Southern California environment news and trends

Native land: Campaign offers free seeds to smart California gardeners

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docentjoyce via flickr

This is a majestic view of Montana de Oro State Park near Morro Bay, Califr., with California Poppies lining the Bluff Trail.

The new “Go Native” campaign launched by Apply Responsibility is encouraging California gardeners to be vigilant in the responsible use of pesticides and water conservation, especially as we face soaring summer temperatures and potential water shortages. To that end, an online water conservation questionnaire will reward high scorers with seed packets for plants native to California, including poppies and tidy tips.

“Most California homeowners use the majority of their water caring for their gardens, plants and lawns,” said Fred Pearson, chairman of the Urban Pyrethroid Stewardship Group, the pesticide industry alliance behind Apply Responsibility. “With the snowpack only about 40 percent of normal this year, we felt it was a perfect time to broaden our water message this year to include conservation.”


LADWP says Owens Lake's 'Owengeti' could suggest new modes for dust control

KPCC/Molly Peterson

LADWP's Marty Adams says he calls one parcel of the Owens Dry Lake "the Owensgeti," after the grass and woodland Serengeti.

KPCC/Molly Peterson

In one 600-acre patch of the lake, LADWP has begun to mimic nature as an experiment. "We took this area and we releveled it so we put better angles on the dirt, and it worked well," Adams says.

Molly Peterson/KPCC

Using bulldozers, LADWP has been trying a new technique called "tillage." Putting a bulldozer at an angle, operators plow in a straight line several feet deep through soil to turn up a layer of clay that can hold salty particles down.

I went out to Owens Lake for a story on dust mitigation with the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power back in April. When I did, Marty Adams and pretty much everyone else from the DWP I encountered were all eager to show me an area on the northeast side of the lake. Adams called it "the Owengeti."

The Serengeti is a grass-woodland in Tanzania and other countries in Africa, legendary for its beauty. (See, e.g., Toto, "Africa.") This 600-acre "Owengeti" is on the far side of the lake, away from Highway 395--unfortunate, says Adams, "because it's far from traffic. The average person sees the salt flats; they don't see the beautiful part on the east side." 

There's plenty of crusty white powder near the "Owengeti," too. It crunches satisfyingly underfoot, though I also was immediately burdened knowing that I contributed to the possibility of the particulate, PM10, flying through the air. "It's like walking on the moon. except i thought the moon would be firmer," Adams said. "It's like a powdered sugar donut." (Though I sort of think it's more like Entemann's crumb cake.)


U.S. bottled water sales soar to all-time high: A good sign?

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Scott Olson/Getty Images

A new report from the Beverage Marketing Corporation finds that sales of bottled water in the United States reached a new pinnacle in 2011. With sales increasing by 4.1 percent, 9.1 billion gallons of bottled water were sold last year, with per capita consumption hitting 29.2 gallons, also a new U.S. record. The growth comes after two consecutive years of economic recession (2008 and 2009) in which bottled water sales suffered substantial declines.

“What’s been driving the market for more than ten years now is the single-serve bottle of non-carbonated water,” said Gary A. Hemphill, the managing director of information services for the Beverage Market Corporation by telephone. “They easily account for more than 60 percent of overall sales,” he explained, adding that the market includes sparkling water, home and office delivery jugs and imports. “They’re more of a refreshment beverage. When people are out at convenience stores, for example, more of them are choosing non-carbonated bottled water than ever before.”


California leads nation in climate change preparation

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The Santa Ana winds in Southern California sweep down across the deserts and across the Los Angeles Basin.

With climate change continuing to create a myriad of new and uncertain weather and water-related issues, no state in America is better at getting ready for our environmental future than California.

As reported by the Hermosa Beach Patch, a recent study by the National Resources Defense Council found that California is one of only nine states (including Alaska and Wisconsin) that has created strategies to deal with the host of predicted situations like water shortages and droughts.

“Because of the significant risks to the state from increasing temperatures, changes in precipitation, sea level rise, and ocean acidification, California has been one of the leading states in the U.S. on climate change action,” states the report, titled “Ready or Not: An Evaluation of State Climate and Water Preparedness Planning.”


California water system monitored by UC Berkeley tweeting robots

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Nicholas Kamm/AFP/Getty Images

Water quality is serious business in California. In order to keep an even closer eye on what exactly is going in the state’s rivers, a research team from the University of California Berkeley has developed a fleet of aquatic robots known as the Floating Sensor Network that can not only monitor water quality, but also relay the results on Twitter.

As reported by Treehugger, 100 of the robots were released into the Sacramento River earlier this week, in order to measure the salinity, pollution and water flow of the essential Sacramento-San Joaquin water system, responsible for the majority of the state’s drinking water and irrigation supply. The ones outfitted with Android phones along with GPS systems are doing the tweeting.

"This is the way of the future," said Alexandre Bayen, associate professor at the University of California, Berkeley and project supervisor to Techworld. "We're moving from an age when humans were deploying things and baby-sitting them to an age where you just put the robots in the water, they do their job, they come back or they call you if they have a problem."