A couple weeks ago, Gov. Jerry Brown officially declared a drought emergency for the state of California. The images here show the impact of the drought on our lakes and reservoirs and on the Sierra snow pack. The image of the Sierras was taken from the edge of space (100,000 miles away) and provides a stark glimpse of how little snow has accumulated
The San Diego Regional Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit covers rules for storm water flows and urban runoff that drains into our watersheds, and differs from previous MS4 permits in that it mandates uniform requirements for all the counties in the San Diego region (San Diego, Orange, and Riverside). The San Diego Green Building Council has submitted comments on two drafts of the MS4 permit, to make sure that our voice for sustainable building is heard and included.
Protecting our local watershed is integral to green building practices. Urban runoff is the number one pollution source in Southern California due to our infrequent rain events and unsustainable landscape practices (including use of herbicides and inorganic fertilizers). Conventional approaches to storm water mitigation focus on detention basins and evaluate soil infiltration capacity based on soil structure (clay versus loam). In our comments, we proposed a shift in perspective from “infiltration” to “hydration of living soil” since even relatively impermeable clay soils can slow, sink, and spread water to plants when delivered during the normal rainy season.
We also suggested green infrastructure practices that produce “green swathes” such as green streets in city neighborhoods. Converting paved to planted areas along city streets reduces storm water volume and pollutants, and helps to build community. There are great examples of green streets in Los Angeles (Hope Street downtown and Elmer Avenue) as well as several examples in the city of Tucson [PDF].
Once the new MS4 permit is adopted, water quality improvement plans outlining time-frames and resource allocations will be developed within the first year. The San Diego Green Building Council will continue to play a strong role in shaping water quality issues in our region.
Rosalind Haselbeck is the co-owner and CEO of Building Green Futures, a local company that specializes in the design and construction of water harvesting systems and living roofs for residential and commercial sites. Rosalind is a licensed landscape contractor, an ARCSA (American Rainwater Catchment Systems Association) accredited professional, a green roof accredited professional, and a level 2 installer with Greywater Action. Rosalind’s educational background includes a PhD in Biology from the University of California, Irvine.