February 2, 2017 § 4 Comments
In every bottle of water is a creek, and there is actually a good chance it may be a California creek, as the map in this link indicates: “Lots of your bottled water comes from drought zones.”
This is something I think about every day when I walk by the water dispenser at my office. I look at the snowy mountain top on the label, and mentally compare it to the actual Arrowhead landmark, in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains, which I drive by each week. This iconic landmark is made of coastal sage scrub plants: white sage, black sage, california buckwheat, and others (Meek, 2007). Ironically, what makes the arrow stand out from the surrounding chaparral is the grey foliage that advertises the ability of these plants to survive drought.
Our remaining native ecosystems hang on a very delicate balance, and surface water and groundwater play an important role in maintaining this balance. This is just one of the reasons I feel alarmed when I see the list of “mountain springs” listed on the side of Arrowhead bottles. Because I suspect the other places on this list do not look anything like the snow-covered mountain on that label!
Last Sunday, I went to a community hearing sponsored by The League of Women Voters and Save Our Forest Association to learn how Nestlé’s extraction of water from the San Bernardino National Forest impacts Strawberry Creek, its riparian ecosystems, and our local groundwater. Speakers addressed a packed house at the Senior Center in Twin Peaks.
Strawberry Creek is the creek associated with Arrowhead Springs, after which Arrowhead water is named. It is located in the foothills of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Over the last 68 years, Nestlé extracted an average of 62 million gallons per year from wells drilled into the upper watershed of Strawberry Creek. According to figures presented at the hearing, this is over 5% of the safe yield of the entire San Bernardino Basin, which supplies the cities of San Bernardino, Riverside, Redlands, and others. Even in the midst of a multi-year drought, in 2015, Nestlé extracted 36 million gallons.
Nestlé’s extraction of millions of gallons per year occurred even as residents and businesses were required to restrict their own water usage.
For this amount of water, the company paid only $524 each year. One speaker said this came out to $3.65 per acre-foot of water, which the company then sold for 100,000 times that amount.
36 million gallons extracted in 2015, in the midst of a multi-year drought, means that much water did not make it to the creek. This means all of the plants and animals that once lived in the creek are short that much water.
Loe made it clear that the “mountain springs” of Strawberry Creek are not artesian springs which leap out the ground. Rather, they are horizontal wells drilled over 500 feet deep, maximizing groundwater extraction in the creek’s upper watershed, before water even gets to the creek. The drill sites are so dry that no riparian vegetation appears in their vicinity.
Nestlé claims to only extract water that is in ‘excess’ of the Forest Service’s current and foreseeable needs.
Given the outsized importance of riparian habitats in contributing to local biodiversity and providing regional ecological connectivity, Loe asked, can one say there is excess water when a creek is close to its lowest flows on record? Species that depend on riparian habitat are at low population levels, and others historically associated with the San Bernardino Mountains, have disappeared. Loe believes Nestlé’s extraction of groundwater was a contributing factor in the disappearance of Santa Ana speckled dace, a native fish species, from the area after 2003.
In a statement by the Center for Biological Diversity, the Story of Stuff, and Courage Campaign Institute, Eddie Kurtz wrote, “The U.S. Forest Service has been enabling [Nestlé] to destroy delicate ecosystems in the San Bernardino National Forest for 27 years, and it has to stop. Our government won’t stand up to them, so we’re taking matters into our own hands.”
FOR MORE INFORMATION
The co-sponsors of Sunday’s hearing: League of Women Voters of the San Bernardino Area.
I always love the Desert Sun’s coverage of environmental issues: Bottling Water without Scrutiny.
Origin of the Arrowhead landmark near San Bernardino, California. California Geographical Society.
Water is a Living Archive: Examining myths of where various urban streams come from: Pt. 1: Kellogg Creek
July 2, 2014 § 3 Comments
Have you ever heard rumors that water in various urban streams in Los Angeles originates in significant part from irrigation runoff?
It’s true that car wash and irrigation runoff are often seen flowing into storm drains. Dry season (summer) is the time these activities are most likely to take place. In the case of the Los Angeles River, a good deal of the river’s dry season flow comes from point source discharges rather than groundwater: one report says this figure is about 80% (Arup, 2011). Point sources include storm drains which convey irrigation runoff and carwash runoff, but also effluent from wastewater treatment plants. Flow data collected in 2000-2001 by Stein and Ackerman (2007) indicated that on the average, half of dry season flow in the Los Angeles River originated as effluent from wastewater treatment plants and half from storm drains.
As Josh Link puts it, the Los Angeles River, the end of pipe destination for a good deal of imported tap water, is effectively a « Read the rest of this entry »
January 28, 2013 § 6 Comments
A couple weeks ago, I got a chance to bicycle a few miles of the Bronx River. It’s not unlike the Los Angeles River: a very urban, relatively industrialized freshwater river, in the process of making a dramatic comeback – with new parks and bike paths along its degraded banks. « Read the rest of this entry »
November 2, 2012 § 6 Comments
(Note to L.A. folks: this former L.A. resident is now spending time living with my fiance in Downtown Jersey City. I’ll be posting occasional east coast pieces that I think may be interesting to L.A.’s Creek Freaks. For more information on recent changes at LACF, see this earlier post.)
I’ve spent the last month living in Jersey City, a place that was hard-hit by Hurricane Sandy. I am not going to go over all the damage done by Sandy nor the environmental factors likely responsible for second “storm of the century” in two years here… but I wanted to share one small observation about debris – because Sandy’s debris lines resemble those I’ve seen on the L.A. River after storms.
The good news is that my fiance and I are safe and dry, and suffered nearly no serious damage. We did have a day-long blackout, and train service is still out. Neighbors’ places flooded, but our basement stayed dry. At least right here on our street, near Hamilton Park in Downtown Jersey City, we got some strong winds but very little rain. The flooding issues here (and in nearby Hoboken, Manhattan, etc.) were the result of a surge of the waters of the Hudson River. The hurricane pushed water upstream, overflowing the banks and flooding low-lying areas. The surge added to already high-tide conditions on the Hudson – in this area a tidally-influenced river.
After the storm, we bicycled around – stretching our legs and checking out downed trees and other damage. We frequently bike at Liberty State Park – a low-lying park along the Hudson, just west of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. The park has great views of the Manhattan skyline. The park contains the Liberty Science Center, located on a small hill. Along the base of the hill (see above photo), we spotted a debris line running along a level contour around the hill. The river pushed its flotsam as far as it could, and then receded, leaving a telltale line. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 23, 2012 § 4 Comments
This week’s New Yorker magazine cover, dated August 27th 2012, depicts a lush green Manhattan. It’s Times Square; there are tall buildings, green roofs, a waterfall, a river, grazing buffalo, a canoe, a horse, people sitting around. To me, it kind of looks kind of like paradise – a city in harmony with nature. « Read the rest of this entry »
June 15, 2012 § 2 Comments
Done with our touring of the Colorado River (1, 2, 3) and speed-reading about its issues, my 2nd year graduate landscape architecture design studio dove into planning and design solutions for the river. In the analysis phase, over and over, it was observed that the river ecosystem needed to regain its flooding and sediment dynamics. And over and over, it was observed that the political, human dimension would almost certainly never allow that to happen -regardless of the ecological desert created at the river’s mouth, and regardless of the obvious and dire future of the watershed due to climate change, population growth, and accumulating pollutants (including radioactive spoils behind reservoirs ya’ll!)
Clearly designing for what humans want usually comes at an environmental cost. The ecosystem loses! Even when it’s billed as sustainable, it’s more likely the design is about incrementally less harm to the ecosystem. So in this studio, designers were challenged with having the Colorado River as their Client. How do you work to meet human needs within that mandate? It becomes a much different conversation. Since many students don’t wish to explore “visionary” projects (visionary of course being the polite synonym for politically impossible, er, unrealistic), the studio was structured so that students could also provide concepts that inch us toward’s the River’s restored state, accommodating more of contemporary human uses while weaning us from an unhealthy allocation system. This combination of visionary plotting (mwaahaha) and phased steps towards rehabilitation put together make for a nice master plan.
You can read more about the studio and download most of the studio’s presentations at When the River is Client: Design Explorations of the Lower Colorado River. I hope you will! There’s some great ideas the students came up with.
June 4, 2012 § 5 Comments
Snow White’s animal pals are going to be missing some of their woodland at the new Disney campus:
“The Project would require the removal of 158 County Ordinance-protected oak trees, including 16 heritage oak trees, and encroachment upon an additional 82 oak trees, including 3 heritage oaks…” (EIR, V.F-72)
“The Project would permanently impact approximately 0.08 acre (1,181 linear feet) of ACOE/RWQCB jurisidictional area…The Project would permanently impact 0.63 acre of CDFG jurisdictional streambed and associated habitat…” (EIR, V.F-81) “ACOE/RWQCB jurisdictional area” is jargon for Water of the US/Water of the State-admittedly, more jargon. In other words, blue line stream. You may observe here that status as a Water of the US/Water of the State doesn’t ensure protection, despite many characterizations to that effect, when environmentalists battled to preserve the designation on the LA River.
Also, while this is most likely the FEMA 100-year storm floodplain shown on this map, as creekfreaks already know, floodplains are an essential part of the stream system, reducing the space for it has negative consequences for stream health.
This, as the High Country News recently remembered the loss of the Arcadia Oak Woodlands, albeit for a different reason. I am grateful that we’re not arguing about Placerita Creek. But loss of tributaries and confining the main channel’s floodplain are worrisome. I don’t have time to read and interpret the entire EIR just now, so just letting you know that this on the docket. AND if you are in the Santa Clarita area, there’s a hearing tonight (June 4) about the project:
Hart Museum and Park
24151 Newhall Avenue
Newhall, CA 91321
The public has until June 18 to communicate your thoughts on this. Include photos of an angry Snow White. Or maybe her evil stepmom (and not the glam one in the theaters right now), standing in the middle of her new ranch.
Comments go to
Los Angeles County Department of Regional Planning
Special Projects Section, Room 1362
320 West Temple Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
or email email@example.com
Mirror, Mirror on the wall…
Based on this piece in the Whittier Daily News, Snow White’s pals will also have to hop around oil rigs on open space purchased with allocations from the County of LA’s Proposition A, which is a funding source designated for recreation, parks, and open space.
Where’s Princess Mononoke when you need her?
May 16, 2012 § 2 Comments
Creek Freak has written about LID – Low Impact Development. It’s basically a sort of “green building” standard that requires new buildings to detain and/or infiltrate rainwater. While I think that LID is a step in the right direction, at least compared to development as usual, it’s nowhere near the end of the work on getting to healthy creeks and streams.
I read a good concise critque of LID (also LEED and green building in general) at Strong Towns today. Strong Towns is a site I’ve been enjoy a lot lately; it’s written by an engineer who has a lot of common sense. He mostly critiques heavily car-centric development patterns. « Read the rest of this entry »
May 9, 2012 § 7 Comments
I just returned from a very enjoyable vacation in San Luis Obispo, California. I stayed in downtown SLO and, a few times, bicycled out to the Los Osos Oaks State Natural Reserve, about ten miles away. As I was bicycling west on Los Osos Valley Road a cresting a ridgeline, in the midst of agricultural fields, I saw this sign along the highway:
It reads “MORRO BAY ESTUARY WATERSHED / KEEP IT CLEAN / ENTERING.” « Read the rest of this entry »
May 8, 2012 § 12 Comments
Upon crossing the border threshold on foot at Los Algodones, we were met by the smiling faces of Osvel, Juliana and Isobet, the dedicated staff of Pronatura Noroeste. Our guides would prove to be among the most generous, hospitable people we have encountered in our travels. While absorbing the unfolding story of a lost river waiting to be found once again, we were simultaneously pulled headfirst into the ramifications of what we heard. Revelatory moments are scarce in an age of excessive information and we took care in absorbing a dose of pure, unadulterated perspective. At the end of the day, every blade of turf, every kidney-shaped swimming pool, every rinsed-off sidewalk, every broken sprinkler head, every drop of discarded greywater would forever hold new significance… « Read the rest of this entry »