Executive Summary for October 28th

For an overview of the latest news on the California drought, we’ve organized the most recent developments in a curated summary.

Published on Oct. 28, 2015 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

San Francisco to Ease Domestic Gray-Water Reuse

The city of San Francisco is considering a legal change that would allow homeowners to use the gray water from their bathroom sinks and showers to irrigate landscaping.

The move is proposed in a bill by supervisor Scott Wiener. It would eliminate the requirement to obtain a $250 city permit before reusing bathroom drain water. A simple system to reuse this gray water can be installed in most homes for about $300 using parts bought from a hardware store.

San Francisco already allows residents to reuse drain water from clothes washers without a permit.

“We have a structural water problem and sometimes we act as if we live in a lush tropical environment with endless water and we don’t,” Wiener told the San Francisco Chronicle. “Whatever happens with the current drought, we need to restructure how we use water. Recycling is a key approach, so let’s make it as easy as possible.”

In Australia, which suffered a 13-year drought, about two-thirds of households reuse gray water. In California, only about 13 percent do so, according to the Oasis Design environmental research group.

Greywater Action is trying to get legislators to change the state law that prevents kitchen gray-water reuse in California, but has found no sponsor. Kitchen gray-water reuse is prohibited in the state because of its high amounts of fat and food waste, and occasionally fecal coliform bacteria. Oregon and Washington allow kitchen gray-water use if it is rigorously screened.

“I would say I probably get five incoming calls or emails a day for gray-water systems,” Brent Helm, a civil engineer who installs gray-water systems, told the Chronicle. “A year ago, I would get maybe five a month.”

L.A. Aqueduct Flowing Again

A temporary dam has been removed in the Los Angeles aqueduct, allowing distant water imported from the Eastern Sierra Nevada to again flow toward the Southern California metropolis.

The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power removed the small earthen dam on Tuesday. It was installed by the city six months ago to fulfill an agreement to restore some water flow to the Owens Valley, which was largely dried up by L.A.’s thirst decades ago.

The unprecedented move to install the dam was necessitated to try and meet legal obligations to keep the Owens River flowing, control dust from a dry lake bed and irrigate pastures where cattle graze instead of sending water to the city, the Associated Press reports.

The 338-mile aqueduct system typically provides about a third of the city’s water, but it can supply a larger share after a wet and snowy winter.

The aqueduct will account for only about 3 percent of this year’s water because of the drought, said aqueduct manager Jim Yannotta. The flow is being restored because the irrigation season is over and legal obligations in the Owens Valley have expired for the year.

How Water Affects Commodity Prices

We reported last week on a new study that found only eight of 400 large companies earned an “A” grade for their ability to withstand environmental disruptions, including drought.

Now comes a Bloomberg interview with one of the authors of that report: Paula Diperna, carbon disclosure project adviser at CDP North America. Some highlights:

“The higher scorers,” Diperna said, “are those companies that actually understand water use from the point of view of ongoing daily operations but also what are their suppliers doing on water … and what are the environmental and regulatory risks.

“Separately, there’s reputational risk. Consumers are very keen to have clean water. People are very, let’s say, uptight about their water and we should be, because there’s no life without water, period. Very simple.

“Where water falls and doesn’t fall, it’s all an expression of clouds. And clouds build up in relationship with temperature. When people think about climate change, it’s 20, 30 years out and it won’t affect me. People tend to push that out. It’s very difficult to relate to anything beyond, let’s say, 2020. Water is today. It’s not 2020.”

Top image: In this photo from the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, crews remove a temporary dam they built in the Los Angeles aqueduct this summer because of the drought near the eastern Sierra ghost town of Cartago, Calif. A spokeswoman for the Department of Water and Power said workers on Tuesday, October 27, 2015 were restoring flows that will eventually make it to Los Angeles from the Owens Valley. (Associated Press)

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