“Life is a journey, not a destination.” What if we applied that same perspective to all of the vital resources that make their way to us for use every day? Before running water rushes through our pipes and into our homes, much of our tap water has taken a significant journey. This month, we want to show our appreciation and value for the expedition our Southern California water must take to show up flowing freely at our faucets.
Coastal Southern California is certainly not known for its white winters or frosty temperatures. We live in a dry region that is mainly developed on rock, meaning water isn’t as easily sourced as it is in other regions of the country. Our local water districts must truly get creative and go the extra mile to bring us the safe, clean and dependable H2O we rely on.
Much of your trusted tap water’s journey begins in the mountains where it starts as a snowflake in the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains.
As temperatures rise and seasons change, the snow begins to melt and that water begins its voyage down the mountains to your tap!
The snowmelt travels hundreds of miles to flow into rivers, reservoirs and groundwater recharge basins, which capture that precious snowmelt. Rivers, lakes, creeks and ponds also collect and deliver water naturally. Facilities such as reservoirs and groundwater recharge basins are two different types of infrastructure investments your water district operates to assist in the capturing and management of the snowmelt.
A reservoir is an artificial lake where this snowmelt and water is stored. A groundwater recharge basin is a location where snowmelt, rainfall and runoff water is collected and stored in a groundwater aquifer below.
From there, Sierra Nevada and Rocky Mountain water is pumped into California’s State Water Project, which transports the water to farms and cities throughout Central and Southern California. The water is cleaned, treated and tested by scientists and engineers to ensure that your water meets or exceeds federal standards.
Snowmelt, rainfall and imported recharge water provides water to 23 million people living in cities stretching from the Bay Area to Southern California. It’s fascinating to realize that the tap water in your glass and the water that washes our cars and irrigates our crops may have begun as snow. We are thankful for each drop because it is as precious as the snowflakes that created it.
The importance of gratitude is as essential as, well … water! November marks a time of year when we traditionally pause to give thanks and reflect on what we cherish most. 2020 is redefining the word ‘essential’ and has sparked a months-long nationwide pause. Thankfully, the safe and reliable water we all depend on did not take a day off.
It is easy to forget the madness of March when the nation went into a toilet paper shortage. How useless would all that hoarded toilet paper have been if we did not have water to flush our commodes?
What about when bottled water was flying off the shelves faster than essential workers could restock it? Unlike the water bottled in single-use plastic, your trusted tap water was never out of stock.
And now you’re washing your hands continuously, right? The water straight from your tap has helped protect you from germs more than ever before.
We know that you have had so much more than water on your mind this year. But thankfully, tap water never had to be added to your list of concerns. Tap into your gratitude for H2O below and check out five reasons why we are thankful for water.
Thank you, H2O!
- Our water is such a multitasker: Personal hygiene, watering crops, marine activities, the beverages we enjoy, fighting fires, sanitizing surfaces, and the list goes on. Water is part of everything. In one way or another we are always using water – or products that were created using it. Our water does it all.
- Our water feeds us: Farmers rely on and value water to produce the foods we eat every day. For example, 19 gallons of water are required to grow just one apple. Water is the key to the growth of the crops we eat to survive and stay healthy.
- Our water is affordable: Tap water is incredibly inexpensive compared to single-use bottled water. Not to mention that most bottled water is sourced from public water supplies – meaning you’re paying a huge premium for the same tap water that comes straight from your sink for much less. Don’t buy it and trust in tap!
- Our water is clean: Water quality and safety are top priorities. We continually monitor and test the water you depend on. Our practices ensure that our water meets and exceeds some of the most rigorous standards in the nation.
- Our water works overtime: Think about it – our tap water never takes a day off. The water we need and love is always available to quench our thirst, grow our food and keep us clean. Now that’s something to be thankful for!
The water that flows from our faucets is clean, fresh and safe. From sourcing to treatment, our tap water is held to the highest standards – but unfortunately, some people still believe the misconception that bottled water is safer than tap water.
This Halloween season, don’t listen to scare tactics about tap water! We’re taking this opportunity to “creep it real” and debunk a few myths you may have heard about bottled versus tap water.
The tap water that flows through our pipes – originating in our Santa Ana Watershed – is liquid gold. It’s continually monitored and tested, meeting and exceeding some of the most rigorous standards in the nation. Let’s set the record straight on our water quality and safety. Once you have discovered the high quality water that flows straight from your tap, you’ll want to fill up your own reusable bottle at home and hit the trails for fall adventures.
The truth is that bottled water is a big money-maker for those who sell it. Bottled-water companies need to convince customers to pay big bucks for a product that’s actually inferior to tap water. What’s more, bottled water is not held to the same high standards as our tap water. Now that’s scary!
Myth: “Bottled water is cleaner than tap water.” Wrong. Side-by-side comparisons of FDA standards for bottled water show that our tap water meets and exceeds those standards. In fact, most bottled water is sourced from public water supplies – meaning you’re paying a huge premium for regular tap water. Don’t buy it.
Myth: “Bottled water tastes better.” Yes, water from different areas can taste a little different depending on the natural, safe minerals and other variations in the water. But tests show that your tap water is of the highest quality – and since most bottled water originates as tap water, there’s no reason to assume it’s superior. For a fun family activity, challenge your family to a blind taste test. You may be surprised that you prefer the water straight from your tap. Try chilling it in the fridge, adding ice or a slice of lemon or lime. Add a sprig of rosemary, a slightly mashed strawberry or a melon slice for zest.
Myth: “Bottled water is more convenient.” OK, we understand that it can be tempting to grab a plastic bottle of water when you’re in a rush. But what could be more convenient or economical than filling up a reusable bottle at any nearby sink or drinking fountain? Many public and private facilities have installed stations where you can easily fill up your bottle. Once you know the truth about tap water, you’ll realize that this is not only a safe option, it’s a convenient option. It’s also better for the environment – reducing the waste from single-use plastic bottles.
Myth: “Bottled water is a good value for my money.” Nope. There is no better value for your money than tap water. When you purchase water – whether in gallon jugs or slim serving-sized bottles – you’re paying for the cost of the packaging, transporting, and marketing of the product. That’s why a typical 16-ounce bottle of water can cost $1.25 at a convenience store. From the tap, that same amount of water costs pennies. The smarter choice for your wallet is to choose tap, every time.
As businesses in California begin to open again after several weeks of closure, there are many tasks that need to be accomplished in order to open to the public safely. One such crucial task is flushing all of the building’s water systems to ensure optimal safe water quality. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) website states, “The temporary shutdown or reduced operation of a building and reductions in normal water use can create hazards for returning occupants. Two potential microbial hazards that should be considered prior to reopening after a period of building inactivity are mold and Legionella (the cause of Legionnaires disease).”
The longer water sits in the pipes of buildings not in daily use, the more likely it is that these microbial hazards as well as lead, copper and chemicals will build up in the water supply. This doesn’t just apply to drinking water: water splashes from sinks, showers, water features and flushing toilets can release these organisms into the air, which can be very harmful if inhaled. It only takes a few days for these organisms and chemicals to reach unsafe levels in pipes, filters and water softeners. This means that after several weeks of disuse, it is absolutely essential to flush your building’s water systems with fresh water before reopening your business.
The first step is to identify all sources of potable water in your building. This includes, but is not limited to: all hot and cold water taps, toilets, showers, bathtub fixtures, ice makers and water dispensers in refrigerators and freezers, decorative water features, and drinking fountains. Once you have identified all potable water sources, you can begin flushing the water system.
Start by turning on all water taps with drains and let them run for 10-15 minutes. Also, check the drains to make sure they are clear and working properly. This may need to be done in sections by floor or room, depending on the size of the building. The goal is to clear any stagnant water in the building and replace it with fresh water.
While the taps are running, flush all toilets in order to empty the bowls and tanks and refill them with fresh water.
For your refrigerators and freezers:
Dispose of any old ice, and clean the machine. Dispose of any new ice for three to five cycles. Turn on any water dispenser taps to flush the system and refill to the water line in the refrigerator.
Clean all decorative water features, making sure there is no slime or film on the surfaces. Flush the system with fresh water, refill and add appropriate disinfectant.
If the hot water in the building has any sort of unusual odor, or if the manufacturer suggests draining the system after disuse, it is recommended that you drain and refill your water heater, making sure the temperature is set to at least 140°F.
Keep in mind that you may wish to equip anyone carrying out these procedures with PPE, such as face masks to reduce the risk of inhalation of airborne bacteria from water splashes. Following these steps is essential to ensuring the health of your staff and customers as we move forward towards returning to business as usual.
Further resources and information can be found at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/building-water-system.html.
A massive part of our great state’s economy revolves around the agricultural industry. The state of California produces nearly half of the fruits, vegetables and nuts grown in the United States. California’s agriculture is responsible for billions of dollars in revenue each year; over 400 commodity crops are grown here, the top three being dairy, grapes, and almonds. With over 40 million acres (over a quarter of the state) dedicated to pastures, vineyards and crop fields, the impact of waste produced by California’s agricultural industry is no small concern.
Such a massive scale of agricultural production creates a large amount of waste. Agricultural runoff is a type of nonpoint source (NPS) pollution, or pollution that comes from multiple sources. In relation to agriculture, sources of NPS pollution include sediment, fertilizer and pesticides, as well as bacteria, nutrients and waste fromAccording to the website for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, “States report that nonpoint source pollution is the leading remaining cause of water quality problems.” Irrigation and rainfall carries agricultural runoff away from its source, eventually ending up in rivers, lakes, coastal waters and wetlands – not to mention potentially contaminating our underground sources of drinking water. Because the pollution happens slowly over a long period of time, the water quality gradually declines, and in some case resulting in negative impacts to fish and wildlife habitat as well as eventual contamination of groundwater.”
Given the importance of both California’s agricultural industry, it is essential to find ways to limit the damage caused by agricultural runoff. In recent years, the Environmental Protection Agency, along with the Center for Disease Control, increased regulations in an effort to improve water quality and control damage caused by agricultural runoff. Water quality control boards in each region are responsible for finding ways to regulate and enforce proper monitoring and management of any issues that affect water quality.
Locally the Western Riverside County Agriculture Council has implemented measures that support positive environmental stewardship relating to agricultural runoff in our region and protect our drinking water resources. Over the past 16 years, dairy and agricultural operators in the San Jacinto River Watershed have banded together to voluntarily reduce the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for nutrients released into our watersheds. The Total Maximum Daily Load is the term used to quantify the total amount of pollutants that can be safely released into waterways while meeting water quality standards.
In order to qualify for new farming permits the Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Board) requires compliance from agricultural called a Conditional Waiver for Agricultural Discharges. These regulations are intended to improve water quality within the watershed, however some have expressed concern that the permitting fees can be excessive, the requirements are complicated and question whether the regulations are in fact benefiting the watershed. Regional collaborations such as Lake Elsinore and Canyon Lake TMDL Task Force or the Middle Santa Ana River TMDL Task Force, consisting of multiple agencies and organizations responsible for the TMDL compliance, have been formed by the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority to play an important role in finding effective solutions to protect drinking water resources. In partnership with the Regional Board, the task forces help ensure that the concerns from agriculture producers are shared and mutually beneficial ways to protect our vital water resources are explored.
As the COVID-19 pandemic sweeps through the United States, Americans are concerned for their health. Following self-distancing orders and taking precautions when leaving the house has becoming the “new-normal.” While staying at home and minimizing contact with others can limit potential exposure, are there dangers in our own home that can spread Coronavirus, such as our drinking water?
No, in fact the water that is delivered to your home is safe for drinking, bathing and washing. Your municipal water district is responsible for providing a reliable and safe water supply to your home every day. It must undergo rigorous treatment and requires mandated sampling and testing. The treatment, or disinfection, of the water delivered to homes and businesses rapidly facilitates the die-off of the COVID-19 virus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “The virus that causes COVID-19 has not been detected in drinking water. Conventional water treatment methods that use filtration and disinfection, such as those in most municipal drinking water systems, should remove or inactivate the virus that causes COVID-19.”
Water agencies in Southern California continue to monitor for public health recommendations concerning coronavirus and tap water safety. The virus does not provide a threat to treated water supplies. Filtration and disinfection, such as chlorine and advance treatments ensure that viruses are killed during the treatment process. Your tap water meets or exceeds the water quality standards and should not be a concern relating to COVID-19.
Originally built in 1923 as a single-lane bridge connecting Riverside with West Riverside, over the Santa Ana River, is a historic Riverside gem. It was known as the Rubidoux Bridge, the Santa Ana River Bridge and the Mission Bridge, constructed with Mission style towers at each end and featuring the Raincross symbol across its length. The Raincross symbol was created by combining the image of the mass bell used by Father Junipero Serra, founder of the California Missions, and the cross design, which the native tribes of the area prayed to for rain. This symbol has been heavily used in architecture in Riverside since the early 1900’s.
The choice of a symbol identified with rain as a design feature of this bridge may have been darkly prophetic, as in March of 1938, a vast swath of Southern California was utterly devastated by flooding. Beginning at the end of February and building in intensity into the beginning of March, rainfall inundated Southern California, as two different weather systems passed through the area.
The Santa Ana River swelled and flooded its banks, filling with debris. The debris built up against a bridge north of Riverside until the bridge gave way, sending a surge of water crashing down the length of the Santa Ana River. Bridges all along the length of the Santa Ana River were completely destroyed by the flooding, including the Santa Ana River/ Rubidoux/ Mission Bridge. Riverside was hit particularly hard by this devastation, with many people forced to leave the area. Others were completely cut off and isolated, trapped in their homes, as the flood waters moved so quickly that there was simply not enough time to get a warning out to everyone. Both light and power were cut off for several hours, phone and telegraph poles were knocked down, and parts of Orange County were completely underwater.
The Los Angeles and San Gabriel Rivers also burst their banks, further contributing to mass flooding across the entire LA basin. All in total, over 5,000 homes and business were destroyed, and over 100 lives were lost in the 1938 flood.
In the aftermath, a number of dams were built in order to prevent another such catastrophe from occurring. The Los Angeles River was channelized, built up with concrete to allow faster flow of floodwaters to the sea and prevent the river flooding its banks again. The Riverside County Flood Control and Water Conservation District was formed a few years later in 1945, to ensure public safety against any future flooding scenarios. Rainfall is essential in order to replenish our local groundwater supplies, but infrastructure is critical to ensure that water is diverted to areas where it can be captured as well as to maintain public safety.
The remaining parts of the Mission Bridge were removed in 1958, when a new bridge was constructed across the Santa Ana River. Southern California learned from the tragedy, rebuilt and moved on. The towers of the Rubidoux/Mission Bridge were relocated and now can be seen at the Carlson Dog Park in Riverside.
For more historic photos of the Santa Ana River Bridge: https://calisphere.org/item/ark:/13030/kt0m3nc1wf/
The Santa Ana River travels from the top of the San Bernardino Mountains, through Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, cuts into the northern Santa Ana Mountains, and eventually drains into the Pacific Ocean. At over 96 miles long, the Santa Ana River is the largest coastal stream system in Southern California. The drainage area surrounding the river creates the Santa Ana River Watershed.
Although the entire Santa Ana River Watershed covers 2,650 square miles, the tributary drainage area to the Middle Santa Ana River Watershed is 480 square miles. The Middle Santa Ana River Watershed is a unique area of land that includes open space, commercial, residential and agricultural use.
The state of California has nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards that oversee water quality and compliance for their own region. The Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) oversees the Santa Ana River Watershed, including the Middle Santa Ana River Watershed (MSAR). According to Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, the Regional Board is required to identify surface waters that fail to meet water quality standards. Once a body of water has been added to the 303(d) list as impaired, a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) must be established for the waterbody as well as for the given pollutant.
Due to high densities of bacterial indicators, several bodies of water in the Middle Santa Ana River (MSAR) Watershed have been included on the 303(d) list of impaired waterbodies. To address the concerns of fecal coliform bacterial indicators, the RWQCB included the formation of the Middle Santa Ana River TMDL Task Force. Overseen by the Santa Ana Watershed Projects Authority (SAWPA), this task force includes 18 stakeholders working together with the RWQCB to improve the water quality of the MSAR.
Since beginning in 2006, the MSAR Watershed TMDL Task Force continues to address water quality issues by conducting on-going source investigation to identify bacterial indicators and understand how to solve them. In addition to monitoring, TMDL tasks include preparing progress reports, implementing an Urban Source Evaluation Plan, revising a Comprehensive Bacteria Reduction Plan (CBRP) and a Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP) for both Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. The TMDL Task Force has conducted over 20 water quality monitoring projects
Due to the success of the Task Force, some waterbodies throughout the MSAR have had such high levels of bacteria load reductions that they are no longer considered impaired. The Comprehensive Bacteria Reduction Plan (CBRP) that was introduced in 2012 has shown a 66% reduction in fecal bacteria loads. The MSAR Bacterial Indicator TMDL set limits on waste for urban Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) and confined animal feeding operation dischargers, load allocations for agricultural and natural sources.
The significant improvements being made to the Middle Santa Ana River are a collaborative effort between the RWQB, the Santa Ana Watershed Projects Authority, as well as the several agencies involved. With the TMDL in place, impaired waterbodies are monitored until water quality is fully restored. To find out more about the MSAR TMDL Task Force, visit https://sawpa.org/task-forces/middle-santa-ana-river-watershed-tmdl-task-force/#backgroundb8a6-4b67.
It may be cool outside, but drinking water is just as important during winter months as it is during the summer. Our bodies are made up of 70% water and hydration is critical year-round to maintain healthy bodily function. The air is drier during colder weather and we do not receive as much moisture. Indoor heating is also drying, which leads to cracked lips, dry skin, and other health impairments. Our body uses more fluids to exhale when we breathe in cold weather. We do not tend to feel as thirsty during winter months as we do in summer months, which makes us more susceptible to dehydration.
When choosing winter beverages, it is important to reach for those that are hydrating, nothing can replace water alone, but there are delicious drink options that you can create at home with the water that comes from the faucet or your refrigerator. On cold winter days, these tap water drinks will keep you warm and hydrated. Southern California tap water is highly regulated and safe to consume. Tap water drinks are delicious all year long!
Honey and Lemon Water
With winter seasonal threats in the air, honey and lemon are the perfect combination to soothe sore throats and ease congestion. Note: Honey should not be given to children under the age of 1.
-Fresh cold tap water
-1 tablespoon of lemon juice
-2 tablespoons of honey
1. Pour tap water into tea kettle and bring to a boil.
2. Put honey and lemon juice in a teacup or mug.
3. Add hot water to cup and stir gently.
4. Add lemon juice or honey to taste.
Classic Hot Cocoa
With a simple list of ingredients, hot cocoa is the perfect beverage the whole family can enjoy on a cool winter day.
-1/3 cup of sugar
-¼ cup of unsweetened cocoa powder
-1/3 cup of hot tap water
-Dash of salt
-4 cups of milk
-3/4 tsp vanilla extract
-Choice of garnish (optional): mini marshmallows, whipped cream, sprinkles, peppermint sticks
1. In a medium saucepan combine the sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and tap water. Bring to a rolling boil.
2. Stir and cook for two minutes.
3. Reduce heat and stir in the milk to desired temperature. Do not boil.
4. Remove from heat.
5. Stir in vanilla.
6. Add desired garnish. (optional)
7. Serve immediately and enjoy.
With an endless possibility of flavors and styles, it is no surprise that tea is enjoyed around the world. Whether as a morning warm-up or a relaxing cup before bed, there is something for everyone.
-Caffeine-free tea bag
-Fresh cold tap water
-Choice of sweetener (optional): honey, sugar, stevia
1. Choose a desired flavor of tea bag.
2. Fill tea pot with cold, fresh tap water. Bring to a boil.
3. After it reaches boiling, turn off heat and let sit for a few minutes.
4. Put tea bag in mug or cup and fill.
5. Steep tea bag in water for amount of time shown on package. Each tea variety requires different steep times.
6. Remove tea bag.
7. Add honey or sugar to taste. (optional)
French Press Coffee
The French Press was invented in 1929 and has been used to make a full-bodied cup of coffee ever since.
-Fresh, cold tap water
-Medium ground decaffeinated coffee
1. Pour tap water into tea kettle and bring to a boil. Once boiled turn off heat and let sit for 1 minute.
2. Remove plunger from press.
3. Add a tablespoon of coffee to the pot per 6.7 ounces of water.
4. Fill press halfway with hot water, making sure that all grounds are saturated.
5. Stir gently and wait 1 minute.
6. Carefully insert the plunger and let it stand for 3 minutes without plunging.
7. Press plunger down slowly using steady pressure.
8. Serve coffee immediately. Pour coffee not immediately used into a carafe.
When you hear fats, oils and grease (FOG), your sewer probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. In reality, these substances do to your pipes what they do to arteries. Over time, pouring fats, oils and grease down the drain coats your home pipes, the sewer lines and it builds up. As FOG hardens, it prevents the sewage stream from passing through and eventually raw sewage can back up into your home. Not only is this a hazard, but it is also costly. Sewer pipes within the home are the responsibility of homeowners. Sewage backups can also cause overflows into city streets. These blockages can surface in homes, lawns and storm drains, eventually impacting our watersheds, which can contaminate local waters, including drinking water.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that there are 23,000-75,000 sanitary sewer overflows (SSO) each year, with grease build-up being one of the reasons. Avoid this costly and dangerous problem by making proper FOG disposal a habit. Never pour these substances down your drain. This includes using hot water to clean a greasy pan.
Steps to safely dispose of FOG:
- Allow it to cool.
- Pour FOG into an aluminum or glass container when you are ready to dispose. Use a paper towel to wipe any excess out of the pan or cooking receptacle.
- Mix with an absorbent material such as coffee grounds, cat litter or shredded newspaper.
- Seal the container.
- Dispose of it in the trash.
If a small amount of FOG gets into the drain, flush it immediately with cold water. Even a small amount builds up over time. Pouring hot water and detergent down the drain only breaks up FOG temporarily. Any build up is then moved further down the sewer lines and can cause problems in other areas.
Fats, oils and grease are in a variety of foods that you may otherwise not think of. Examples include cooking oils, butter, milk, meats and sauces. Even small amounts of leftover food particles put down the garbage disposal can catch on to sticky film left by FOG and cause the debris to build up.
FOG is a year round problem, but holiday cooking is a good reminder to be mindful of what goes down the drain.