Huntington Beach is the place where the Santa Ana River makes waves – quite literally. Part of what makes Surf City such an excellent place to catch a wave is a sandbar created by sediment flowing from the Santa Ana. People have gathered here to surf and enjoy the SoCal lifestyle for decades, and Huntington Beach is still a great place to come to relax and soak up the sun.

Ride the waves at Surf City

Ride the waves at Surf City

The culture of this particular beach makes it a perfect destination to bring your kids for a day of fun. Pack up a cooler full of cold drinks, your lounge chairs, beach toys, boogie boards, and your beach umbrella and camp out for the day.

My niece Emily and nephew Hunter had a great time playing in the surf and dipping their feet in the river. Once they started riding the waves on their boogie boards, it was nearly impossible to get them out of the water.

Suggestions for things to do:

Ride in a Surry (but no fringe on top)

Surry 2

Surries are great fun – but be ready for a workout!

There are a series of rental places/snack shops that dot the boardwalk at Huntington State Beach. You can rent normal bikes, surries, and a few other interesting rides. Emily had her heart set on a surry, which is actually cheaper than renting a bike for each member of your family. They have two sizes – one with room for two peddlers and one with room for four. Both types have seats in the front for very small children (they get to enjoy the ride with no work!)

We took the one with room for two and I had the kids switch out between peddling and resting. Emily had a great time pretending to “drive” with the dummy steering wheel. Surries are a great relationship builder if you are looking for a workout and don’t mind joggers passing you.

Wade in the River

Emily’s favorite part of the day was getting to dip her feet in the Santa Ana before we moved over to the Pacific side of the beach. Families set up camp along the river’s edge – some even set their beach chairs right in the shallows.

The Santa Ana River reaches the Pacific Ocean

The Santa Ana River reaches the Pacific Ocean

Kids can wade in shallow water without waves overwhelming them. The river’s currents are strong, though, and can go out to sea or back toward land depending on the tides. Don’t let kids go too deep. This is a place for strong supervision.

Emily and Hunter Brave the RiverThe Santa Ana River is Southern California’s largest and most-used river and supplies water to millions of people living in the Santa Ana’s watershed, which extends from the Inland Empire to Orange County. Its headwaters are high in the San Bernardino Mountains, stretching from Mount Baldy to Big Bear. Snowmelt from these mountains and rain from around the watershed feed the Santa Ana and its many tributaries. One of the coolest things about this watershed is that most parts of it are within easy driving distance – you can ski in the mountains, drive through the desert, and play at the beach all in one day.

Ride the Waves

If you don’t know how to surf, you can still enjoy Huntington Beach’s legendary waves. Boogie boards are incredibly popular – the shallow surf is full of kids swimming out and riding back. If you don’t own boogie boards, they can be rented at the snack shops that dot the beaches. Emily and Hunter spent the better part of three hours in the water, fighting their way out and careening back to shore.

Emily Bougieboarding

Sand Sports

Now would be the time to dust off any footballs, volleyballs, or even badminton sets you have in the garage. Any kind of beach sport you can think of is more than welcome at Huntington. No one seems to mind if a ball goes flying towards another group’s setup – it’s almost expected.

Cookout

Bring your tailgating gear for a feast on the sand. One of the most clever setups we saw was a family that fit a giant cooler into one of those collapsible red wagons.

If cooking on the sand is not your style, bring drinks, snacks, and stop at the snack shops for what Emily and Hunter swear are the “best hotdogs EVER!”

Emily & Hunter say they serve "the best hotdogs EVER!!!"

Emily & Hunter say these snack shops serve “The best hotdogs EVER!!!”

Where to Find It:

Huntington State Beach is located where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean.  The Santa Ana’s Headwaters start high in the mountains that surround the Inland Empire, including places like Big Bear. The snow we play in all winter eventually makes its way down to Surf City, where it runs into the Pacific.

The Beach is situated next to the Pacific Coast Highway, west of Magnolia Street in the City of Huntington Beach – click here for directions from the California Department of Parks & Recreation. Parking is $15 for the day during the summer and $10 a day from October 1st through March 31st. Come early for the best spots.

Huntington Beach is where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Huntington Beach is where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Kid-Approved Adventures

There are so many cool things to do with your kids in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to Huntington Beach, coving much of the Inland Empire and Orange County. One thing that these two regions share is a water supply – and if you live in the IE or the OC, most of your water comes from within this area.

DSCN0410The Santa Ana Watershed encompasses all of the best of SoCal living – the mountains, the desert, and the beach – and sightseeing locally is a great way to have fun with your kids without burning a ton of cash. We will visit many places in the IE and the OC together and all of it is “kid-approved” by them.

Want to explore more places in the watershed? Take a look at SAWPA’s map of things to do in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to the beach!

Did you know that 20% of the energy used in the State of California is used to move and treat water?

The San Onofre nuclear power plant has been shut down permanently. Photo Credit: Jason Hickey, Flickr Creative Commons

That more than just an interesting factoid. It actually has an impact our daily lives because energy is a kind of “hidden cost” in our water bills, so when you save water, you save energy and money.

Conservation is especially important this summer since the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant was shut down permanently due to unsafe conditions.  That means that in Southern California, we are entering our hot summer season with a less than normal power supply. Summer is the season we have the heaviest power use because it is the time we all crank up the A/C. To prevent rolling blackouts, energy companies are working with water agencies to reduce the amount of water used and to get the word out to customers about conservation.

How You Can $ave

A lush low-water garden. Photo Credit: M. Dolly, Flickr Creative Commons

A lush low-water garden. Photo Credit: M. Dolly, Flickr Creative Commons

Watering Outside

Chances are, between 50% and 70% of the water you buy goes to water your lawn and garden. While the most environmentally friendly thing to do is to replace turf grass with California Friendly plants, not everyone is quite ready to do that.

If you are ready rip out your lawn, the IE Garden Friendly website can help you pick out plants in a lush Mediterranean style – water conscious does not doom you to a yard full prickly cacti. Also, you can replace only parts of your lawn with California Friendly plants and leave the rest to appease the lawn-lover in your house.

If you love your lawn, there is still a lot you can do to save water. Many people unknowingly over-water their lawns. Dust off your sprinkler controller and take a look at the following things:

Lawns use a lot of water, which means small changes mean big savings. Photo credit: Gilberto Taccari, Flickr Creative Commons

Lawns use a lot of water, which means small changes mean big savings. Photo credit: Gilberto Taccari, Flickr Creative Commons

  • Set your sprinklers to water in the early morning – that way, less water is lost to evaporation. Also, doing so is better for your plants – watering during the day will cause water to stay on them while the sun beats down and actually harms the leaves.
  • Set your sprinklers to water for a few short intervals – this will allow your lawn to absorb water rather than having it run off into the street.
  • Cut back to two days a week – your lawn does not need to be watered every day, or even every other day. According to the Metropolitan Water District, watering two days a week instead of five can save 840 gallons of water a week!
  • Buy a Smart Irrigation Controller – it will receive local weather data and set your watering schedule accordingly.
  • Buy a WaterDex remote control for sprinklers – less expensive than a smart controller, it will work with your current sprinkler controller and let you set the limits from the comfort of your air conditioned living room.

Washing up outside

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: Orin Zebest, Flickr Creative Commons

  • Use a broom – cleaning your deck, driveway and sidewalks with a hose instead of a broom can waste up to 150 gallons of water.
  • Go to a professional carwash rather than washing your car at home. Most of them reuse their water, which leaves your car just a sparkling clean without the same amount of waste.

Indoor Use

Turn off the tap when brushing your teeth! Photo Credit: RebeccaLeeP, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: RebeccaLeeP, Flickr Creative Commons

While the bulk of our water is used outside, there is still a lot we can do inside.

  • Use your dishwasher rather than washing by hand – make sure it is full first!
  • Take shorter showers. Five minutes is the ideal, but if you can’t quite make it there, try to shave a couple of minutes off of what you are currently doing. Get faster as you go. Remember: every minute cut off a morning shower is one more minute you can sleep in!
  • Shut off the water when brushing your teeth and washing your face. According to MSN Living, you can save up to 8 gallons of water a day by making that one painless change.

Get Paid to Save

See if you are eligible for rebates from your water agency by checking out their website, or go to SoCal Water Smart for rebates offered by the Metropolitan Water District and its 26 member agencies.

Photo Credit: 401(k)2013, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit: 401(k)2013, Flickr Creative Commons

Spread the Word

Share your ideas with us! Have you found a creative way to save water? Let us know about it on our Facebook Page at or on Twitter @SoCalTapWater.

Emily tests out the ice cold water of San Antonio Creek at Mt. Baldy.

Emily tests out the ice cold water of San Antonio Creek at Mt. Baldy.

If you’re looking for a quick way to escape rising temperatures, it’s tough to beat a day trip to Mt. Baldy. Have your kids “unplug” – there is no cell phone reception – and visit a different world from a simpler time. Easily accessible from the 210 Freeway (directions below), Mt. Baldy is where the Angeles National Forest meets the San Bernardino National Forest and it offers hiking trails, a cute village, a nature center, and a cool stream for hot summer days.

First Stop: The Mount Baldy Nature Center

DSCN1034 - Hunter and Emily meet Smokey Bear

Hunter & Emily meet Smokey Bear at the U.S. Forest Service’s nature center at Mt. Baldy.

You need a parking pass to park anywhere outside Baldy Village, so your first stop should be to the Mt. Baldy Visitor Center to pick one up ($5 for the day, Season Passes available). The Visitor Center is located in the Village’s original 1920’s schoolhouse, directly across Mt. Baldy Road from the Baldy Lodge – a local watering hole. Arrive early to park outside next to the road. Parking in the Visitor Center’s lot is limited to 20 minutes (they want to avoid people parking there for day-long hikes).

Inside the Visitor’s Center is a trail that shows you the flora and fauna to be found from the foothills to Mt. Baldy’s peak. Also on display are exhibits that show what life was like locally in the 1800s and early 1900s. Friendly rangers are on hand to help you pick out a hike that works best for you. They have maps of the different hikes available and mark them with your choices, along with directions on where to park.

Outside in the nature center is a reproduction of a Native American (Tongva-Gabrielino) village and a mining camp. Emily and Hunter loved exploring the buildings and tents beneath the shade of grand old trees.

Also, picnic tables and public toilets are available. Be sure to bring your own hand sanitizer, as there is no soap available.

Get Your Feet Wet

By far the most popular part of the day was playing in San Antonio Creek. Drive up Mt. Baldy Road, passing the Buckhorn Lodge on your left. As soon as you cross the bridge, pull in to the gravel parking area to your left. Follow the sounds of the water down to the San Antonio Creek. Beautiful trees shade the creek from the heat of the day and whisper as the wind blows through them.

San Antonio Creek at Mt. Baldy is part of a vast network of headwaters that delivers water to millions of people living downstream.

San Antonio Creek at Mt. Baldy is part of a vast network of headwaters that delivers water to millions of people living downstream.

This area is where you can truly unplug and enjoy nature the way people have for centuries – by dipping your feet in the shallows of a cool stream.  It is important to caution your kids to watch where they step – the rocks are slippery and there are spiders by the waters edge (this is nature, not a water park so it’s important to respect it and be aware of your surroundings).

Hunter didn't want to leave.

Hunter didn’t want to leave.

Use commons sense when approaching the stream. If it looks too full or fast than simply enjoy it from the banks. However, when we got there it was shallow and slow enough to wade in.

Emily and Hunter were reluctant at first to step in – it is COLD. The water comes from snowmelt. After a couple of minutes, though, they became absorbed with looking for bugs and splashing each other. In fact, when it was time to go I could barely pull them away.

One thing that they were completely shocked to learn is that much of their drinking water actually comes from this stream and others like it in the area. If you live in the Santa Ana River’s watershed, chances are most of your water comes from this stream as well – and it is thoroughly cleaned and rigorously tested for safety before reaching your tap.

Hiking Options

Emily, Hunter, and I at the entrance to Ice house Canyon Trail.

Emily, Hunter, and I at the entrance to Ice house Canyon Trail.

The rangers at the nature center are happy to recommend age-appropriate hikes. For older kids of Emily and Hunter’s age (tweens & early teens), they recommended the Ice House Canyon Trail, which is really a series of options that you can cater to your kids needs & experience. Rangers recommend that kids be at least 10 years old, although they have seen some as young as 8 tackle it. One recommendation is to simply go along it as far as they can handle and then turn back.

When you arrive at the Nature Center to buy your parking pass, the rangers will be happy to give you directions. If you go on a weekend, make sure to arrive at the trailhead early, as parking is limited.

The hike to San Antonio Falls is an easier option for smaller kids. The ranger we spoke to said that she sees people with strollers on it all the time, as it is really more of a paved road than a hiking trail. The trailhead and parking area is near Snowcrest Lodge and the campgrounds of Manker Flats. The distance from the parking area to the falls in 0.6 miles with an elevation gain of 240 feet.

Let’s Eat!

Picnic Under the Pines

The Mt. Baldy Nature Center is a great place for a picnic in the cool shade of pine trees.

The Mt. Baldy Nature Center is a great place for a picnic in the cool shade of pine trees.

There are picnic areas all over Mount Baldy, and the nature center is a great place to inquire. If you can’t wait though, it is also an excellent place for a picnic. Emily, Hunter, and I ate in under the shade a gorgeous coulter pine while some very bold blue jays begged from nearby trunks.

For an easy picnic, stop for sandwiches at Claro’s Italian Market in Upland before heading up the mountain. They have a make-your-own sandwich option that lets you choose three different meats and one cheese. Meats and cheeses are both imported and domestic, from at least four types of turkey to hot capicola, the choices seem endless.

Mt. Baldy Lodge

Mt. Baldy LodgeFor a bit of rustic charm, visit the Mt. Baldy Lodge across the street from the nature center. Built sometime before the 1940s (no one really knows for sure) the little complex boasts a restaurant, bar, pool tables, and even cabins behind. Walk through the restaurant to find a cute patio garden for sunny days. While there is no kids menu, they have a kid-friendly selection and a staff willing to accommodate even the pickiest of eaters.

Buckhorn Lodge

Buckhorn LodgeSurrounded by vaulting mountains faces, the Buckhorn Lodge has opened its patio to Summer Outdoor Bar-B-Ques (weather dependent), complete with hamburgers, chicken, and giant hot dogs. Enjoy mountain views and the sound of San Antonio Creek as it passes by the building.

How to Get There

From the 210 Freeway, exit mountain Avenue in Upland and head north, toward the mountains. Follow Mountain Avenue as it curves toward the foothills. When you reach a T-intersection at the base of the foothills (with Euclid Avenue) turn left. Continue up the hill, passing a fire station until you reach another T-intersection, this time with Mt. Baldy Road – turn right and drive up the mountain until you reach Baldy Village. The Nature Center will be on you left.

Map Data: Google, County of San Bernardino, Digital Globe, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency

Map Data: Google, County of San Bernardino, Digital Globe, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency

About Kid-Approved Adventures

There are so many cool things to do with your kids in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to Huntington Beach, coving much of the Inland Empire and Orange County. One thing that these two regions share is a water supply – and if you live in the IE or the OC, most of your water comes from within this area.

Hunter, Emily, and I at a local park.

Hunter, Emily, and I at a local park.

The Santa Ana Watershed encompasses all of the best of SoCal living – the mountains, the desert, and the beach – and sightseeing locally is a great way to have fun with your kids without burning a ton of cash. We will visit many places in the IE and the OC together and all of it is “kid-approved” by them.

Mt. Baldy is part of the headwaters of the Santa Ana Watershed.

Mt. Baldy is part of the headwaters of the Santa Ana Watershed.

The Santa Ana River Trail was called the “longest and best” off-road cycling path in the Los Angeles area by LABikePaths.com. It winds for 40 miles along the Santa Ana River from Green River Canyon, where the river emerges from the San Bernardino Mountains to the ocean, between Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa. The Santa Ana River is the backbone of the Santa Ana Watershed, which encompasses much of the Inland Empire and Orange County and provides water to millions of people.

Hunter, Emily, and I pose for a picture on a bridge over a stream leading to the Santa Ana River (helmets are off for all stationary shots).

Hunter, Emily, and I pose for a picture on a bridge over a stream leading to the Santa Ana River (helmets are off for all stationary shots).

There are plenty of stretches of bike path to explore. We chose Riverside because there is a very long section with natural areas adjoining it. To learn more about the trail, how it came to be, and different access points, visit the Santa Ana River Trail’s website.

The Ride

DSCN0473

The bike trail follows the Santa Ana River.

Emily, Hunter, and I started our adventure in Riverside (named because the city sits next to the Santa Ana River), at the Carlson Bark Park, which is one of the easiest access points to the river trail in the area. It is a delightful dog park with plenty of parking at the foot of Mt. Rubidoux.

We cycled south, toward the ocean. The river itself is not easily spotted along this stretch. Instead, it feels more like we were biking next to a strip of grassland with plenty of beautiful, old trees.

The area in the riverbed is lush and green.

The area in the riverbed is lush and green.

Riverside itself is fairly dry, but the stretch near the river is a lush green landscape full of wildlife – chipmunks, squirrels, ducks, and other birds. The kids loved pulling over to see if they could spot animals in the grassland and wooded areas. We saw a couple of chipmunks and a pair of Mallard ducks in one of the small tributaries into the river. One thing that I learned on this outing is that kids don’t really need a lot of expensive stuff. They just want to go on an adventure and were both really excited to explore nature. This trip is a great way to bond with kids while keeping an eye on your pocketbook.

DSCN0456

Emily and Hunter were excited to spot plenty of wildlife.

Mt. Rubidoux is an excellent landmark on the way back. It is a granite hill that was named after wealthy landowner Louis Rubidoux and was developed in 1906 by Frank Miller, owner of the Mission Inn. At the top is an American flag and a cross dedicated to Father Serra (incidentally, the riverbed is awash with mustard plants attributed to Father Serra’s travels between missions as the Spanish settled California – making for an excellent chance to teach kids about California history). Roads leading up to the summit of Mt. Rubidoux were originally meant for cars, but the mountain was closed to vehicles in 1992 and now is a great place for hiking and biking with a view.

Lunch

There are many options for lunch in the area, but nothing beats a picnic in a park.

Rancho Jurupa Park

DSCN0405

Rancho Jurupa Park is great for a picnic and a chance to rest while the kids play.

Rancho Jurupa Park, just on the other side of the river from Carlson Bark Park, is an excellent choice. They do have a nominal charge for admission, but the park is packed full of amenities (such as bathrooms, barbeque pits, picnic tables, and playgrounds). If you and the kids need to cool off after a hot ride, there is a mini water park right next to the visitor’s center. The visitor’s center conveniently sells ice cream, snack foods, cold drinks…and fish bait! Also, if you still need to run off more energy, there is miniature golf and Frisbee golf for the family to enjoy.

For a More Comfortable Ride

As the weather heats up, the sun can be relentless. I would suggest going as early as you can all happily get out the door, and bring plenty of sunscreen. Also, water is a must, and you can fill a BPA-free reusable bottle full of ice and add tap water. The ice will melt as you ride, giving you plenty of cool water for the “road.”

Getting There

Carlson Park is near where the 60 Freeway meets the 91 Freeway. It is on Mission Inn Avenue and Scout Lane (which is really just the parking lot).

Riding Bikes in Riverside Map

Map Data: Google, County of San Bernardino, Data CSUMB SFML, CA OPC, Digital Globe, Landsat, U.S. Geological Survey, USDA Farm Service Agency

Kid-Approved Adventures

There are so many cool things to do with your kids in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to Huntington Beach, coving much of the Inland Empire and Orange County. One thing that these two regions share is a water supply – and if you live in the IE or the OC, most of your water comes from within this area.

DSCN0410The Santa Ana Watershed encompasses all of the best of SoCal living – the mountains, the desert, and the beach – and sightseeing locally is a great way to have fun with your kids without burning a ton of cash. We will visit many places in the IE and the OC together and all of it is “kid-approved” by them.

Want to explore more places in the watershed? Take a look at SAWPA’s map of things to do in the Santa Ana Watershed, which extends from Big Bear to the beach!

Recently, some interests have alleged that drinking water in different parts of the country contains unsafe levels of disinfection byproducts. Disinfection byproducts (DBPs) are compounds that can result from cleaning tap water and killing the bacteria and viruses that cause illnesses like typhoid and cholera.

Testing and disinfecting water has been credited as one of the major health advancements of the last century - leading to longer lifespans and lower child mortality rates. Photo credit: Ben Husmann

Testing and disinfecting water has been credited as one of the major health advancements of the last century – leading to longer lifespans and lower child mortality rates. Photo credit: Ben Husmann

Disinfecting water is critical to our health – it is partly responsible for our longer lifespans and for the decrease in child mortality in America over the past century. One hundred years ago, outbreaks of cholera, dysentery, and typhoid were common in U.S. cities, and disinfection technology was a major factor in eliminating them.[1] The World Health Organization and the U.S. Center for Disease Control credit water filtration and disinfection as one of the major advancements of the last century and people have been drinking water with disinfection byproducts for the past 90 years. DBPs are carefully monitored and limited by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Modern water disinfection has played a large role in virtually eliminating epidemics of diseases like typhoid and cholera, which were once common in American cities and still occur in some areas of the developing world.

Modern water disinfection has played a large role in virtually eliminating epidemics of diseases like typhoid and cholera, which were once common in American cities and still occur in some areas of the developing world.

While these interests allege that levels of disinfection byproducts are unsafe, the EPA sets strict limits on the amount of these compounds that water agencies are allowed to use. Every water agency, including our own local water agencies, must follow these rules. In fact, the EPA tightened those rules in recent years, and water agencies that serve our drinking water to our region meet those limits. All water agencies are required to test their water and report the results in an annual Consumer Confidence Report. The EPA posts links to all local Consumer Confidence Reports here.

A water agency’s first priority is the health and safety of everyone who drinks its water.

A water agency’s first priority is the health and safety of everyone who drinks its water.

Chlorine-based disinfection is particularly important because it protects water as it moves through pipes into our homes. While methods like UV light and ozonation effectively kill dangerous microbes and are often used for treatment of source water, chlorine-based disinfection is still widely used for its reliance in protecting water after it leaves the treatment plant from the local utility.[2]

Some organizations have asserted that better protecting source water would reduce the need to use chemicals like chlorine and chloramine to clean tap water. We support efforts to clean source water because it benefits us all. However, even the cleanest source water should be put through a treatment process to ensure that it is safe for us to drink. The filtration and disinfection processes that we use today have contributed greatly to eliminating epidemics like cholera and typhoid from the developed world. They have contributed to us all living longer and healthier lives.

If you would like to learn more about this issue in-depth, the folks at DrinkTap.org have an excellent article explaining the science involved.

Tap water is subjected to more rules and scrutiny than bottled water. All our local agencies meet EPA limits on disinfection byproducts. Photo Credit: Michael Pollak

Tap water is subjected to more rules and scrutiny than bottled water. All our local agencies meet EPA limits on disinfection byproducts. Photo Credit: Michael Pollak

Meet Allison Mackenzie, a woman with thirty years’ experience in water science. She works for Babcock Labs, the laboratory that tests water for Western Municipal Water District (and other clients throughout Southern California). Allison is a graduate of the University of California at Riverside and started with Babcock right out of school as a chemist doing various water tests. Today, she is the CEO of the company.

Allison has worked for Babcock Labs for 30 years. She has two daughters.

Allison has worked for Babcock Labs for 30 years. She has two daughters.

Question: Do you drink tap water yourself? Would you recommend that others do so?

Allison: Yes, I do. When I am asked for an opinion, I always advocate for tap water…it is a true bargain in this expensive world.

Q: Should people feel comfortable giving tap water to their kids?

A: I have two daughters and tap water is what we drink. I know how much the water in California is tested and the quality standards it must meet and I have always felt confident drinking our tap water and giving it to my family.

Q: What water do you test?

A: Our microbiology department provides testing for bacteria in the water on a daily basis. Testing for harmful bacteria is vitally important for ensuring the public health. Other chemical tests are also performed regularly on treated drinking water, raw source water, and wastewater—both untreated and treated.

Q: Who do you report your findings to?

A: The answer really depends on what kind of water and what the data is being used for. If we are testing drinking water, we report to the drinking water quality staff at water districts such as WMWD and these results are also given to the California Department of Public Health Drinking Water Branch engineers. If we are testing water from a waste reclamation plant, we are reporting to the sanitation engineers at the District’s facility and they also report the data to the local Regional Water Quality Control Board staff.

Tap water, groundwater, and waste water are tested daily and the results are reported to many different agencies on a regular basis. Photo credit: Ben Husmann

Tap water, groundwater, and waste water are tested daily and the results are reported to many different agencies on a regular basis. Photo credit: Ben Husmann

Q: It sounds like there are a lot of fail-safes – many organizations get the same water-quality data. Does this make the public any safer?

A: Well, of course I think the public is protected. It is in the water agency’s best interest to protect the public.

Q: What kind of rules and regulations do water companies have to follow to ensure that water is safe?

A: Water agencies follow very strict rules about monitoring water quality and reporting their findings. Drinking water tests are run frequently by the laboratory to ensure the water supply is safe and the public health is protected. If any dangerous bacteria are found, it is reported immediately by the water agency to the consumer and to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Normal results are reported to the water agency and the CDPH as frequently as daily, weekly and monthly. Normal results are sent to the consumer every year in the water district’s Consumer Confidence Report also called an Annual Water Quality Report. WMWD’s CCRs are available on line for anyone to read.

Q: So, to be clear, the law requires water agencies to immediately notify the public if something is wrong?

A: Yes, the water agency is required by law to notify the public if something is wrong.

EMWD Tour - Sample

Water agencies are required by law to immediately notify the public if something is wrong.

Q: Some environmental groups have suggested that drinking water is not safe. You and other people that work in the water business believe that the numbers they quote from are misleading. Could you explain why in your own words?

A: One environmental organization ran a story a couple of years ago that said that water in Riverside was some of the worst drinking water in America. The numbers that I have seen quoted as “higher than allowable levels” are NOT in our drinking water, they are in some groundwater that is either never used for drinking purposes, or groundwater before it is treated to remove the harmful chemical.

There are several sources that they used to suggest that the drinking water is not safe. Groundwater quality has been monitored and information collected for many, many years. The water quality databases have been created for use by various public health agencies, scientists, and researchers and the water quality data is a matter of public record. But when using the data stored in these databases, it is important to know whether it represents the drinking water in the tap or a groundwater source that is never used.

Q: In your opinion, why is it taking several years to come up with a regulated standard for hexavalent chromium at the state level? Is there an intentional delay, or does it actually take years to come up with a standard?

When setting the legal limit for a chemical, the State must take into account whether scientists can test for such a small amount. Modern machines like this one make testing such small amounts possible.

When setting the legal limit for a chemical, the State must take into account whether scientists can test for such a small amount. Modern machines like this one make testing such small amounts possible.

A: My only comments are that a regulatory standard should be based on sound science and a thoughtful, rigorous process. Politics and public opinion, while important considerations, are not substitutes for a methodical scientific approach. Everyone would like it to happen faster, but the reality is that it takes time to collect the data, evaluate the data, and to investigate all the pieces of the puzzle.

As it turns out, the EPA is about to start collecting data about hexavalent chromium in drinking water on a national level. Before it can be regulated on a national level, we must know how much of it is out there and where it is. To give you an idea of how long it can take, this project will last for six years. My lab will be working on it – I am proud to say that we are one of only a handful of labs that have been chosen to do so. The information from the this project, along with other health effects studies also under way, are part of that methodical scientific approach to setting an MCL for hexavalent chromium.

Q: There have been some questions about how toxic hexavalent chromium is. Could you tell us a bit about that?

A: We have known for a long time that hexavalent chromium causes cancer when inhaled, but there had been questions about whether or not it causes cancer when ingested through drinking. The acid in our stomachs actually turns hexavalent chromium (or chrom-6) into trivalent chromium (chrom-3), which can be beneficial to us. However, the question is, how much hexavalent chromium can we ingest without overwhelming our stomach acid? The point at which chrom-6 is toxic when ingested is likely to be associated with that level, and that is the question that scientists are trying to answer.

EMWD Tour - Michelle Karras 1

Legal limits on chemicals in water should be set through a methodical scientific process.

Q: Scientists at the California Department of Public Health have said that they had to establish a Public Health Goal for chrom-6 before they could establish a Maximum Contaminant Level. What is the difference between a public health goal and the actual regulated standard? Why is there a difference? 

A: The water we get from the tap has to be tested regularly to meet legal health requirements. Here in California the regulations are as strict, if not stricter, than the federal drinking water requirements. The regulations set Maximum Contaminant Levels, or MCLs, for a long list of chemicals so that the public will be protected. It is easy to find these MCLs and how your drinking water measures up on your annual consumer confidence report.

There are other numbers known as public health goals, or PHGs, that are non-regulatory. They are set using studies and statistics. Public Health Goals represent the amount of a chemical that does not pose a significant risk to public health over a lifetime of exposure. These numbers do not take into account whether or not scientists can detect the chemical at so low a level or whether or not the technology exists to remove that much of the chemical from water.

After a Public Health Goal is set, scientists use it to set the MCL, or the level of purity that water companies must meet on a regular basis. State law requires that an MCL should be set as close to the Public Health Goal as possible. At this point, though, scientists must take into account practical concerns like whether or not technology exists to remove trace amounts of the chemical. That is why the two are very different.

Q: Thank you Allison, we appreciate your time.

A: My pleasure. 

You can learn more about Babcock Labs and what they do on their Facebook Page.

Let’s face it – when kids get thirsty, the first thing they reach for is soda and juice. Unfortunately, those are packed full of sugar, which can cause health problems like obesity and diabetes. California’s “First 5” recommends water and milk as the best choices kids can make. Here are five ways to get them to make that choice happily.

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Diet is important for keeping kids healthy, but too often we forget that what they drink is just as important as what they eat. Photo Credit: Erik Hersman

Putting water in the fridge makes it a visible option for kids.

Putting water in the fridge makes it a visible option for kids.

1) Chill It – Put tap water in a pitcher and put it in the refrigerator, right next to the milk. We chill just about every other drink – why not water? It will also give kids a visible option when they open the fridge.

Chilling water can also make it taste better to your kids. The colder a drink is, the less we taste it, and we tend to like water to taste crisp and fresh.

Restaurants "dress up" tap water to make it more chic.

Restaurants “dress up” tap water to make it more chic.

2) Dress It Up for Dinner – Hip restaurants are now serving tap water in vintage looking glass bottles. It makes the water look more special and desirable. If you have older kids, buy a cute glass bottle, fill it with tap water, and put it on the table for dinner. You may find them reaching for it themselves! While little ones and glass don’t mix, a fun plastic pitcher might be just the thing – even have them help pick one out for the family.

Food companies are masters at packaging. All the fun colors and pictures are a part of what makes sugary soda and juice look so desirable. By putting  water in cute bottles or their favorite Mickey glass, you are doing the same thing – and encouraging healthy habits.

Fizzy is fun! Photo Credit: d_pham

Fizzy is fun! Photo Credit: d_pham

3) Make It Fizzy – Soda is fun because it’s fizzy, and water can be too! While you can purchase bottled sparkling water, that option can get quite expensive. Another solution is to buy a carbonator like Soda Stream, which lets you add carbonation to water. Usually, they sell it as a way to make your own soda cheaper, but by skipping the step of adding soda syrup, so can make as much sparkling water as your heart desires at a fraction of the cost.

Carbonators available on the market:

(Note: Listing a carbonator in this article does not suggest an endorsement)

“Having the Fizz Without the Guilt” by Marion Burros of The New York Times which ran in October of 2007

Soda Stream from Bed Bath & Beyond

Do you know of any other carbonation machines? Please let us know about them in the comments section below!

Set the example! Photo Credit: eyeliam

Set the example! Photo Credit: eyeliam

4) Set the Example – We all know that kids will do what we do, not just what we say. Make sure that you choose water for yourself! If you are not ready to kick the soda and juice habit altogether, try having a glass of water with any other drink at meals and encourage (or require) your kids to do the same. You may all benefit – especially since water helps with weight loss by filling you up without any extra calories (meaning you may eat less).

Skip soda, limit portions, or serve only for special occaisions. Photo Credit - nicoleec

Skip soda, limit portions, or serve only for special occaisions. Photo Credit – nicoleec

5) Out of Sight, Out of Mind – Like adults, kids reach for whatever is available. Remove sugary temptations from the fridge. If you are not wanting to eliminate them, then set boundaries by making soda and juice something for a special occasion, like the weekends or as a reward for good behavior or good grades. Sometimes, banning things outright makes kids only want them more, so simply limiting access may be the way to go. You can control portions by opting for cans – big or small – over two liter bottles, and chilling only a certain amount (say, they are allowed three per week, whenever they choose). Each Sunday, you put three sodas in the fridge for each kid and that’s all they get until the next Sunday. Write their names on the cans to prevent any misunderstandings or disagreements.

One last thought: Another benefit to switching from soda and juice to water is that it saves money – as long as you don’t fall into the bottled water trap. The United States has some of the safest tap water in the world, and the laws regulating the safety of tap water are much more strict than those for bottled. In fact, many bottled water brands simply bottle tap water and sell it to you at more than 1,000 times the price. So tap is the cheapest and best option for your family.

MSN Living knows that conserving water conserves your cash. In an article on saving money in the New Year, titled “100 Ways to Save Money in 2013,” they mention water five times. Thanks for being a partner in water conservation, MSN!

Brushing Teeth - Photo Credit - Dominic Sayers

It’s never too early to learn good habits! Photo Credit: Dominic Sayers

#6: Turn off the Tap When Brushing Your Teeth

We’ve all heard it a million times, but MSN gets to the point fast: “The reasons are two-fold: conservation and cost-effectiveness.” They couldn’t be more right. We are all supposed to brush our teeth for two minutes, morning and night. According to MSN’s math, that adds up to “eight gallons of water a day, and over 2,900 gallons a year. The money will flood in when you turn off the faucet. (Not literally.)”

#9: Use Cold Water to Wash the Laundry

Photo Credit: Sean Freese

Photo Credit: Sean Freese

While using cold water does not necessarily save water, it saves the energy you would use to heat the water. Plus, washing dark clothes in cold water means the colors are less likely to bleed. MSN notes that washing laundry in hot water costs 68 cents per load whereas washing it in cold water costs only 4 cents per load. When you consider how much laundry the average family does each year, the savings are exponential.

Photo Credit: Liz West

Photo Credit: Liz West

#11: Skip the Bottled Water

Most bottled water comes from the same place as your tap water, all you pay for is the marketing. We forget that most people laughed when bottled water was first introduced into the marketplace – now we spend $15 billion a year on it, with the average person buying 167 bottles a year (according to MSN). That’s a lot of water you could have gotten for less than 2 cents a gallon.

Photo Credit: Pedro Reyna

Photo Credit: Pedro Reyna

#57: Use Your Dishwasher

We know it can be confusing – is it greener to use the dishwasher or to wash it by hand? As long as the dishwasher is full, you are good to go – especially if the chore of hand washing falls to a less-than-happy kid who is not looking for ways to save on your water bill.

 

Photo Credit: The Italian Voice

Photo Credit: The Italian Voice

#64: Wash Your Hair Every Other Day

Okay, the grunge look is over, and that is not what we’re suggesting. Some types of hair actually do better when washed less often. Shampoos can strip your hair of natural oil it needs to be healthy. Plus, constant blow-drying and styling can further damage your hair. So, with a shorter shower and all that styling avoided, you may find yourself with a little extra time to sleep in every other morning.

To hear the other 95 money-saving tips that MSN Living offers up for the New Year, follow this link: http://living.msn.com/life-inspired/100-ways-to-save-money-in-2013

This excellent video from Curiosity Quest explores how local water companies right here in Southern California make sure we all have clean, fresh water every day. It covers where our water comes from, how it is stored, and how it gets to our homes. It was created in response to a young girl named Fern from Pomona, California, who asked what would happen if people keep wasting Earth’s natural resources, like water.

The Water Education and Water Awareness Committee (WEWAC) partnered with the show’s producers to make this episode happen. The committee is a partnership between the following water agencies: the cities of Chino, Chino Hills, Glendora, La Verne, Pomona and Upland, the Cucamonga Valley Water District, Fontana Water Company, inland Empire Utilities Agency, Monte Vista Water District, Ontario Municipal Utilities Company, Rowland Water District, and Three Valleys Water District. To learn more about that partnership and about water conservation, go to usewaterwisely.com

Amy’s five kids with their baby cousin.

Keeping hydrated is more and more important as the summer heats up. While sugary soda and juice abound, kids may not be as enthusiastic as they should about drinking just plain water. Still, it’s important that they do so that they can stay hydrated without unnecessary sugar, which can lead to diseases like diabetes – not to mention exhausting sugar highs.

For tips on getting kids to choose water, we sat down with mother-of-five Amy Moreno:

Q: So, how do you get your kids to drink water over sugary stuff?

A: Well, I think the biggest thing to do is set an example. They want to drink what I’m drinking – a lot of times out of my glass. So if I’m drinking water, they are too.

Q: What about when they have their own cups?

A: They like to drink water cold, with plenty of ice. Most adults like it better that way too, so why should kids be any different? Especially when it’s hot outside.

Q: How do you get them to choose water at dinnertime?

A: Don’t forget to list it as an option!

We’ve also heard from a parent who gives their kids a choice between soda and desert (which makes sense, considering the amount of sugar can be the same). That also teaches kids to think about the two as having similar amounts of sugar, so that they can develop good habits as grow up.