Southern California environment news and trends

Dirty for the drought: LA Waterkeeper wants you to take the no-car wash pledge

Inside a car wash that recycles water

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

When it comes to water usage, not all car washes are created equal. Most car washes don’t recycle water, but more and more newly built car washes are starting to. Santa Ana Express Car Wash opened three years ago and its million-dollar equipment recycles 70 percent of its water.

KPCC's Matt DeBord hasn't washed his car in more than a year.

John Rabe

The Saab Slob? KPCC's Matt DeBord hasn't washed his car in more than a year.

Washing your car with a garden hose can use up to 120 gallons of water. Most corner conveyor belt operations use less, but all that water can add up, as we told you in August.

That’s why the group LA Waterkeeper is challenging motorists to drive dirty and pledge to skip car washes for 60 days. 

"Water conservation is the easiest and most affordable way to quickly reduce water demand and also extend supplies into next year," says Liz Crosson, the group's executive director. 

This summer Ventura County’s water agency asked people to skip washing their rides for a month; some people got detailing and car washes as a reward. Crosson’s group is hoping bragging rights will be enough of an incentive. (Though there are some as-yet-undisclosed prizes.)

People who live in LA are really excited and interested by the cars that they drive," Crosson says. "And frankly, you can have a dirty car and you can have a sticker and have an excuse for having a dirty car so it saves your image too."


Conservation groups seek protection of monarch butterfly

Mercer 1428

Courtesy of Huntington Beach Tree Society

File: Western monarch butterfly in Huntington Beach

A group of conservation organizations teamed up with a leading monarch butterfly scientist on Tuesday to petition for protection of the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act.

The monarch butterfly is one of the most iconic butterfly species in the country. But according to conservation group the Xerces Society, the monarch butterfly population is in trouble.

“Many scientists estimate that there are about 33 million monarchs. And just for comparison, in the past, researchers have estimated more than 1 billion monarchs,” said Sarina Jepsen, who directs the Endangered Species Program for the Xerces Society.

That’s a decline of about 90 percent in just fewer than 20 years, Jepsen said.

The main culprit in the monarch’s decline is the weed killer Roundup, Jepsen said. Most monarch caterpillars breed in the Midwest, and feed off of milkweed. While Roundup doesn’t kill genetically modified crops like soy and corn, it does kill milkweed.


LA County supervisors criticize 'piecemeal' cleanup around Exide, seek money for lead testing

Exide Soil Digging - 1

Maya Sugarman/KPCC

Exide begins to remove lead-polluted soil on Monday morning at a house on the 1200 block of La Puerta Street in Boyle Heights.

All five members of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors have signed a letter imploring California Gov. Jerry Brown to intervene in the state’s handling of contamination around the Exide Technologies plant in Vernon.

The letter criticizing the state’s “piecemeal approach to an urgent environmental hazard” comes as workers paid for by Exide are removing lead-contaminated topsoil from two homes near the intersection of Olympic and Indiana avenues in L.A. 

Signed Tuesday, the letter asks for “guaranteed state funding to immediately begin testing” at 37 more homes also sampled, but to less specific degrees, during November 2013. In the words of the board, “further testing and remediation of the other 37 homes has not been confirmed and may not begin until at least October 2014 because Exide has not yet agreed to comply with DTSC directives issued last March.”


California Drought News: My burger, my burrito, my poor wallet



Tuesday's drought news makes you question whether waiting so long in the drive-thru line will continue to be worth it.

First, today's dryku:
Burger prices rise
Will we turn to other foods?
Burritos' do too


  • Have you noticed the increased food prices at the grocery store? Well, now you're going to see it at your fast food joints too. In-N-Out and Chipotle are having to raise prices on their food. Starbucks has also.
In-N-Out raised the cost of its hamburgers and cheeseburgers by a dime and their famous Double-Double jumped 15 cents to $3.45. French fries were unchanged but soft drinks went up a nickel. (San Gabriel Valley Tribune)

Oil and Water:

  • They don't mix, but they separate pretty well. The New York Times looks at how an oil field in the Central Valley also pumps 760,000 gallons of water each day that it sells to a local water district. Article goes on to look at the fight over water use in fracking. (NY Times)


California Drought News: Nosy about groundwater drilling, and nudging your neighbor to save

A 1962 Thousand Oaks survey picture of H.L. Hall Water Well and Test Hole Drilling, and Aitken and Kidder Water Development, by Pat Allen. Water well drilling goes back a century in California, but records are scarce for public viewing.

Monday's news is nosy about your neighbor — and your neighbors' groundwater drilling.

  • More great reporting from the Sacramento Bee on anachronistic problems of transparency in how we manage water in California. Even some well drillers now favor more transparency for groundwater "well logs":
In all other Western states, such records are accessible to whomever wants to see them – from university professors to civil engineers, real estate agents to the media. But in California, well logs are barred from public inspection by a 63-year-old law written to keep data gathered by well-drilling companies from falling into the hands of competitors. “The lack of information about well logs makes no sense, particularly as we are trying hard to manage a diminishing public trust resource,” said Jeffrey Mount, senior fellow at the Public Policy Institute of California, a nonpartisan think tank in San Francisco. “This is another one of those anachronistic statutes that does not belong in a modern water management system,” Mount said. (Sacramento Bee)