as well as dry. Trees In a Water efficient Garden

Storm Water – Not a Waste But a Valuable Resource of Water (1)

Vasona park and the adjacent Los Gatos Trail is a favorite place for many locals who live in the South Bay of the San Francisco Bay area.  The long trail along the picturesque creek and reservoir provides a perfect place for people to walk, run, or just to relax and enjoy.  In the last couple weeks, though, as like so many other places in Northern California, the heavy storms flooded part of the trail.  The creek turned muddy yellow, roaring downstream at a much faster pace than normal.

Stormwater flooded Los Gatos trail

The creek literally has become a river.  It did not just flow out of the creek banks; in this particular area it flooded the whole place, including the trail, until it was blocked by the higher bank, off which the trail’s parking spaces sit.  The flow was so powerful that it knocked down a pole of the trail’s fence. Flood at Los Gatos Creek Fence Pole Nowhere was the storms’ effect more apparent than at the dam of Vasona Reservoir. Usually the dam gates were closed, the creek tranquil; now the gates are wide open, with a huge volume of muddy storm water tumbling down, making a spectacular fall. dam before storm dam after storm dam after storm

Storm Water Benefit  – Recharge Ground Water

While the heavy storm water did flood part of the trail, the water itself is not a waste; on the contrary, it is a very valuable resource. One of Los Gatos Creek’s major functions is to recharge ground water. According to the park’s official website: “Surface water runoff from the watershed that drains into Los Gatos Creek is captured by Lexington Reservoir in the Santa Cruz Mountains. That water is then used to recharge, or refill, the valley’s groundwater basin. Reservoir water is released and carried to recharge ponds via the creek. Water held in the ponds seeps or “percolates” through the earth’s layers until it reaches underground aquifers. This percolation process helps clean the water before it reaches the underground storage basin. All along Los Gatos Creek you will see groundwater recharge in action. Water released from Lexington Reservoir flows to Vasona Lake where a system of gates at the dam releases water downstream to the percolation ponds at Los Gatos Creek County Park and Budd, Camden, McGlincey, Oka Lane, Page and Sunnyoaks ponds. Ultimately, the creek joins the Guadalupe River and flows northward to San Francisco Bay.” Here is one of the percolation ponds at the creek: percolation pond Ground water is an important source of water for California.  In the last several decades, overpumping has seriously depleted a lot of the ground water, sinking the land across the state.  The historical drought in the last 5 years made the depletion even worse, exacerbating an already severe situation . It is critically important to recharge the ground water, and the storm water this season is badly needed.

Storm Water Benefit  – Water for Trees

Walking along the creek one can see quite some trees toppled in the storm. tree toppled in a storm While some trees may simply just be brought down by the force of the wind and flow, for  some other trees, it was the drought – they were so weakened by the time of the storm. Since 2010, more than 102 million of trees have died in the California forest stressed by drought and infected by beetles, estimated the U.S. Forest Service.   As trees are so vital for the environment,  this is not something anyone would like to see.  The storm water can help quench the thirst of the trees, helping them stay healthy and live much longer.

Storm Water Benefit  – A Richer Habitat for Birds

A happy surprise one would discover walking along the creek was birds rarely seen before.   While some birds, e.g., Canada Geese, Great Egret, and Mallard Ducks  can be seen all the time, a much bigger variety showed up after the storms: birds after storms

Double-crested Cormorant

birdsafterstorm Like a lot of wetlands in the state, Los Gatos creek was a bird’s paradise a long long time ago, but human activities took away most of the habitat.  The drought just made it much worse for the birds.  Now, with the abundance of water and food brought by the storms, more birds came back.  It is clear that water is essential for the health of wetland’s ecosystem, and storm water plays a big role in it. Net, from Los Gatos creek, one can see storm water is such a valuable resource.  It can recharge ground water, de-stress the trees, and help provide a habitat for birds.  It is not a waste that should be flown out to the ocean as soon as possible; rather, it is something that should be captured, stored and reused, so we can achieve a much higher efficiency for the water we get.  

How Can We Go Green With Water? Q&A with Environment Speaker Tony Green

The climate change is happening.  In California, having just experienced a historical drought, we see what a hotter, dryer place is like first hand.  As water is bound to become more and more scarce, how can we best preserve and conserve this valuable resource?  Tony Green is an environment speaker who has given speeches at major green conventions and events around the country.  We spoke with him about the environment, water, what we can do and more.

Tony Green
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

A little bit about my background: before I moved to Silicon Valley, I did some time with the Navy for the Nuclear Power Submarine; once I left the the Navy, I took a job in Semiconductor as a product support engineer; over time I moved into more of the sales and marketing roles, then through time into Cleantech positions. Couple years ago I founded Speaking Green Communications to be a voice for sustainability and the adoption of alternative energy technologies.  I am a big believer that if people understood  these technologies a little better than they did, there will be a lot less resistance to adopt them.

Why did you choose environment to be your focus? What would you hope to accomplish with your work?

The environment is pretty interesting because environment is more part of sustainability, where environment acts as its stage. Environment moves through the people, and the stage; so environment for me is wrapped into sustainability.   The environment is affecting the lives of people, and also people affect the environment by their behaviors and actions.  I had a position where I was working on a soil mediation project and I really saw first hand the effect that people have on the environment by their behaviors.  That kind of baby passion about doing my part contributed to (my) helping people to be better stewards in the environment.

What kind of the mediation project was it?

This was in Los Angeles area, and it was an industrial facility that made medical equipment, and they have stored things like chemicals. The things stored eventually would leak.  The manufacturing plant was no longer working, and the community wanted to develop homes on the land where the factory used to be.   The chemicals were contaminated in soil that needed to be removed before this land could be developed for new homes.  And so the project was to mediate the soil so that the development could go on afterwards.

 Why a voice for Green?

I would like to be a voice because there are a lot of people who are interested in being more green and sustainable, but are either afraid of technology or not sure about what steps they could take, or whether they can do their part. So I tried to make myself as a resource to provide easy steps, and provide knowledge in terms of helping people try to be more green, because on a lot of levels it really makes sense that we take care of the environment that we leave to our children and their children.

You have been in the environment industry for a long time, both as a Cleantech professional and as a speaker. Overall, how do you feel about its progress and what has been achieved?

It’s definitely a work in progress; one of the important things, in terms of environment, is a lot are policy related.  People have to participate in the process, and to impress upon their lawmakers – people who really govern policies – that this is important, we have to change our behavior to maintain and steward our environment. I think people have to make their voices heard. In terms of communicating these objectives – very important – definitely a work in process. There has been progress, but there is a lot to go. It’s kind of the mindset – first we must clean the environment, also to make sure that we are being sustainable going forward, in terms of our practices.

Can you introduce one or two areas that you spoke about recently.

Yes, one of the speeches I scheduled to be giving in Portland Green Festival (Dec 2016) was, “What Is In Our Water Might Surprise Us”. With all the chemicals and pharmaceuticals and cosmetics that go into our water, these contaminants are showing in our drinking water, because waste water treatment systems weren’t designed to remove all the particles and substances. Cities have found trace levels of cocaine in their water. It is not enough to not have problems; more people should be aware that these things are in their water; over time as more chemicals get at it, it is kind of unknown how these chemicals will mix each other.   Something people should be aware what might be in their drinking water that actually comes out from their tap. Another talk that I recently gave was, “Sustainability As a Path to Peace”. It talks about the possibility in water stressed regions the countries going to war over access to drinking water. And that talk goes into the history and how that became big, and more importantly, what tools we can use to prevent people from going to war over access to drinking water which elementary is a human right. This talk I gave at Peace Center at Walnut Creek (California).

What do you think about the drought, and the water challenge that California has been facing since 5 years ago?

The biggest challenge, especially in California, is conservation should be a way of life.  I saw the news yesterday that showed the drought monitor numbers that looked as good as you have seen, there were some places in the northern part that were “out of drought”.  However in my mind we should always be thinking about water conservation. If you look at climate change, the changes in water, also with the growth of the state of California 10, 20 years from now, conservation should always be a way of life. The challenge is to get people into that kind of mindset. When people are saying “oh, the drought is over” they go back to their bad water practices, which is what really got us into this situation. The concern is , the drought isn’t over, you should always think conservation, forever. So it makes me nervous from people’s thought – thinking about rolling back – because what you are going to see happening is you are going to undo the progress you have made, in 5 years we will be saying the same things that we said couple years ago when we were in the unhappiest point of the drought. In California there have been droughts very routinely, but typically rain always come back. While with climate change, the water might not be coming back.  A big part of that is the state gets a lot of its rain from Sierra snow melt, a lot of the snow now becomes rains, so the reservoirs aren’t going to get its impact from snow going forward. That means there will be less water available in the reservoir, that is really the biggest challenge.

What are some of the effective ways to conserve water?

People should be conscious of their water usage, but I am big on reusing the water. This month I gave this talk about the idea of using recycled water for drinking. There has been a lot of resistance, they call it yuk factor, people are really afraid of using it because they think it is the water out of their toilet they are drinking, but water is going to be purified before they drink it. Nature has recycled all of the water for millions of years, so.

What can we do in our daily life to protect the environment?

I think we can take steps.  In another talk of “10 ways to Save Water”, I mentioned some of relatively easy ways.  You can monitor your shower times, you can not wait until your shower is so warm before jumping in, you can reuse that water, you can use your shower water as toilet water.  You can think about your water footprint, for instance, you can compost, instead of using a garbage disposal. There are certain things you can do to reduce not just your water, but also your energy footprint. You can get a tankless water heater, which will help you save water and energy. There are a lot of things that can be done, it is just a matter of, making it easy for people to take steps.

What is a tankless water heater?

Water heater is a bowl, it stores water at the bottom. When it heats, the water at the bowl gets heated. When you take shower, you are using extra energy to keep that extra water warm so you have the hot water ready. A tankless heater is really a heater exchanger, it takes the water and heats it when you need it. So you are only heating the water right when you need it, you are not holding a lot of it in the tank, and in the pipe.

Any other observation that you would like to share?

Sustainability and being green is something a lot of people naturally take hold of. The key is to get everyone on board. One of the themes in terms of part of the play is global – everyone’s local choice has an impact globally. Always stay positive, because you always hear a lot of doom and groom for climate change, but positive change can happen. For instance, the decision was made to reduce the refrigerants, now the ozone hole was actually closed because we limited the amount of refrigerant, that is something positive we had an impact on. Same thing with climate change.  We can start having a positive impact by reducing fossil fuels and using renewable as energy sources. The biggest concern has to be the mindset. Typically I talked to high school students, it is kind of important to get the message out so that they learned.  It is easier for people be green than to be ungreen when they get old.

What you see as the biggest concerns people should have with their drinking water?

One of the things about drinking water is that a lot of people use bottled water, which is not very good in terms of the plastic, when there is the perfectly healthy drinking water that comes from your tap. If you don’t like the taste of it, a water filter works really well in filtering out and making it taste well. I use it and it works. The bottled water folks did a very job of marketing saying “you don’t want to drink your tap water, you want to pay us money so we bottle for you.” Many times the bottled water is still water coming out from your tap, just filtered and packaged.  If you look at the price, the bottle and the label account for 90% of the price, not the water itself. If you look at the water bottles, a lot of them go unrecycled. A lot of them end up in landfill, and as an example of local versus global, they end up in in the oceans.  It takes 400 years for plastic to decompose, it never really breaks down, it just breaks into smaller and smaller pieces that sea lions and other animals ingest, so it really is not a good situation. I agree in some situations bottled water is needed, but normally the tap water is perfectly fine.  Go without bottled water – just drink from tap!

If we are interested in learning more, how can we contact you?

Visit my website www.speakinggreencommunications.com.

Water conservation: How did Californians do after mandate (Part II)

How is California’s water conservation after last report?   The October number just arrived, so here they are: In September, Californians reduced water usage by 18.3% vs. 2013, in October, 19.5%.  They are quite consistent with the numbers since June, when the water conservation mandate was lifted, in the 17%-22% range.  These numbers indicate Californians continue to put in the effort to conserve water after the mandate, and the result is about 20% reduction for total potable urban water use since June. CA Water Conservation for Last 18 months However, when compared with last year’s numbers for the same month, they all fell short.   In September, it was 30.2% lower; in October, 12.2% lower. Actually,  in every single month since the mandate ended, less water was conserved than last year’s.  In hot months from July to September, it was as much as about 1/3 less.  October’s showing actually is the best, at 12% lower.  The mandate does seem to make a difference in the months so far.   CA Water Conservation - with and without mandate

CA Drought Situation

Thanks to some heavy rains in the last 2 months, the drought situation in the state has been relieved to a certain degree.  As of Dec 2o, 59% of California is in “severe drought”, down from 90% at the same time last year.  This is a big improvement, but 60% of the state is still in severe drought.  We also don’t know how the rest of water year will play out.  The drought is not considered over, and we still need to conserve water. CA Drought Comparison 2015 and 2016

California Water Conservation Mandate

In April 2015, facing California’s historical 4 year drought, Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order making it mandatory that statewide urban water use be reduced by 25% compared with 2013 levels starting June 2015. Since the mandate started, Californians stepped up their conservation efforts, and statewide water conservation immediately jumped from 13.7% in April, to 29.0% in May. Overall,  the statewide water savings for the twelve months from June 2015 to May 2016 was 24.5 percent, when the mandate was effective.

New Water Conservation Regulation – No Statewide Mandate

In May 2016, with impressive water saving achievements for a whole year, and a close-to-normal winter rainfall, emergency water conservation regulations was revised. Instead of a statewide mandate, urban water agencies have the ability to set their own conservation standards based on a “stress test” of supply reliability – their projected shortfall in the event of three more dry years.  In the months after this approach was implemented, as the numbers above indicate, less water was conserved than when the mandate was in place.

Continue with Water Conservation

With climate change and population increase, water resource will just keep getting scarcer, not more.  It is projected that the Sierra snowpack can drop by half by the end of the century if greenhouse emissions continue at current speed, which can be disastrous for the state’s water supply.   As of right now, 60% of the state is still in severe drought. It is clear we all need to use water more efficiently, and continue to conserve water. Limit outdoor watering, as about half of water consumed by Californians is used outdoors.  Replace the lawn with a water efficient garden – Calculate how much water you can save here. A water efficient garden will not only save water, but be beautiful as well. They can be full of California native charm, or be a floral dream for little princesses.  Whichever design you choose, the water efficient garden can help us conserve water, and deal with water shortage now and in the future. Water Efficient Garden "Floral Dream"    

From Brown to Floral Dream

“I want to get rid of the brown lawn, like yesterday!  and I want a garden of flowers!  ” declared Sheena (not the real name), the owner of the house and a mom of young girls. lawn2watereffigarden   The brown lawn had been an eye sore to Sheena for a long time.  Like so many other Californians, she stopped watering the lawn when the state implemented the drought Emergency Regulation.  The lawn turned brown and did not look good.  Sheena wanted to do something about it, but had no clue where to start.  When she was told about the Santa Clara Landscape Conversion Rebate Program, she could not wait to get onboard. Designing the Garden Sheena wanted a garden of flowers boasting of strong, festival colors, like red, purple, and orange.  “It’s a garden for my princesses!”  She also likes different types of grasses as nice decorations. Plants of Beautiful Flowers It is a blessing that many drought tolerant plants do have very beautiful flowers.  It was quite easy to pick the plants that Sheena wanted from a big collection. Mexican Bush Sage:  With its big volume of bright purple blossom (with some white blended in), it is the kind of plants that you will notice right away.   Drought tolerant once established, it blooms for a long time from summer to late fall, providing incessant color and beauty to your garden. img_0459 Lion’s Tail: brings a festival feel. lions-tail-2 New Zealand Flax: img_0464 Red Hot Poker red-hot-poker-2 Erigeron:  Tough, drought tolerant, pretty blossom. erigeron Mulch Mulch is a must for any water efficient garden.   After all the plants are planted, a layer of mulch is placed on the surface to 1) keep the soil moist and 2)reduce evaporation.  Mulch can reduce evaporation by as much as 75%, so is a very important element for any garden that aims to conserve water. Organic mulch such as chipped bark is a good choice.  In addition to keeping the water in soil, they can add to the soil’s richness once composed.  This is critical for the health of the soil and the growth of the plants. There are different colors of mulch, and the choice was easy for Sheena. The garden is already filled with flowers of all pretty colors, with the mulch, it is further enhanced to this other level of prettiness and excitement. Rain Sensor A rain sensor and automatic controller were also installed with the garden. When it rains, the sensor can send the signal to the controller, which will delay the watering scheduled, saving irrigation water for the garden.  Rain sensor is another great way to make a garden water efficient. img_0445 The project was finished within a week, and the total cost was less than $3000.  The rebate made it substantially lower. Sheena was very happy.  “My princesses like the garden!”  Sheena is glad now the brown lawn is gone, and she and her princesses have this big beautiful view to enjoy everyday.  In addition, “It saves me a lot of money. We use much less water now, and no longer need to hire hands for maintenance.”   waterefficientgarden1  

Drip Irrigation – Essential for a Water Efficient Garden

When we think about installing a garden, often what come to our mind first are which plants to select and where to plant them.  While these are all very important, there is another equally important aspect – the irrigation system. IMG_6629 For a water efficient garden, drip irrigation is the way to go. Benefits of Drip Irrigation

  • Saves water. Compared with other irrigation methods such as sprinkling, drip uses 30% to 50% less water.   Water is delivered by “drips” right into the plant’s root area,  with little runoff or evaporation.  Almost all the water delivered is absorbed by the plants, translating to very high watering efficiency.  As California is still in its historical drought, and outdoor watering accounts for 50% – 70% of a household’s total water usage, it is essential that we conserve water .  For outdoor landscape watering, drip is the best answer for conservation.


  • Works great with mulch.  Chips in the mulch can be carried away by the spraying water from a sprinkler, which can expose the soil beneath and accelerate evaporation.  With drip irrigation, as water will drip down slowly into the soil, it will not move the chips and mulch can stay for a long time.
  • No water on weeds.  The precise positioning of drips means water is provided only to the plants, not to any others like weeds.  This will prevent or slow the growth of weeds.
  • Saves time and effort.  An automatic controller can be installed along with drip irrigation, so all the watering can be done automatically.  With at least one emitter for one plant, all the plants will receive the water they need.
  • Included in the Santa Clara Water District’s Landscape Rebate Program for qualified households.  The automatic controller and compatible rain sensor are covered if they are pre-approved during on-site inspection.

Installing Drip Irrigation While drip irrigation can conserve water really well and saves time and effort, it requires advanced planning.  Here are the major steps of installing drip irrigation for a new garden.

  • Have a garden design and positions for each of the plants.
  •  After the yard is prepared, lay out the plants at where they are supposed to be according to the plan.


  • Lay the pipes, install drip emitter for every plant.


  • Cover the pipes and the surface of the garden with soil and mulch.  None of the pipes are visible now, only the beautiful plants!

dripirrigation2 Weather-Based Irrigation Controller and Rain Sensor An automatic controller can be installed to automate the drip watering. The length and frequency of each watering can easily be entered from the touch pad of the controller. To further conserve water, a rain sensor can be connected to a smart drip irrigation controller.  When it rains, the information will be transmitted to the controller, which will then delay the next watering scheduled, avoiding the waste of the water. IMG_6654 Some controllers have mobile phone apps that work with them.  After you download the app, you can view information or operate the controller from your phone, anywhere you go. IMG_6657 In summary, drip irrigation can best conserve water for outdoor landscape watering.  With an automatic controller and mobile phone app, it is really convenient too to use a drip system.  Choose controllers that can work with a rain sensor – take full advantage of all the rains and conserve even more water! img_6626                

From Brown to California Native Charm

The brown lawn has been an eye sore to the owner of the house for quite a while.  He had been wanting to replace it with something more beautiful, but did not know where to start.   Since California’s drought five years ago, he put in his effort to conserve water, turning off the sprinklers. Sure enough, the lawn went brown.  He heard about Landscape Conversion Rebate Program, but did not know how it worked. Water Efficient Garden Conversion When he had a chance to talk to the designer, he was happy to find out everything would be taken care of from end-to-end.  Not only will they design a water efficient garden to replace the lawn, but also take care of the program application paperwork.  Hassle free – that was exactly the way he wanted. Designing the Garden The owner favored a natural and easy look for the garden; he also had some pebble stones from his last project, which he would like to repurpose for the new garden. The designer decided to do a “California Native” garden.  The selection of plants showed this focus. California Native Plants California has many native plants, which are great for gardening.  Adapted to California’s dry and windy environment, they are hardy, strong and can thrive without any care.  There are a lot of benefits gardening with native plants:

  • Water efficient:  they do not need that much water; compared to a lawn, a garden with mostly native plants can save a significant amount of water;
  • Low maintenance: they can thrive on their own; no or little care is needed.
  • Attracting pollinators:  the bees, birds and butterflies sure like the plants that they know well for tens of thousands of years.  Those bees and birds need more food, and this will provide them.

These California Native plants are picked for this garden. Douglas Iris:  beautiful blue iris, native to areas along west coast. Native Plants for a Water Efficient Garden Buckwheat: pretty small pink flowers will bloom most of the year, its nectar is the favorite of butterflies. Monkey Flower: The full yellow blossom can be seen everywhere along the coast in spring and summer.  Some cultivars have bright red flowers, which are equally pretty. California Poppy: the golden state flower. CA Golden Poppy Matilija Poppy Native Plants for a Water Efficient Garden The designer included the design into application materials and submitted it.  2 weeks later they received the Notice to Proceed. Installing the Garden All the materials were purchased. IMG_5666_1 The brown grass was first removed. Next was to create a miniature “nature”.  The curves for “mountains” were added, and a “river” was made with the cobble stones. Then the piping was done, all the plants planted.  The whole area was covered with black mulch, which contrasts nicely with the river and the colors of the flowers. WaterEfficientGarden The California native plants: Douglas Iris, Golden Poppy, and Monkey Flower IMG_6634 Irrigation Equipment Upgrade Along with the lawn conversion approval, the garden also qualified for an upgrade with automatic irrigation controller and rain sensor.  Both were installed after the garden. With the rain sensor, when it rains, it will detect and transfer the information to the controller, which will shut off the next watering scheduled.   This way the irrigation water can be saved. IMG_6654 It rained right after this was installed.  It worked! IMG_6657 Within a couple days, a brown lawn was successfully transformed to a beautiful water efficient garden.  The eye sore is gone, and the owner has something nice to enjoy and more to look forward to. G1                              

Santa Clara Water District Rebate Program Second Step – Notice to Proceed

  IMG_5666_1 In the last post on this topic, we talked about the first step of the Santa Clara Water District Landscape Conversion Rebate Program: schedule and receive a Pre-Inspection.   At the inspection, someone from the Rebate Program will inspect the yard, decide whether it qualifies for the rebates or not (Landscape Conversion Rebate, Irrigation Equipment Upgrade Rebate etc).  If yes, they will provide the rebate program application forms to be filled out and sent back.  If approved, a Notice to Proceed will be received. Application Submission The key information to be entered on Application Form before one can submit include:

  1. “diagram or set of plans” for the landscape.

The diagram can be a just a  sketch of the yard and where the plants will be placed.  To see some design of the gardens, see Garden Photos. 2.  plant list, each plant’s coverage value, and the total plant coverage (square feet). To receive the rebate, the old lawn needs to be replaced  “with a minimum of 50 percent plant coverage consisting of low water using plants from the water district’s Approved Plant List. ”  For example, if the lawn’s total area is 1,000 square feet, then at least 500 square feet needs to be covered by plants from the “Qualifying Plant List” provided. To see what some of the plants on the list are like and their coverage, visit Water Efficient Plants IMG_2361 For people who are qualified to receive Irrigation Equipment Upgrade Rebate, they also should enter the info for the equipment.  For example, if the equipment approved is weather-based irrigation controller and rain sensor, one can select the products from the list provided by the Rebate Program, and fill in the make and model info on the form.  A rebate will be given for such products, along with the lawn conversion, if all the requirements are met. Receiving Notice to Proceed About 2-4 weeks after the application is submitted,  one may receive a Notice to Proceed from the Rebate Program.  This means the fund for the rebate is set aside, and the home owner can proceed to purchase materials and install the garden. On the notice, it will show a “Project Completion Due Date”, which is 3 months from the date the notice is issued.  To receive the rebate, one needs to finish the project by the due date.  (It is possible to apply for and obtain an extension). Notice to Proceed Purchasing Materials and Getting Ready for Installment Shopping time for plants!  Go to nurseries and buy all the plants as indicated on the application.  Pick the ones that look strongest and have the best chance to grow.  Purchase other materials too – mulch, etc. IMG_5638 With all the materials, the brown lawn is ready to be converted to a beautiful water efficient garden! IMG_3436 IMG_5945          

Fall is a great time to install a water efficient garden

IMG_5638 After a 5 year historical drought in California, many houses’ lawns have gone brown.  While this shows we are all doing our part to conserve water which we are all proud of, the lawn, well, can look a little bit nicer……Here comes the good news:  fall is a very good time to remove the lawn, plant water efficient plants and have a beautiful garden!  Not only is the time great for plants, thanks to landscape conversion programs such as the one offered by Santa Clara Water District, by doing it now, you may also receive some rebates. DSC_0305 Fall is one of the best times for planting Fall is one of the best times in the year for planting. There are several reasons for this.

  • Soil moisture good for the roots.   After plants are placed in soil, to establish and grow in the new place, they need the soil to be “wet” enough so the roots can establish.   As fall and winter are the wet season in California, and combined they can last several months long,  roots have the right environment and time to adjust and grow.
  • Temperature.  Very cold winter and very hot summer days can be harsh for young plants.  Fall offers the optimal temperature.
  • Great for spring bloomers.  A lot of plants bloom in spring.  If they are planted in fall, by next spring some of them may grow enough to bloom. Blossom in spring – what a lovely view!
  • Good for pollinators.  As their population dwindle, bees need more plants that they can feed on.  By growing plants now, come spring time bees will have much more places to go to have their meal.

  Many beautiful plants to choose from There are a large collection of plants that are both water efficient and beautiful.  If the lawn is replaced with plants that are on the Qualifying Plant List of Santa Clara Water District Landscape Rebate Program, it is eligible to receive the rebate of $1 per square feet.  Browse some of these water efficient plants here. IMG_5642 Conserve water, enjoy the garden A beautiful garden is not only something you can enjoy everyday, but will also go a long way to conserve water.  As California enters its 6th year of drought, we all need to do our part to conserve water. Outdoor watering for a lawn typically accounts for half or more of an household’s total water use; to convert a lawn to a water efficient garden, the water consumption for outdoor watering can be reduced by 30 to 60%, for total household 15 -40%. You may receive rebate by removing the lawn and putting in water efficient plants now ($1 per square feet if all requirements are met).  Find out more about the Santa Clara Landscape Conversion Rebate Program here. SaveWater Why wait?  Now is the great time to plan and build that lovely water efficient garden! IMG_6049          

California Enters Its 6th Year of Drought

IMG_1665 Oct 1 marks the the first day of new water year in California.  After the previous 5 years of drought, it is becoming clear the new year will be another dry one, continuing the drought that started from 2012.  6th year of drought – that is what we are facing. The photo above was shot during a hike at the Steven Creek area in Santa Clara county, South Bay.  It was alarming to see, the creek, once so wide, as evidenced by the river bed area, has shrunk down to just a very narrow line. In the creek, there is hardly enough water to sustain the flow.  Some parts of the creek has completely run dry. IMG_1681 IMG_1684 As of now, 62% of the state is still in Severe Drought, with 42% in Extreme Drought.  The rains brought by El Nino last year did alleviate the drought to some extent, but did not end it.  In Southern California the drought situation continue to be very serious. Drought 20161011_ca_none Still Need to Conserve Water Facing the severe drought situation, everyone in the state still need to put in the effort and conserve water.  When the emergency regulation of 25% mandatory reduction was implemented last year, collectively, Californians conserved 24.5% of water from June 2015 to May 2016.  It was a very remarkable achievement. After the mandate was lifted this June, unfortunately, the water conservation levels declined 3 months in a row.  In August, it went below 20%,  the lowest for any summer and fall months since last year. The situation is loud and clear: we are still in a drought, and we can not afford to use water like before. IMG_2079 Replace Lawn with Water Efficient Garden Outdoor watering for a lawn typically accounts for half or more of an household’s total water use; to convert a lawn to a water efficient garden is the most effective way to conserve water.   Use this calculator to find out how much water you can save by converting. For a lawn of 500 square feet, it can take as much as 4000 gallons of water in a month; if it is replaced with a water efficient garden, 30% to 80% of water can be conserved.  Suppose the original household water usage is 8000 gallons a month, and the garden saves 50% of water, the total water usage will reduce to 6000 gallons, a 25% saving versus the original.   Water In Santa Clara County, you may get rebate for replacing your lawn.  The Rebate Program is still open for application.  Hurry, put in your application now before the funds are depleted. An Water Efficient Garden Can Be Beautiful A water efficient garden do not need to be bare or arid; on the contrary, it can be full of colors and very pretty.  Select from a variety of plants of different colors, shapes, height and coverage; choose a design that best showcase each plant’s beauty. A4      

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