Los Angeles-based nonprofit TreePeople made headlines last year with a plan to retrofit half a dozen pilot homes with tanks and rain gardens. Today, all the rainwater capture systems have been installed and they highlight how homeowners can be part of the solution to some of California’s water problems.
As the organization prepares insights on how the pilot program can be expanded, Water Deeply spoke to TreePeople’s senior policy director, Deborah Weinstein Bloome.
Water Deeply: What are you working on that you want the world to know?
Deborah Weinstein Bloome: We’re working on something really interesting and amazingly groundbreaking for as simple as it sounds. The Greater Los Angeles Water Collaborative brings together three major water agencies in our region – the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation and the Los Angeles County Flood Control District. We’re facilitating high-level meetings with the directors and the general managers at those agencies to break down the silos and create more collaboration to be more efficient and effective, not only when it comes to planning but also when it comes to implementing, funding and monitoring projects.
At the same time, we’re working with project managers at those same agencies. We’ve just retrofitted six homes in Los Angeles with tanks and rain gardens where appropriate. The tanks have a cloud-based monitoring system that allows them to dump water ahead of time if a storm is coming. That water can be discharged in a rain garden or an alley where we eventually want to install a low-flow diversion to capture and reclaim it and send it to a recycling plant.
Water Deeply: What surprised you in the past year about work in the water field?
Weinstein Bloome: It surprised me that even in the fifth year of the drought, we still have people thinking that we’re not in a drought and that last year’s rain allowed us to be fine. I was disheartened that cities were left to create their own conservation targets. I feel like we should be using the drought to make lasting change in terms of conservation and we’re not going to do that by relaxing those targets.
Water Deeply: Who/what do you find most inspiring in your field?
Weinstein Bloome: Claire Robinson at Amigos de los Rios has been working on the Emerald Necklace Vision plan, a strategy to preserve the watersheds and rivers in the San Gabriel Valley and the Gateway Cities for open space, native habitat restoration and conservation. The plan is very ambitious and Claire has shown great tenacity in working on this.
Water Deeply: What’s the one most important thing California should be doing right now to create a sustainable water future?
Weinstein Bloom: We need to turn our plumbing system upside down and stop importing our water from northern California and Colorado. We need to capture what we have here, use that first and if there’s a difference in what we need versus what we can provide ourselves, then let’s look at other types of sources. Basically, cities, homeowners [and] business owners need to become their own watershed managers.
Water Deeply: Looking out 10 years from now, what do you hope California will have accomplished on water issues?
Weinstein Bloome: To help move in the direction of what I just talked about, at a minimum we need to significantly overhaul our state laws and policies to stop the hemorrhaging of water that we capture locally, at the urban level as well as on the agricultural level. There needs to be some great model ordinances at the state level for tools that would help families and businesses to capture water and retrofit homes and landscapes, and find sums to provide incentives to do so. If not, we’re just going to be paying for it in some other type of fine.