Heaven and Earth

Santa Barbara photo of the week by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.
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Every evening as we go about our lives there is an amazing ballet going on above our heads. Most of us are too busy to think about it. But if you take some time to get away from the brighter lights of the city you can see some spectacular things just by looking up. This is the the beautiful Santa Barbara Greek Orthodox Church, under the equally beautiful Milky Way Galaxy. The Galaxy we call home. If you think of all those stars at night that you usually see from any location, they are in general just our local neighbors in a small part of the Milky Way. All the visible stars you can make out with your naked eye in every direction from the earth (anywhere between five to ten thousand stars give or take) only comprise a tiny fraction of the stars in the Milky Way. That glowing band however, is made up of individual stars so numerous that they appear to be a continuous cloud of light to the unaided eye. Estimates put it from one to four hundred billion stars. There are absolutely wondrous and beautiful things all around us!

-Bill Heller

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Local Views of Santa Barbara

By Dan Seibert

I was wandering through my computer and I saw these lush landscape photos of the Lily Pond at the El Encanto—summertime 20 years ago. Back then, the whole town was a lush landscape. (click to enlarge photos)

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Ecofacts: What We Drink, Part 2

Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch

Water has returned to first place in popularity of beverages in the U.S.. Water consumption has increased in the last decade with the sales of bottled water, to 58 gallons per year, more than a third of them – 21 gallons – are bottled. Soda was in first place before, peaking in the late nineties at a rate of 54 gallons per year average, which means for 300 million Americans, including all those infants and people like me who don’t drink the stuff. Now average consumption of soda is down to a mere pint a day here, 44 gallons. Coffee is third in the U.S. (PDF).

Globally, water has always been number one. Tea is second, partly because India and China both grow and drink tons of it. Third, apparently, is beer.

But more important from an environmental perspective, is not what we drink, but how we get it. In the U.S. few people outside of restaurants drink soda made from carbonators and syrups, most is purchased in resource intensive single use containers – plastic, cans, bottles. Most of the billions per year of water and soda bottles sold end up in the landfill, and even if recycled (downcycled actually), use tons more water and energy to remake them into something else – playground equipment or whatever. Same with glass, even if infinitely recyclable, the process of crushing it and remaking it into a bottle is many steps removed from refilling or reuse.

And so I wonder, how will this scenario change in a decade or two, as resources, especially water and energy, become even more of a global issue?

If you haven’t seen this Chris Jordan photos.

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Depicts two million plastic beverage bottles, the number used in the US every five minutes.

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Detail at actual size

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An Appreciation: Doing Something in DyslexiaLand

By Cheri Rae

A friend and colleague just sent me an urgent e-mail with the subject line, “Can you do something about this?” I opened the attached photo and was surprised to see an image of a t-shirt display from a downtown shop. There were a number of slogans, but I realized immediately what he meant about “do something.”

The shirt read, “Dyslexics are teople poo.”

Not OK.
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My friend who sent the picture isn’t involved in dyslexia advocacy to the level that I am, but he is pretty aware of the issue. He teaches a couple of classes at City College, and is a youth coach very committed to understanding different learning styles and adjusting his teaching and coaching accordingly.

As the mother of a son with dyslexia, as an advocate for the 1 in 5 individuals with it, as someone who raises awareness in the school district and the community, and with the concern expressed by my friend, I knew I had to “do something.”

DyslexiaLand Cover[1]So I put on my baseball cap embroidered with “The Dyslexia Project,” packed a copy of my book, “DyslexiaLand” and took a walk downtown to the t-shirt shop in question. Nestled between Restoration Hardware and Panera, the shop, Moon River, caters mostly to tourists. It is packed full with a huge selection of souvenir shirts about partying, Santa Barbara, the surf lifestyle, and the California state flag.

I went in the shop, introduced myself to the shop owners and politely expressed my concern to them: “I understand that you might not see it this way, but that slogan is disrespectful, hurtful and offensive to anyone who has dyslexia, or deals with dyslexia. Since dyslexia is so common, affecting 20 percent of the population, that’s a lot of people—and maybe they won’t want to come in to buy any of your shirts when they see that one on display outside the shop.”

At first they didn’t quite understand the concern. The gentleman who runs the shop told me that he is sent shirts from the supplier, and he just puts them on display. His co-worker was more argumentative: “You want to buy all the shirts?” she demanded. I told her no, that I just didn’t want them to carry that shirt anymore because it was so insulting. The shopkeeper explained to her the meaning of “poo,” and she seemed to understand. He turned back to me and agreed to remove the offending shirt from the outside display that evening.

When I returned home, I surfed the internet and saw that the not-so-clever slogan is sold all over the place—but this shop is the only one that’s been brought to my attention with a specific request to “do something” about it.

I went back to the shop a couple of days later, and—frankly to my surprise—the shirt was gone.

I went in and shook the owner’s hand, thanking him for making a difference and keeping his word. He smiled and dismissed me, likely happy to be done with the issue.

Back at home I asked my son—the easygoing 17-year-old who quietly deals with his dyslexia every day—what he thought, if he thought I’d made too much a deal of it. He paused for a moment, and said, “Mom, good for you for doing that. I think it’s one of those shirts where it’s just not a funny topic.”

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15,000 Friends & Followers on Social Media

buy twitter followersSanta Barbara View continues to grow on social media, this week hitting big milestones of 12,000 likes on Facebook and another 3,000 friends on Twitter. Thank you Santa Barbara! In the coming weeks viewers will see some site advancements to include: a mobile and tablet-friendly site, quicker load times, added features and more integration with our social media platforms. So, if you are not one of the 15,000 people who follow Santa Barbara View on social media, now is a good time to become part of our growing social community.

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Hurricane Driven Swells at the Breakwater

“There were jets of water spraying out from the pressure on the ocean side. And the color of the water was green, sometimes translucent,” writes in Dan Seibert who continues to monitor the big waves generated by hurricane Marie.

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Kayaking in the Santa Barbara Harbor

Kayaking in the Santa Barbara Harbor – Out n About with SBGirl

If you have $15 and some time to spare, I highly recommend renting a kayak for an hour and exploring the beguiling Santa Barbara Harbor at sea level.  There is nothing quite like seeing a brown pelican up close or hearing your own laugh echo under the wooden timbers of Stearns Wharf. This is surely what Nike meant when they came up with their slogan, “Just do it”.

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No matter where you are in Santa Barbara you can find postcard views of America’s Riviera. But there’s just something about the Harbor that offers the perfect blend of ocean and mountain, nature and buildings and of course, all those magnificent boats.

The harbor itself has a unique history behind it.  Between 1873 and 1921, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers completed many reports concerning a possible harbor in Santa Barbara, all of them had unfavorable conclusions.  You see the flow of sand along the coast would just naturally fill in any harbor.  Regardless, in 1926, Major Max C. Fleischmann, an ardent yachtsman and philanthropist, offered $200,000 (some say lots more) toward the construction of a harbor project on the condition that the City of Santa Barbara contribute the balance. A harbor bond was approved in a special City election and the project began in June 1927. The breakwater was completed 3 years later.

Not long after, and as expected, accumulation of sand began to be a problem.  To this day, in order to keep the harbor open, they regularly have to dredge out the sand!  It is pumped into a pipeline and transported to East Beach where it is returned to the beach to continue its journey along the coast toward Ventura. Every year, about 300,000 cubic yards (that’s about 62 acres) of sand is dredged to keep the harbor open.

According to research I found from UCSB Geography Professor Ed Keller, “A positive aspect of building the breakwater… is the addition of the land west of the breakwater. At City College today, there’s a track and football field whose bleachers are constructed on the old sea cliff that was there on the beach prior to the building the breakwater. All that land in front of the old sea cliff, that includes parking lots, parks, and so on, is a result of the building of the breakwater that blocked the flow of sand from the west to the east. You can easily follow this old sea cliff all the way from the City College area to Santa Barbara Point at Shoreline Park.”

Lucky for us, Max Fleischmann followed the Nike creed and just did it.  Now it’s your turn, head to the harbor, get in a kayak and enjoy.

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Big Wave Wednesday in Santa Barbara

Local Views of Santa Barbara by Dan Seibert

I woke up at 2:30 this morning and heard a rumbling off in the distance, like in the area of the harbor or west beach. Sounded like front loaders dropping soil into trucks. I thought it might be surf but I have never heard it in the past ten years.

Left the house at 6:00 and stopped at Stearns Wharf. Wow, it looked like a winter storm with waves breaking under the wharf. The harbor patrol was involved in a rescue of one boat, while another was capsized near the wharf.

Then I noticed the many surfers at Sandspit, or is it Sand Spit? Sand Bar?

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Through a Door Darkly…California’s Con Game of Mental Health

Part II: The Bait and Switch
By Sharon Byrne

It can happen to you.
It can happen to me.
It can happen to everyone eventually.
There’s a crazy world outside
We’re not about to lose our pride.
It Can Happen. Written by Yes, Released on the album 90125 in 1983.

Untreated mental illness is the leading cause of disability and suicide and imposes high costs on state and local government . . . . State and county governments are forced to pay billions of dollars each year in emergency medical care, long-term nursing home care, unemployment, housing, and law enforcement, including juvenile justice, jail and prison costs.” From the California Mental Health Services Act, passed in 2004.

Prop 63 Logo TransparentA decade after the Mental Health Services Act’s passage, I saw a homeless man wandering my street, screaming to no one about media lies. I walked my dog that night with a neighbor. As we passed by Chapala One, I saw this same homeless fellow sleeping in the garage entry. He raised his head as my dog approached him. He was intoxicated. My dog accepted a pat on the head and moved on to resume processing the evening’s peemails.

I wondered again why this man was in my neighborhood, obviously in need of mental health assistance. And what should I do? For the second time that day I questioned whether I should call the police. The guy is trespassing, and I am pretty big on the neighborhood watch thing.

But what’s this going to accomplish, really? What would the police do with him? Cite and release? Book him into jail? Relocate him to some other neighborhood?

None of those are a solution.

From the Mental Health Services Act:

(d)In a cost cutting move 30 years ago, California drastically cut back its services in state hospitals for people with severe mental illness. Thousands ended up on the streets homeless and incapable of caring for themselves. Today thousands of suffering people remain on our streets because they are afflicted with untreated severe mental illness. We can and should offer these people the care they need to lead more productive lives.
(e)With effective treatment and support, recovery from mental illness is feasible for most people.
(f)By expanding programs that have demonstrated their effectiveness, California can save lives and money. Early diagnosis and adequate treatment provided in an integrated service system is very effective; and by preventing disability, it also saves money. Cutting mental health services wastes lives and costs more. California can do a better job saving lives and saving money by making a firm commitment to providing timely, adequate mental health services.

Sounds good, doesn’t? The voters in 2004 thought so too….

So if we have the ability to provide ‘timely, adequate mental health services’ from taxing millionaires in this state, then why is that homeless man shouting the odds in my street, clearly in need of mental health services?

The act provides for oversight with a committee comprised of 16 individuals including a small business rep, large business, county sheriff, labor union, 2 persons with severe mental illness, a mental health professional, a school superintendent, a physician specializing in alcohol and drug treatment, and a rep with a heath services insurer.

Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown sits on this oversight committee.

In 2009 Rose King, an author of the original act, filed a complaint against the state Department of Mental Health. Moving far away from the promise of acute mental health care, MHSA spending was turning into a boondoggle for mental health service providers. King says, ‘They produce films, PSA’s, fund lots of conferences, and distribute grants to every interest group, which succeeded in getting them all on board with program: NAMI CA, Children and Family Advocates, Mental Health Associations, of course. And they all conduct conferences, trainings, promotional campaigns, etc. Lots of money spent on “planning.”

Services to be provided under the MHSA are at the counties’ discretion to plan and execute. The state’s Department of Mental Health (Mental Health) and the Mental Health Services Oversight and Accountability Commission (Accountability Commission) were supposed to provide oversight and direction of county implementations of the MHSA. So how did counties move from funding acute mental health to putting on conferences and de-stigmatization campaigns?

The act was further weakened legislatively. On March 24, 2011, Governor Brown signed Assembly Bill 100 (AB 100) into law. Changes to the MHSA included the elimination of review and approval of county MHSA plans by the Department of Mental Health (DMH) and the MHSOAC. So there went oversight. Open season! Come all takers!

The Department of Mental Health was then eliminated by Governor Brown as part of his budget reforms in 2012-2013. Their services were transferred to other departments, mainly the Department of Health Care Services.

We’re still collecting money for Prop 63. Oversight has been weakened. So who’s in charge, and where is all the money going?

The answer in Part III.

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Re: Bicycles Over Cars Which Do You Prefer?

In his recent article, Councilmember Frank Hotchkiss proposed that a poll be taken to really gauge the type of transportation infrastructure Santa Barbarans want. But as is so often the case in these matters, how a question is phrased both reveals the biases of the questioner and influences the answers likely to be received.

The premise of Mr. Hotchkiss’ proposed poll is that our transportation infrastructure is a direct consequence of our desire: we desire to drive, therefore we should build roads for cars. By backward inference, the roads that have already been built are an indication of our collective preference for driving.

bikegreenBut it is equally true to say that what we desire is a consequence of what has been built. My desire to drive my car is greatly influenced by the existence of wide, fast streets, low-cost gas available every couple miles, freeways, free parking, and all the other affordances that make driving remarkably painless and guilt-free in our culture. (Can you imagine driving without all those things?) Conversely, the lack of equivalent bicycling infrastructure kills my desire to ride my bike. Ride where there is no bike lane? No thanks, I just don’t want to.

Additionally, Mr. Hotchkiss presumes that one transportation mode must necessarily come at the expense of any others. But, as the recent examples of the restriping of Cliff Drive and Haley Street have shown (in which there has been no impact on car traffic that I have observed), some of our streets are over-provisioned for cars, and our civil engineers have proven their skill at designing multi-modal solutions. In any case, my garage, like many others, contains both cars and bicycles. Why not support both?

Lastly, if Mr. Hotchkiss is permitted to stereotype bicyclists as showing up “en masse to promote any expanded biking plans” (emphasis original), may I be permitted to call out the car-only advocates who predict gridlock and catastrophe whenever pedestrian or bicyling improvements are proposed? Their dire prophesies invariably fail to materialize.

The question is not as simple as, Do you want to drive or bike? Our desires and our built infrastructure influence each other in complicated and subtle ways. I propose that a better question is: What infrastructure will foster the transportation choices that will in turn create the kind of community we want to live in? For me, that community includes being able to drive, and equally to walk and bike.

Greg Janée
SB 93111

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Getting Schooled: Students and Parents

By Cheri Rae

cherilogo-150x150When you have kids in school, those first few glorious weeks of summer vacation seem to stretch on forever. But those last few weeks seem to speed up and pass way too fast in anticipation of the next school year.

And here we are, poised and waiting for the school bells to signify the start of 2014-2015. The local economy has experienced a boom in purchases of back-to-school clothes and shoes, notebooks and backpacks, essential electronics and all those extras like locker decorations, water bottles and reusable lunch containers.

As the First Day of School approaches, parents and kids of all ages anticipate, speculate and calculate the days ahead.

And so do their teachers, administrators and a whole host of volunteers who want to start the school year off in the most positive way possible.

Early in the week, along with scores of other parents, students and school staff, I worked a few shifts at the annual Dons Derby at Santa Barbara High School, where the entire student body shows up to turn in their paperwork, pick up their schedules, and face the reality of back to school.

As I processed their newly issued student ID cards in the timeworn building known as the “little gym,” I had the chance to interact with a lot of teens.

It was a reminder that despite all the technological advances—Digital, instantaneous photography! Smart phones! Texting!—the basics of high school society really haven’t changed that much in the many years since I was a high school student. Seniors still acted like they own the place; Juniors seemed a little stressed; Sophomores seem as through they have just about got their bearings, and the new little Freshmen just seem dazed and confused.

Passing through were student government kids; jocks and the surfers; giggly girls and drama queens; the determined individualists—all mostly cooperative, polite and conscientious about accomplishing their tasks and figuring out the system. There was a small amount of sullenness among those who worked hard to be too cool for school, and only a handful who really seemed like they didn’t want to be there at all.

Most of all, a couple of mornings of work on that historic campus made me proud of these kids growing into young adults staying on path and doing their best to accomplish their high school goals in challenging times—just as more than 100 classes before them.
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At the end of this school year, graduates, including my own son, will be heading out into the “real world” to pursue their dreams and chart their course to achieve their full potential to the best of their ability. They will be grounded in the values taught by their parents, the example shown by their community and the lessons they’ve learned in school—year after year, on that long pathway from pre-school to high school graduation.

May we be worthy of fulfilling that awesome responsibility to the next generation in our midst—wherever they are on that pathway—just headed back to school in a few short days.

Part II:  teachers get schooled

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A Message to the Coastal Commission

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Dale Francisco, Santa Barbara City Councilmember

I read with interest an editorial in the San Diego Union Tribute on Aug. 12, titled “For Coastal Commission, a little history is in order,” especially the warning with which it closed: “No end to the drought in sight.” The editorial calls for expedited assistance from the Coastal Commission for California communities developing desalination plants. This message is pertinent for Santa Barbara.

Santa Barbara is in the process of reactivating its desalination plant in the midst of a severe, prolonged drought. Not only was 2013 California’s driest year on record, dating back to 1895, state officials are predicting that 2014 may be even drier. Tree-ring studies have shown that in the last two millennia, California has experienced decade- and even century-long droughts. California’s extremely brief history as a state may have occurred during a relatively wet period, and we may now be returning to a much drier “normal.”

CCC_bluewave2Given this reality, permit-granting authorities such as the Coastal Commission need to approach approvals in the light of a pending emergency — a lack of fresh water for communities around the state. Santa Barbara’s water supplies are dwindling rapidly. If water levels continue to drop, our main fresh water supply, Lake Cachuma, will not be able to deliver water to the city by 2017. While conservation and water recycling are critical — and we are pursuing both — they are not sufficient to sustain us. The city needs other sources of water. Desalination is a reliable, local supply source and should be fast-tracked into production.

Up and down the California coast, cities are turning to desalination as a method of ensuring adequate supplies of water in the face of extended drought. As noted in the State’s Water Action Plan, desalination can be a tool to improve reliability and self-reliance at the regional and local levels. Jurisdictions seeking to include this source of new water in their portfolios should be encouraged and assisted by the Coastal Commission, and other agencies, with the understanding that the drought has in fact created an urgent need for water.

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Santa Barbara Non Profits: Portraits for Causes

Ali Azarvan volunteered for 25 local non profits in May and shares his chronicles:

As any of my Facebook friends will tell you, I LOVE pictures. I especially love taking pics of my family. They are fun reminders of great times. Well, once my wife, Nicole, and I had our baby about 10 months ago, I reached out on Facebook and asked for input regarding the best local photographer. Many mentioned Kacie Jean Fowle and after seeing some of her work, we had to give her a call.

Needless to say, she did an amazing job and took some awesome shots. More importantly, we had an absolute blast with her. She had a killer sense of humor and we immediately became buddies. Over the past few months as I’ve been growing Just a Little Push, Kacie has been arguably my most supportive friend – she has a huge heart and she just “gets it”. She had reached out to me to discuss a brilliant idea she had to donate photo sessions to those who are terminally ill or to other local non-profits. You see, Kacie had been donating photo sessions for those in need for over 6 years – but to make a bigger impact and help more families in need (she is, after all, only 1 person), she wanted to scale this concept quickly.

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I couldn’t have been more excited or more proud of her. . . I immediately understood the value and need for a charity like this. Imagine that your wife is battling stage 4 breast cancer – the doctors are giving her a timetable of weeks, not months, to live. Your financial situation is a mess thanks to 3 years of outrageous hospital bills. You want to capture one last moment with your entire family – something that you will cherish for the rest of your life. Portraits for Causes is here for this exact situation. Not only does she provide the images to the family, but, she also creates a gorgeous album for them to hold onto. I’m convinced that the most brilliant ideas are those that elicit the “why didn’t I think of that?” reaction. This is one of those ideas.

Kacie asked me to be on her board of directors and I gladly accepted. I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of this awesome nonprofit and hopefully help her grow it quickly. The sad truth is that there are a lot of people who can use her services. I was clueless before May Days – but now my eyes are open. . . there are so many people suffering with life threatening illnesses who can use a nonprofit like this. In fact, Kacie is teaming up with some locally-based charities like The Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation and Dream Foundation in order to find deserving families!

I wouldn’t normally just cut and paste testimonials – but I think these quotes do a much better job of summarizing this beautiful charity than my mediocre writing can:

The Strong Family (http://thegsf.org)- “when I realized we didn’t have a family photo of all four of us yet, I lost it — unsure if we’d ever have the chance to take some. But… Now we have these and they mean the world. I cherish photos of Gwendolyn and professional photos are extra special. I remember each shoot, what Gwendolyn was wearing, how I felt that day, where we were on our journey with SMA at that exact moment. Maybe it is silly that photos mean so much to me. Trivial. But they feel tangible and help me hold onto so much that can feel so fleeting”.

Breast Cancer Survivor- “Going through cancer shreds your life into pieces. Kacie’s pictures though reminded me how alive I still was, despite what I was going through. It reminded me that my family was still intact, strong and beautiful. This gave me some added strength at one of the lowest times in my life. Thank you for your gift of photography.”

Last week I was lucky enough to help her with a photoshoot for a beautiful young girl named Eliana – at 4 months old she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and she recently got some bad news. But she is a fighter- and she could NOT be any cuter. I can honestly say that had to be one of the easiest shoots Kacie has ever done – she may be the most photogenic little girl ever! Eliana’s mother, Samantha, has become a friend and is now focused on finding a cure for children’s cancer – in fact she is very active in the CureSearch walk here in Santa Barbara.

In addition to Kacie’s award-winning photography business, she has been spending countless hours over the last 6 years donating her amazing work to these beautiful families. Every donated photo session costs her approximately $1,000 in total production costs. Her biggest need as she awaits her 501(c)(3) approval (hopefully any day now) is money – the more money she has, the more families she can help. Please help her in her quest to create lasting memories for those in need by visiting her page here. Trust me when I say that you will feel a certain pride years down the road when you can look back and know that you helped a huge charity get off the ground!

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Santa Barbara Breakwater Twilight

Santa Barbara photo to start the week, by Bill Heller, click to enlarge.

Santa Barbara Breakwater Twilight

Walking along the Santa Barbara Harbor breakwater at sunset, the perfect end to a warm day. -Bill Heller

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EcoFacts; What We Drink, Part 1‏

Weekly Column by Barbara Hirsch

Okay, to state the obvious: Every living thing needs water to survive, every drink that touches our lips, every bite that enters our mouths, every thing we encounter and use, every day. Our current drought is forcing us to rethink how we use it – how much fresh water goes down the drain, for example. And this drought won’t be the last one, so things will have to change. Our daily use, yes, but those farmers, city planners and manufacturers, will they be able to implement new and better ways of doing old things?

A town in Orange County has the largest water recycling facility in the world, turning residential waste water into potable water – “toilet to tap” as they say. It costs less than importing water and half of what desalination costs. More of this to come, for sure.

A recent statewide analysis coauthored by a UCSB professor shows how tremendous water savings could be employed in California amounting to 14 million acre feet* per year “improved efficiency in agricultural and urban water use, water reuse and recycling, and increased capturing of local rainwater.” California has the world’s 9th largest agricultural economy. 80% of our water is used in agriculture. The state water deficit is at least 6 million acre feet, and according to this report, about that same amount could be saved with different irrigation practices, such as drip. Not something that will happen overnight.

The below infographic says it all, a glimpse at our possible water future.(click to enlarge)
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PS: And here is an interview with the woman who was responsible for
hydrating Las Vegas for years.
* An acre foot is a third of a million gallons, or 436 hcfs, the household unit we are billed by, a hundred cubic feet = 748 gallons.

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