Saturday, December 01, 2012

Growing Local to be Yuppies Only Pastime

The San Diego County Water Authority, which Encinitas is a member, approved the purchasing of Carlsbad desal water. 

Remember when the for-profit desal company came to Encinitas to sell us water and the council said not so fast, because it is was worried that it might become too expensive and cause greenhouse gas pollution? I remember that, but actually I don't think the council cared about green house gas pollution.

Encinitas buys water from the San Diego County Water Authority. If there are no explicit safeguards to protect Encinitas ratepayers now, you might as well expect water bills to go up. You'll have to be rich to be a backyard grower. Growing takes water.

If you are one of those trendy hipsters and wanted to try to get your daily caloric intake from backyard food from 0% to like 3% (good luck getting much more than that without having a farm or being rich and have the luxury of lots of free time).

San Diego County Taxpayers Association (aka "San Diego County Developers and Contractors Association"), supports desal, but what they really support is decoupling the water market system from the new development market.

How about this for a proposal? Any new water source capacity that is credited to the local agencies for this expensive and polluting source of water is a cost that is carried by newly upzoned properties and not treated like a subsidy for big developers.

Good idea, bad idea, an unspoken idea? 


  1. Don't know much about desal. Sounds like it will be expensive and mandated for North County. But I do know during every big storm we get, at least 500 million gallons of water falls and what's not absorbed (the lion's share) flows back into the ocean. There's got to be a good way of collecting water, storing it and filtering it for use. At least for watering medians, parks etc. (cisterns) and at best to make good drinking water. We live in a desert and allow the precious resource of huge volumes of free rain water to make end runs around our homes. When we're lucky enough to get a wet year, anyway.

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  3. I would be happy to water my garden, fruit trees and lawn with reclaimed water. I even went to San Dieguito water district and asked what I needed to do to get that going. Since my yard is adjacent to City land that is watered with reclaimed water and their meters are about 10' from my yard, I figured it would be easy. After some looking they told me it would cost me about $30,000. Thanks, but that is a bit out of my budget. So they will continue to send the excess reclaimed water to the ocean. Now it will make its way to C'bad where it will go through the desal process before it gets to my yard.

    I am for the desal plant, but I am more for using the water we already have better.

  4. They should really find a material cheaper for a 10' pipe than 10K gold.

  5. Fred - the good news to the rate-payers is that they weren't going to give me anything for free. The cost of the meter (administrative costs, not cost of the physical meter) was going to be several thousand dollars. Digging up a sidewalk along with the permits and flagmen, etc. to do it was a whole lot more. Then I would have had to hire an engineer to certify that all of my sprinklers were purple so that no one accidentally drank from them. Of course there was also the environmental survey to show that my reclaimed water didn't go where it shouldn't.

    It is a shame that people are so afraid of reclaimed water (not realizing how many people have peed upstream of our drinking water, and it is fine) that desal is the easiest option today. If we are going to support the additional 1M people that the I-5 expansion is going to accommodate, we had better use all of our water options.

  6. If it wasn't for my water purifying system I'd never deliberately drink local tap water. It tastes like it's trickled though a flower pot of Geraniums. There's gotta be better and cheaper ways to reclaim rain water and the State should make that a priority. But what do I know?

  7. might as well expect water bills to go up. You'll have to be rich to be a backyard grower. Growing takes water.

    What is up with the shrill Chicken Little freak out blog posts? Good grief, calm down.

  8. Uhm, that's a little over the top, but I'll bite.

    Rob, Would you like to wager?

  9. *My* comment is over the top? Wow.

    Would I like to wager that water costs will not suddenly rise to a level that would make backyard gardening prohibitively expensive? Of course! Is there an upper limit to this bet? I'm all in.

  10. Great.

    Let's discuss via email.

    You do realize that there are already people who can't jump on the backyard (attempted) permaculture/grow local bandwagon because of water bills. Having a few pots and a peach tree is not what is all trendy right now. The dream is much bigger than that.

    "food not lawns"

    Laws take water. Food takes water. (That last part sits in a weird ideological blind spot).

  11. The thing about water becoming the limiting factor on back-yard gardening is that it is a bit of a Catch-22. If you are trying to grow food as inexpensively as possible then you will put some seeds in the ground and water them with your hose. It is virtually free, but you are wasting huge amounts of water and you are part of the problem. If you go to the other end of the spectrum, you could put in an irrigation system that waters only when the soil is dry and at certain times of the day when it is most efficient through efficient, buried drip hoses. That system can get very expensive. So you are water-wise and water will not ever cost much, but the start-up costs are large. Ultimately, I am with Rob on this one. The cost of water isn't going to limit a back-yard garden. Wasting (or the cost of not wasting) water will be the limit.

    As for your proposal to charge new sources of water to upzoned properties, I am for it. Can we do that with the I-5 expansion too?

  12. Please cite an example of someone living here for whom gardening is not an option due to water costs. Given the prevalence of lawn sprinkling systems, I'm having a hard time buying this.

  13. The cost of water has always prevented me from growing a garden. No wait a minute. It's the lack of soil. Nevermind.

  14. Rob,

    1) The wager will be about future costs. Not current.

    2) Many people ripped out/shrank their lawns to cut costs in Encinitas.

    3) Your point is also part of the irony for the "food not lawns" movement. Growing food takes water.

    3) I'll introduce you to my favorite example. His finances were so tight he cut water consumption so low that SDWD repeatedly came out to inspect his meter and property to see if his meter was broken or if he was cheating. He misses having highly productive avo and citrus in dry years.

    Besides, what about the rest of the county where median income is even lower than Encinitas? And all the of the low income families the city hopes to add.

    4) How much do you think it will cost to grow high productive crops on even just a quarter acre on a yearly basis?

    5) Lets come up with some metric for this wager. Send me an email and we can sit down and work something out ( and make we are talking about the same things).

  15. Bart,

    How much are you talking about. How much area, how much production, how much water?

    Let's all get on the same page here.

  16. Blog,
    I would be surprised if we could agree on rules to this bet. Our views are not mutually exclusive:
    You believe that there are people who live in Leucadia who might have to stop gardening because the cost of water will be too high.
    Rob says that anyone who lives in Leucadia can afford the water. Basically, if the amount of water that it takes to run a garden is a material portion of your household budget then you cannot afford to live in Leucadia. I will infer that the solution would be to sell your house (or finish your lease) and move somewhere that you can afford.
    I would say that there are some problems with the idea that people should necessarily be able to afford back-yard gardening. Gardeners here are not growing native plants. Growing non-native species has been a rich-man’s sport throughout history. Kew Garden (outside London) has been growing tropical plants for more than a century. All it took was massive greenhouses with year-round heating. So if you want to start a rice paddy in your yard, you had better be ready to put up a ton of money for the water. It would be far less expensive to buy the rice at the store. And that gets us to the nuts and bolts of the discussion.
    Are you saying it is “too expensive” to grow in your yard if you can buy it at Stater Brothers for less?
    What are you growing? If you grow the “three sisters” of corn, beans and squash in one plot then you are using a lot less water per calorie than a plot of just tomatoes. Or a rice paddy.
    What other costs are you going to take into account? I would count my labor as free today because I enjoy it. However, if you are talking about subsistence farming that time needs a value because I could earn money elsewhere instead of gardening. If that is the case, water will never trump my time when it comes to the cost of gardening. I expect that would also be the case with the vast majority of those living here.

  17. Exactly what Bart said. Well put with additional helpful explanation. Thanks for keeping with the conversation, Bart, and maintaining a civil helpful tone. Righteous!


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