Imagine waking up in the morning and having no way to brush your teeth, take a shower, or use the bathroom. You go into the kitchen and you have no water to cook with, wash dishes, or even to drink. Over two billion people in the world live without access to a safely managed drinking water service, free from contamination.

For the past 26 years the United Nations (UN) has designated March 22 as World Water Day. On this day, UN-Water recognizing its efforts of working together with governments and partners has taken action to end the water crisis. This year’s World Water Day theme is “Leaving No One Behind.” The United Nations recognizes a human right to clean water for drinking, personal sanitation, washing of clothes, food preparation, and personal and household hygiene.

 

 

The idea of water for all is built upon the UN-Water Sustainable Development Goal 6 (SDG6) that by 2030 there will be  availability and sustainable management of water for all. Out of the billions of people living without safe water in their households, schools, workplaces, farms and factories, there are marginalized groups that face discrimination when trying to access necessary safe water. The 2019 World Water Day puts the focus on those populations that are overlooked, and the attention needed to ensure water for all, regardless of sex, gender, race, religion, age, disability, and economic status.

To ensure water for all, the UN-Water recommends including marginalized groups in the decision-making processes of water services. In addition, funding needs to be targeted towards those most in need. UN-Water encourages people to talk to others about the limited access to clean water to build awareness and seek solutions. To create an event in your area or join an existing event visit: http://www.worldwaterday.org/events/ For more information on World Water Day visit http://www.worldwaterday.org/

 

Here at YourSoCalTapWater, we clearly love tap water, but we want you to love it too. Tap water can sometimes get a bad wrap. If you are thinking it, we have probably heard it. Why does tap water smells different? Is fluoride in tap water harmful? Isn’t bottled water safer to drink than tap water? Water quality concerns from other areas in the country give us a false perception about the safety of our local tap water. We want to share why we love tap water and how these claims may be misleading. Our local tap water is tested everyday by certified internal water agency laboratories, as well as external laboratories. There are many reasons why we love tap water, but here are our top four.

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  1. Tap Water Testing Exceeds Testing of Bottled Water

The reliable tap water that gets delivered to your home 365 days, is more tested and regulated than bottled water. Fancy bottled waters claim to be safer with claims of added electrolytes and other benefits. The truth is that bottled water testing is less frequent and less consistent than the municipal public tap water that you get at home. Tap water from your water district is under the jurisdiction of the US EPA, which requires extensive daily, certified lab testing; the same stringent testing is not required by corporate bottled water companies.  Furthermore, claims of alkaline bottled waters can be misleading, as tap water can also be alkaline and can also contain naturally occurring minerals, which can be beneficial to your health. To research and find out if your tap water is alkaline download your water quality report from your local water agency. We have some tips on how to understand your water quality report here. Bottled water can also have toxic chemicals that leach into the water and are then consumed.

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  1. Fluoride Improves Oral Health

Added fluoride in tap water has been proven to strengthen the enamel of the tooth and reduce tooth decay. Fluoride is a natural mineral organically existing in water. According to the American Dental Association, since adding fluoride to public water systems there has been a decrease in tooth decay by at least 25%. Recently, a public study conducted by KTOO Public Media, found that the removal of fluoride from public water systems in Juneau, Alaska twelve years ago has proven harmful. According to the study, for children under six,

when the water was fluoridated, on average they had about one-and-a-half cavity-related procedures per year. After fluoride was removed from tap water, that went up to about two-and-a-half procedures a year.  There was an increase for older kids, too, but it was less dramatic. Fluoride has been proven as a safe and effective way to minimize dental decay.

  1. Filtering, Refrigeration or Fruit Improves Taste

Extensive water treatment (cleaning), can sometimes cause tap water to have a slight noticeable scent, different from bottled water, but don’t be fooled this is not a sign that something is wrong. The extensive treatment process can leave water with a noticeable scent, this is due to the cleaning process and can be minimized by using a home filter, refrigeration or adding fruit. Tap water treatment is needed to remove pathogens and harmful bacteria that would otherwise make you sick and could be harmful to your health. Fill up a pitcher of tap water and place it in the refrigerator for a few hours and the scent should go away. Try adding fresh berries, lemon or cucumbers to your glass of tap water for a refreshing treat.

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  1. Water is Life

Water truly is life, especially for the human body. Water helps maximize human performance, keeps you hydrated, can help treat headaches and even aid in weight loss. With over 70 percent of the human body composed of water so it’s no wonder why water truly is life. We need it to survive and we live in a country where tap water is easily available and the safest in the world. We don’t take tap water for granted. Each day thousands of water quality experts nationwide work to ensure the safety of this natural resource that gets delivered to our homes. What’s not to love about that?

There you have it, why we love tap water! We hope that as you learn the facts you fall in love with tap water as well.

 

Despite its humble beginnings, the historic Old Big Bear Valley Dam still exists today. Originally pieced together with rock from surrounding hillsides and a single granite arch, the dam was created to provide water for agriculture farming in the area.   Its historical significance to the region tells a story of strength, economic growth and water in the upper Santa Ana River Watershed.

A VALLEY OF BEARS

In the late 1800s, there wasn’t much in what is now known as Big Bear. At the time, the mountain still boasted a healthy population of its namesake grizzly bear population, which were eventually hunted into extinction by 1906, and even the Big Bear Lake that we recognize today was not in existence. The only lake in the area was Baldwin Lake, which is now located east of Big Bear Lake.

When a Riverside landowner inadvertently ended up in the San Bernardino mountains in hot pursuit of horse thieves, he named it Bear Valley due to the abundance of grizzly bears roaming the area.

After Benjamin Wilson blessed Big Bear with its name in 1845, the high mountain valley also entertained a steady stream of visitors when gold was discovered in 1855. But it was not until 1884, when a Redlands farmer, named Frank Brown, designed and built a dam that is now known as the Old Big Bear Valley Dam.

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AN ENGINEERING TRIUMPH 

The impetus behind the dam was to create a reservoir to irrigate citrus crops in the Redlands area. Brown designed a single-arch granite dam, which was initially dismissed by engineers who claimed there was no way it would hold. But the $75,000 dam was constructed over the marsh-covered meadows of Big Bear Valley and once the snowmelt poured in, it formed what was once the world’s largest man-made lake.

And when the dam held despite the engineer’s pessimism, they called it “The Eighth Wonder of the World.” This original dam held back about 25,000-acre feet of water. Today the old dam is dwarfed by its newer, and 20-foot taller neighbor to the west. The newer dam, which was commissioned by the Bear Valley Mutual Water Company (BVMWC), and built in 1912, can hold back roughly 73,000-acre feet of water. In 1924 the dam was topped with a bridge and turned into what is now State Route 18.

A SHRINKING LAKE

In the beginning large amounts of water were often released from Big Bear Lake for irrigation purposes. Since there were no regulations, the lake levels varied greatly. In 1996, the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California agreed to preserve the lake water by providing irrigation from other sources. Today, lake levels have remained much more stable.

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IRRIGATION OR RECREATION? 

Although Big Bear Lake was originally created to supply water for the San Bernardino and Redlands farms, during the decade between the 1950s and 1960s the area became water battleground. The lake had dwindled down to what was described as “barely a puddle,” according to the BVMWC. Farmers wanted the water for their crops and locals wanted the water to prop up the recreational needs of Big Bear. In 1977, Big Bear Municipal Water District (BBMWD) acquired rights to the dam and the surface water to Big Bear Lake.

Regarding water rights? In short, BBMWD maintains water in the lake while irrigation interests are still met. Today,  SBVMWC can determine the irrigation needs downstream and then estimate the demand to meet the water company’s needs. The BBMWD can then deem whether they need to supply the water from another source, such as the Upper Santa Ana Groundwater Basin or release it from Big Bear Lake. Water that flows downstream along the Santa Ana River can eventually seep into the groundwater supply and be used for drinking water.

Today, visitors to Big Bear enjoy a picturesque lake with boats, jet skis and literal happy campers excited to take advantage of Southern California’s mountains and watershed.

 

References: 1. Big Bear Municipal Water District: Lake History. http://www.bbmwd.com/lake-history/. Accessed January 27, 2019. 2. The Big Bear History Site: Big Bear’s Eastwood Dam; Album: Big Bear Lake Dam. http://www.bigbearhistorysite.com/big-bear-historical-articles/the-lake-the-dams/big-bear-lake-dam/. Accessed January 27, 2019. 3. Big Bear Valley Historical Society: Big Bear Valley Dams. https://bigbearhistory.org/big-bear-history/big-bear-valley-dams/. Accessed January 27, 2019. Big Bear Municipal Water District cannot guaranty the accuracy of text contained within the post.

A watershed is defined as an area of land that separates waters flowing to different rivers, basins, or seas. However, an easier way to think of a watershed is by picturing it as all the land where rainfall that lands drains off of and into other streams of waters. According to the USGS Water Science School, “You’re standing, and everyone is standing, in a watershed. Watersheds can be as small as a footprint or large enough to encompass all the land that drains water into rivers that drain into Chesapeake Bay, where it enters the Atlantic Ocean.”

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Watersheds may vary in size and location, but a variable that doesn’t change between one to the next is the necessity to keep them healthy. The natural water cycle depends on a viable environment to sustain the watersheds. Sadly, many watersheds are already polluted or at the risk of becoming polluted due to contaminants. The United States Environmental Protection Agency, commonly regarded as EPA, states that some of the pollution in watersheds is caused by ‘nonpoint source (NPS) pollution’ and NPS is caused when rainfall or snowmelt, moving over and through the ground, picks up and carries natural and human-made pollutants, depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters and ground waters. Essentially, rainfall lands in contaminated watersheds, or land that drains into an outlet, and carries pollutants into water sources that make up our natural water cycle.

The EPA goes on to define a healthy watershed as providing “nutrient cycling, carbon storage, erosion/sedimentation control, increased biodiversity, soil formation, wildlife movement corridors, water storage, water filtration, flood control, food, timber and recreation, as well as reduced vulnerability to invasive species, the effects of climate change and other natural disasters.” We want to strive for healthy and unpolluted watersheds because the benefits that are derived from them are diverse and range from quality of life improvements, economic benefits, and beyond. The EPA notes a range of benefits including:

  • Improved water quality
  • Carbon storage opportunities
  • Increased resilience in the face of climate change threats
  • Reduced risk for invasive species colonization
  • Protecting healthy watersheds can reduce capital costs for water treatment plants and reduce damages to property and infrastructure due to flooding, thereby avoiding future costs
  • Reduced drinking water treatment and infrastructure costs
  • Reduced flood mitigation costs
  • Increased revenues and job opportunities
  • Increased property values

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These positive outcomes from healthy watersheds play a large role in our life. They allow us to participate in recreational outdoor activities, decrease treatment costs, increase the value of the land, all meanwhile keeping our watersheds free of pollutants. Protecting our watershed and maintaining healthy water supplies is important to the vitality of our communities and homes. There are many ways you can participate in keeping our watersheds clean! The Nature Conservancy shares some steps that individuals can take to participate in the effort of keeping watersheds pollutant free. These include:

  • Don’t pour toxic household chemicals down the drain; take them to a hazardous waste center.
  • Use hardy plants that require little or no watering, fertilizers or pesticides in your yard.
  • Do not over apply fertilizers. Consider using organic or slow release fertilizers instead.
  • Recycle yard waste in a compost pile & use a mulching mower.
  • Use surfaces like wood, brick or gravel for decks & walkways; it allows rain to soak in & not run off.
  • Never pour used oil or antifreeze into the storm drain or the street.
  • Pick up after your dog and dispose of the waste in the toilet or the trash.
  • Drive less—walk or bike; many pollutants in our waters come from car exhaust and car leaks.

Healthy watersheds are connected to various aspects of our life and by following the tips to maintain a clean watershed, YOU can make a direct impact in your community!

The scarcity of available drinking (potable) water has forced water agencies to look for innovated ways of finding new sources of drinking water for its customers. Because new water can’t be created, the concept of using recycled water is quickly becoming more common place. The California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative notes that recycled water projects have more than doubled since 1987 and continues to follow an upward trend. Identified and delivered by purple pipes, recycled water is often labeled with warnings of, “Do Not Drink” and “Non-Potable Water.” But if recycled water isn’t supposed to be for drinking, then how can recycled water be a source of clean drinking water?

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Let’s start with the question of, “What exactly is recycled water and what purpose does it serve?” The answer comes from years of innovative thinking in hopes to find solutions for water-stressed regions. The California Association of Sanitation Agencies (CASA) defines recycled water as “municipal wastewater which, as a result of specified treatment, is suitable for a beneficial use.” Essentially, wastewater enters a treatment process that allows for it to be used again without going through the natural water cycle. Therefore, the volume of the treated wastewater is more predictable and available during a more immediate timeframe. According to CASA recycled water is, “One of the only reliable, sustainable and drought-proof sources of new water to meet California’s needs.” Recycled water essentially creates a new source of water. Can this water be used for drinking?

Implementing recycled water systems in service areas has had many challenges, including the public perceptions of its uses in relation to drinking water. One negative perception includes the idea that customers would be drinking recycled wastewater from their faucets. Although recycled water is used to benefit the population for outdoor irrigation uses, regulations in California do not permit  direct consumption for potable use This means we can’t drink recycled water  right after it leaves the treatment plant. More simply put, it cannot be used to for drinking, cooking, or showering purposes. Instead, it is currently approved for ‘non-potable’ uses, non-drinking/ human uses. But even for these uses, a high degree of treatment is conducted by local wastewater treatment agencies that must meet accepted state and federal water quality standards before delivery and use of recycled water.

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The difference between potable and non-potable water is potable water has been designated for safe direct consumption by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, among other agencies and requirements. However, the specifications do not exclude non-potable water (not intended for drinking) from serving water districts and its consumers in a positive manner. Instead, recycled water not intended for direct consumption can be used for “irrigation, such as turf and landscaping, agricultural uses, dust control and industrial cooling.” Crops using recycled water provide the much needed water resources to help harvests grow. Many of those crops are then used at some point for either animal or human consumptions, which are a  byproduct of recycled waters use.

Another use of recycled water is to recharge groundwater aquifers and to prevent seawater intrusion into underground drinking supplies. Treatment levels of the recycled water vary from primary, secondary, and tertiary treatment methods. Recycled water that is used to supplement or recharge groundwater aquifers must employ greater levels of treatment to ensure its quality and safety. The indirect potable reuse of wastewater isn’t directly consumed by people. Instead, it is pumped to groundwater basins for recharge where it passes through yet another natural filtering process of treatment. That water will eventually make it’s way to wells used to deliver water  for consumption. According to the California State Water Board, “regulations specify the percentage of recycled water that can be added, how long it must reside in a basin and the distance from adjoining potable well supplies before it can be merged with other natural groundwater sources used for  drinking water.” Due to the nature of the process, this type of use of recycled water is considered indirect water consumption.

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A large focus of many Southern California water agencies is to increase local water supply and to decrease its reliance on imported sources. Pursing these projects helps alleviate some of the challenges that California has experienced over the last years, The California Agricultural Water Stewardship Initiative outlines the benefits as:

  1. Reducing water pollutions
  2. Augmenting water supply
  3. Supporting healthy ecosystems; and
  4. Reducing water energy requirements and costs

Innovative solutions, such as using recycled water for indirect consumption, will continue to strengthen California’s water districts ability to deliver consistent, reliable, and safe water for its consumers.