Water You Waiting For? by Troy Alexander Thompson
Published Date: 07-01-2016
Water, water, water – what an intrinsically simple, yet, vastly complex commodity it is, right? Boasting a simple composition at the molecular level of two parts Hydrogen and one part Oxygen, water comprises roughly 71% of our physical body mass, blankets 80% of the Earth’s surface area, and is indispensable to the facilitation of biological processes, big and small.
Interestingly enough, water is also one of the most vulnerable, renewable resources among us – as it’s susceptible to a host of environmental anomalies beyond our control.
Consider the highly-publicized, early 2014 catastrophe in which lead-tainted drinking water was discovered flowing through the rerouted pipe system serving the city of Flint, Michigan, for instance; or even “The Great Western Drought,” which is currently plaguing the state of California, and, the Westernmost U.S. territories spanning as far East as Colorado.
“The Great Western Drought,” as the phrase might suggest, is perhaps one of the most pressing issues of our present day environmental landscape.
States beset by implications of the longest-lasting drought in modern history — such as California, in particular — have invested millions of tax-payer dollars as part of a desperate attempt to, at least for the time being, stave off the potentially perilous effects of this historically significant precipitation shortage.
California Governor Jerry Brown has so far called for the implementation of various state-wide measures – such as limits to the number of times we can water our gardens, among other things – in an ongoing effort to reduce the otherwise far-reaching negative effects of this water shortage. However, the actual reach of state and local governments in water consumption patterns is fairly limited in the grand scheme of things.
Still, it’s only reasonable to assume – especially as we continue to progress into 2016 and beyond — that we’re going to have to start adapting to these limitations and impositions, lest we incur monetary citations, or, even worse, more far-reaching consumption restrictions.
“So what can we do?” you might wonder. The answer is simple: We have to cut back.
Humans and animals, and even plants, must consume water in order to survive. But there are still plenty of other ways to limit our household water consumption. For example, simply turning the sink off while scrubbing dishes, or even brushing our teeth or freshening up can save thousands of wasted gallons of water over the course of a month.
To that end, cutting back on the number of showers, or the amount of time you spend taking one, can preserve all the more.
Even here at Bluebird Canyon Farm (“BBF”), we’re doing our part to reduce water consumption. I recently sat down for a one-on-one interview with BBF Managing Director, Scott Tenney and asked him a few questions to help better understand what the organization is doing to aid the statewide conservation effort. Here’s what he had to say.
How has the state imposed restrictions on water use affected your business and, most specifically, your agricultural practices?
“The drought has created a lot of challenges for Bluebird Canyon Farms and for our other agricultural projects. Not only has the drought placed pressure on our agricultural operations, but the lack of adequate rainfall has put a great deal of stress on the native plantings and trees that are integral components of our site. Many of our mature trees have been weakened due to the lack of sufficient moisture during the past few years. Inadequate rainfall weakens both trees and plants, exposing them to opportunistic diseases and insect pests which puts them at risk. This is becoming an important issue in our region, and may become more significant as the impacts of climatological change strengthen and the western U.S. begins to revert toward a drier climate as some Climatologists are predicting.
“Despite all this, we have been fortunate in that the effects of the drought on our operations have been lessened due to the number of water conservation elements we have designed and installed at the farm. These investments have prepared us for a period when resource scarcity may become the norm rather than the exception.”
What has BBF done to reduce and/or optimize its water consumption?
“Bluebird Canyon Farm was designed with resiliency in mind, and many elements and systems were built into the project to improve resource conservation. These include extensive use of endemic native vegetation in areas not being intensively cultivated; installation of a smart irrigation system which uses climatic information, site conditions, and horticultural requirements to determine irrigation schedules, as well as a sophisticated water harvesting system that can capture and reuse water that normally runs off to the site and into the sea.
“In addition to infrastructure in place, our site personnel actively manage these systems to ensure they operate at the highest level of efficiency. Water consumption is measured and tracked on a weekly basis to ensure targets are being met and consumption rates/volumes are not exceeded. The system is inspected and regularly maintained to ensure it is in optimal operating condition, and adjustments are made to the system based on seasonal, site, or horticultural conditions.”
To what extent have these efforts succeeded?
“Records show our efforts have been successful. For example, water consumption in 2015 declined by more than 20% (relative to 2014), and monthly water usage during each of the first ten months of 2015 consistently measured less than 30% of the site’s allotment, according to official records from the Laguna Beach County Water District.”
What do you see for the farm as we progress into the future?
“We will continue to experiment with different operating strategies and techniques to improve conservation. We plan on increasing the water storage volumes on site so that we can move in the direction of relying completely on harvested water to irrigate our cultivated areas. We expect our water consumption to continue declining as areas that are under active ecological restoration become more established and the native plantings completely acclimate to seasonal moisture.”