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

Hunter and Emily play in the snow for the first time!

Hunter and Emily play in the snow for the first time!

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. I took my niece Emily (10) and nephew Hunter (11) t0 “kid-test” the best, and cheapest, places in Mount Baldy for fun snow day on a family budget.

Snow Day – Cali-Style

The flats near Snow Crest Lodge are a popular - and wallet friendly - destination.

The flats near Snow Crest Lodge are a popular – and wallet friendly – destination.

One of the best parts about living in SoCal is that we can enjoy mostly sunny warm weather and the drive to our snowy mountains for a day of fun, without the work of shoveling out our cars in our own driveways. If Big Bear is too much of a drive for a short day-trip, you might want to try Mount Baldy for an easier day in the snow. It is a short drive from the 210 Freeway (Mountain Avenue Exit). Be sure to check the snow report here to make sure that there’s enough white stuff on the ground when you arrive.

On the weekend after a cold storm, you have several options. The cheapest of them is to stop near Snow Crest Lodge. It’s 4 miles past Baldy Village and the village’s Ranger Station. Right across from Snow Crest Lodge is a large camping area that is full of families playing in the snow during the winter. I have only seen snow at 2-3” deep there, but it’s enough for sledding, snow-fights, and making snowmen.

Directions: Mt. Baldy has one road in and out, so it’s difficult to get lost. The main fork to be watch for leads off to Ice House Canyon – you don’t want to go that way, you want to go toward the ski lifts and stop at Snow Crest Lodge. Warning: you will have to find parking along the road, which can be difficult as that play area is extremely popular. If the snow is extremely deep, the Ice House Canyon fork is the place they stop you to check for chains on your tires.

Deep Snow

Emily waives as we ride up Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts.

Emily waives as we ride up Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts.

Getting to deep snow requires more of a monetary investment, but it was the highlight of the day for Emily and Hunter, who had never seen more than a dusting of snow in person. For that, drive to Mt. Baldy Ski Lifts, which is as far as you can drive up the mountain. Parking in the winter is $5, but the lot contains lots of space. From there, take the ski lifts (or “Scenic Ride”) to the skiing area. The ride was Hunter’s second-favorite part of the day. The ski-lifts are the old-fashioned kind, a two-person chair attached to the lift (be sure to pull the safety bar down – they don’t do it for you!). But the result is a nice slow glide up the mountain, skimming past trees and snowy cliffs. It takes 15-20 minutes on average. One benefit of the ride is that it gave me a chance to sit and talk with Hunter – there was no TV or cell phone to distract him.

Hunter makes a snow angel.

Hunter makes a snow angel.

Once we got to the top, the snow was a nice, thick blanket. The top of the lift has a cafeteria (The Notch), a ski school, a tubing park, and more lifts. There is a snowy bank right next to a second ski lift that was perfect for playing. This was the best part of the day. From Emily: “I loved it when we stepped in the snow and it went all the way up to my knees!” It was like someone flipped a switch – the two of them ran into the snow, flopped down, and started making snow angels. Then, forget about actually making snowballs for a fight, they just started flinging snow at each other (and their two uncles who accompanied us). Fair warning: moms wanting to avoid sibling fights might want to set sports-style rules about where one can aim a snow missile. Eyes and other sensitive areas should be avoided. All of us worked to learn how to make a snowman, which was “accidentally” destroyed before we could get a picture of it.

Tubing Park

Emily flies down the hill at the Tubing Park.

Emily flies down the hill at the Tubing Park.

The tubing park is an option once you get up to the ski area. The kids thought it was fun, the deep snow was still their favorite part. The tubing park kind of resembles a skating park in that there you slide down and incline and immediately up another (that stops you, and you get up and drag the tube back up the hill). An attendant will load your little one into an inner tube and, using a large tether, swing or spin them over the edge. There are lanes separating each rider, so there is no chance of them running into another rider in another lane. Adults are allowed to go too, and adults must ride with kids under 42” tall.

Hunter thought climbing back up the hill was just hard enough to be good exercise. I have to say, he’s right. It wasn’t difficult, but it was a pretty good workout.

Food

The Notch is the only place to get food at the top of the lifts.

The Notch is the only place to get food at the top of the lifts.

If you want to eat at the top of the ski-lift, there is only one option – The Notch. Hamburgers, hot dogs, nachos, chili, burritos, and pizza are your basic choices. Emily enjoyed her burrito, and their Uncle Mike, who is my brother-in-law, liked his cheese pizza. However, the food was a tad pricey, perhaps a reflection of the difficulty of running food service in such a remote area.

If you want to save money or eat healthier food, your best bet is a “car picnic” once you get down the ski-lifts. You can make sandwiches at home and put hot soup in thermoses. Put coffee and hot chocolate in spill-proof insulated mugs, and you can warm up easily. Shed layers and put them in your trunk before you climbing into your car. Once you get the kiddies in, put beach towels over their laps and let them dig in. Also, save your car by lining the seats and the floor with beach towels for wet feet and wet pants.

Layer-Up

Snow clothes can be expensive, and not something you’d want to invest in for such infrequent trips with growing children. The good news is that you don’t have to plunk down a lot of money to stay comfortable in the snow. Here’s how to adapt Cali-clothes for cold days out:

DSCN0281For girls: put a tank top or cami under a long-sleeved t-shirt, think about putting tights on under jeans. If you have a raincoat, you are golden, layer it over a sweatshirt. If not, Emily did well with two hoodies.   If your girl has water-proof boots, choose that option. Emily’s boots were not water proof, and her feet got soaked. If I had really thought it through, I might have cut the corners off of a garbage bag and taped that over her socks but under the shoes to keep her feet dry. Hats and gloves, even knit ones, are a big bonus.

DSCN0241For boys: put a long sleeved shirt under a short-sleeved shirt. If he has a raincoat, layer it over a sweatshirt. If not, use more sweatshirts. Jeans should be fine as well. I’m sure I don’t have to point out that the chances of getting a boy into tights is zero, and the extra warmth would not be anywhere worth the complaining (or the teasing from my husband). Also, if guys have hiking or construction-type boots, those are your best bet. Hunter just had tennis shoes, and while his feet looked wet, he did not complain. Hats and gloves are a big bonus too, even if the hat is just a ball cap.

For women: I wore casual knee-high boots that I’m not overly attached to and probably came out the best of the bunch. I wore jeans with thick socks, a sweater and cami, and a raincoat. I had knit gloves and a knit hat.

For men: undershirt, long sleeved shirt, sweater or sweatshirt, then jacket (waterproof if possible). Jeans are fine, and try to find some waterproof shoes.

Our Trip to the Headwaters

Emily wanted to bring some snow home, but it all reaches our homes eventually because much of our water comes from local snowmelt.

Emily wanted to bring some snow home, but it all reaches our homes eventually because some of our water comes from local snowmelt.

Hunter was fascinated to learn that all this snow is where more than half of the water he drinks and uses comes from. Snow basically acts like a reservoir, holding water for us until it melts. When it does melt, it runs down the mountain in streams and turns into rivers – the biggest being the Santa Ana River. In the IE and the OC, we “bank” a lot of our water in natural underground aquifers and keep it for dry summers and dry years. When we pump it out, we filter and clean it before sending it to your house, but what you get is basically the snow and rain of years past, made fresh again. Hunter kept pointing out melting snow, and on the way down the mountain, I showed him the very start of headwaters – a giant sinuous ditch that still remains frozen at this time of year.

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.

Emily, Hunter, and I at Huntington Beach, where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean.

Emily, Hunter, and I at Huntington Beach, where the Santa Ana River meets the Pacific Ocean.

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.

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!

An Interview with OCWD’s Jason Dadakis

Imagine waking up one morning, stumbling into the bathroom half asleep, turning on the tap to brush your teeth, and out comes seawater. Proximity to the Pacific is one of the perks of living in Orange County, but barring some bizarre decorating craze of the future, no one wants ocean water pumped into their bathroom.

Jason Dadakis is part of the team at OCWD that protects our groundwater.

Jason Dadakis is part of the team at OCWD that protects our groundwater.

How might that happen? Underneath the northern two thirds of Orange County lies a vast underground reservoir called an aquifer that supplies about 70% of the water the area drinks and uses every day. It’s under constant pressure from the ocean and a number of other threats. It is a treasure beneath our feet – one that has made Orange County and the SoCal lifestyle we enjoy here possible. The agency in charge of protecting that water so that we can use it is the Orange County Water District (or OCWD).

OCWD’s Director of Health and Regulatory Affairs, Jason Dadakis, works on projects that ensure that water in the aquifer is clean and safe for us to drink. He works with staff at OCWD’s Advanced Water Quality Assurance Laboratory (AWQAL) that are responsible for testing the quality of local groundwater supplies. Dadakis lives in Fountain Valley with his wife and two young daughters.

SoCalTap: Your house gets the water you test every day – do you and your family drink tap water at home?

Jason Dadakis: Yes! It’s safe to drink.

OCWD tests over 20,000 samples a year.

OCWD tests over 20,000 samples a year.

SCT: What do you do to make sure that it is so safe?

JD: Here in OCWD’s AWQAL facility, we test water daily to make sure that it meets the water quality standards set by the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. EPA.  We analyze over 20,000 samples a year and report more than 400,000 results to those agencies. Added to that, we are going “above and beyond” to monitor for elements and chemicals that are not (yet) included in those standards.

SCT: What types of chemicals are they?

JD:  Many of them are things we use regularly in our modern daily lives that eventually enter the environment.  They include pharmaceuticals, personal care products, flame retardants, artificial sweeteners, and even herbicides.

SCT: Why are we just finding out about many of these issues now?

JD: They show up in very small “trace” amounts. We only recently developed the technology to reliably identify chemicals and compounds at those very low levels. For example, we can find an element equivalent to a single drop in 20 Olympic sized swimming pools – in scientific terms, that is “parts per trillion.” We can even go smaller and find parts per quadrillion in some cases.

Water Samples in Machine

New technology is allowing us to find smaller and smaller traces of elements in our water. OCWD is proactive in monitoring these elements to ensure public safety.

SCT: How are you addressing this issue?

JD: Locally, we are working with other agencies in the Santa Ana Watershed on an Emerging Constituent Task Force. In the world of water, an emerging constituent is an element that is newly detectable, but not currently regulated.

Our goal is to be proactive in maintaining the safety of the public, so we are continuing to go beyond what’s required of us to know what’s in the groundwater we manage.

SCT: What does OCWD do to protect the groundwater basin as a whole?

JD: We manage the Orange County groundwater basin to maintain and improve it as a sustainable local water supply. You can think of the groundwater basin like a bank account. Over the long term, we have to make sure that replenishment balances what the well owners pump out.

The groundwater basin is like a bank account. We need to deposit what we withdraw. Credt: Irwandy Mazwir, Flickr Creative Commons, cropped.

The groundwater basin is like a bank account. We need to deposit what we withdraw. Credit: Irwandy Mazwir, Flickr Creative Commons, cropped.

SCT: Why have an agency looking over it? Was there ever a time when people were pulling too much out?

JD: When Orange County was largely farmland, farmers were pumping water out of wells to water their crops. In the 1930s, the coastal areas started pulling out saltwater instead of freshwater. The pressure in the aquifer had been so reduced by the pumping that water from the ocean was seeping in. This was one of many water management issues facing the community when OCWD was created in 1933.  The District’s activities evolved to overtime include monitoring the aquifer water quality and storage levels, as well as providing additional replenishment to ensure that there were sufficient “water deposits” instead of just “water withdrawals.”

SCT: Why is the aquifer so important?

Venice lost elevation largely due to over-pumping their aquifer. Credit: Roberto Trm, Flickr Creative Commons

Venice lost elevation largely due to over-pumping their aquifer. Credit: Roberto Trm, Flickr Creative Commons

JD: The ground is a reliable place to store water in Orange County. There is little room in a developed urban setting like this to build a surface reservoir. We are lucky to have the geology beneath our feet to store water. If the groundwater basin were to be continuously overdrawn it could cause our land to sink, in turn causing damage to buildings and roads.  Additionally, we could lose the storage space permanently.

SCT: Has that ever happened to a city?

JD: Yes, the city of Venice in Italy is one example. They started pumping groundwater for industrial uses in the 1930s and by the ‘70s Venice started sinking. There are other contributing factors, of course, but pumping out too much groundwater has been shown to cause the land to sink. That’s particularly unfortunate for Venice, considering that it is already barely above sea level, especially with current projections for sea level rise in the future.

SCT: So obviously, replenishing the groundwater basin is important. How does OCWD put water into the ground?

JD: Historically, OCWD has relied on diverting the Santa Ana River into spreading ponds located in Anaheim and the City of Orange. Around the 1950s, we began purchasing imported water from the Colorado River, put it in spreading ponds, and let it sink into the ground. The imported water available for replenishment has become much more limited and more expensive recently, so we currently purchase less and rely more heavily on water from the Santa Ana River and on our Groundwater Replenishment System project that produces advanced purified water that meets or exceeds drinking water standards

SCT: What’s the cost difference between imported water and local ground water?

JD: Groundwater is roughly one-third the cost of imported water. So the more groundwater our local cities can pump from the basin the greater the savings. By comparison, customers in areas that are heavily dependent on imported water pay much higher rates for their drinking water.

SCT: What is your overall goal?

JD: Our overall goal is to provide a safe and reliable source of groundwater at a reasonable cost and in a transparent manner. That encompasses everything we do, from our thorough testing of our groundwater to our Groundwater Replenishment System, which provides a secure supply of water at a reasonable cost.

SCT: Thank you for your time, Jason.

JD: You’re welcome!

Do you want to introduce your kids to nature? We live in one of the most populated regions in the United States, so sometimes it’s nice to get away from it all and experience the mountains, or “Southern California’s backyard.” For a day trip to a quieter place where you can be immersed in the trees and the sound of lapping water on the lake, try Big Bear Lake’s less populated North Shore.

DSCN1372-2

Big Bear Lake was originally created to provide water for farming. Now it provides water for residents of the Santa Ana Watershed – in the Inland Empire and Orange County.

Big Bear Lake was originally created to capture and provide water to farmers in the Inland Empire. Now it is part of a system that provides water for millions of people living in the Santa Ana Watershed, including the Inland Empire and Orange County.

I took my niece Emily (10) and nephew Hunter (11) to “kid test” these attractions. They are both born and bred city kids and were a bit skeptical of hiking, but once we got out on the trail they noticed enough of the nuances of nature to fascinate them for hours. We went hiking and kayaking – which was a big hit on a little budget!

Hiking

DSCN1291Your day should start at the Big Bear Discovery Center, which is run in part by the U.S. Forest Service. There, you can buy an Adventure Pass for the day ($5) or the year ($30). It will allow you to park at certain trailheads. The rangers there can suggest hikes that will be appropriate for your kids’ age and ability level. The two they suggested for us were the Woodland Trail a mile down the road and the Cougar Crest Trail that can be accessed right from the Discovery Center’s parking lot (although it does have it’s own parking lot requiring an Adventure pass nearby).

Woodland Trail

The Woodland Trail is a 1.5 mile loop with an educational opportunity. There are numbers at specific spots along the trail that correspond to sections in a pamphlet guide you can pick up at the Discovery Center. You also need to buy an Adventure Pass to park in the parking lot. You and your kids can see a juniper tree that is 1,500 years old, the crazily-constructed home of a real-life “packrat” (proper name: Woodrat), and the highest peak in Southern California, Mt. Gorgonio, which rises to 11,499 feet!

Cougar Crest Trail

The Cougar Crest Trail links Big Bear Lake to the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which closely follows the highest portions of the Sierra Nevada and Cascade Mountain ranges, all the way from Mexico to Canada (it’s the West Coast counterpart of the famed Appalachian Trail).

DSCN1284

The Cougar Crest is approximately 5.5 miles round trip. It starts out rather easily and gets steeper as you go up. You can always start the trail and go until your kids get tired, which is what we did. In the beginning, Emily and Hunter were kind of wondering what the big deal was, but as we made our way through, here is a list of things that started to fascinate them:

–        The twisting red bark of a juniper tree

–        Blue jays flying from branch to branch

–        A lizard in the process of shedding its skin

–        A decaying log with lots of creepy-crawlies inside

–        A recently felled tree where they could see the branches and leaves up close

–        Bright green moss on branches

–        Pink quartz

–        Dry riverbeds, which carry snowmelt down to the lake, and to all of our taps, come spring

Can you believe this is in Southern California?

Can you believe this is in Southern California?

Kayaking

There are two marinas on the North Shore: the Lighthouse Trailer Resort & Marina near the Solar Observatory and Captain John’s Marina at Fawn Harbor on Grout Bay.

DSCN1334

Here’s a note about kayaking in Big Bear: you are not allowed to go out into the middle of the lake, as that area is reserved for motorized boats. For your own safety, you need to stay behind the buoys that say “5 mph.” That means that you can travel much farther by kayak if you go to a marina on the south shore of the lake. The North Shore, however, can be good for beginners with small arms who may not be able to travel very far and are just trying to get the hang of turning. It’s a bit like learning to drive in an empty parking lot.

Kayaking was definitely the kids’ favorite part of the day. Neither of them had ever tried to propel and type of small boat, and they were extremely excited. They loved getting to choose where we would paddle and they loved just being on the water. Me, I enjoyed the serenity of the views.

Hunter 3Rental Rates

Each marina has many different types of boats to rent, so for more complete pricing information, follow the links below.

Lighthouse Marina: Double Kayak – $25/hr

Captain John’s at Fawn Harbor: Any Kayak – $20/hr

Lunch

Big Bear is a great place for a picnic, and the folks at the Discovery Center will happily provide you with a map that will lead you to some favorite spots. There are spots to eat at Captain John’s and the Grout Bay Picnic Area is just a short drive away across Grout Bay.  The Meadows Edge Picnic Area is on North Shore Lane, which is close to the Alpine Pedal Path and the Lighthouse Marina.

DSCN1325

If you want some local flavor, try the North Shore Café. It is a cute place in the tiny settlement of Fawnskin on Grout Bay that serves the basics with a twist – there are more types of burgers than you think you’d get on a mountain. There is also a full beverage menu to ease any aching muscles from hiking. They have a kids menu too. They have a commitment to healthy eating and serve no deep fried foods, so while the kids were somewhat disappointed when they did not get French fries, I wasn’t terribly broken up about it.

Santa Ana Watershed Map - Big Bear

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.

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.

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!

Hexavalent chromium, better known as chrom-6, became infamous as a cancer-causing chemical in the movie Erin Brokovich. The movie followed the true story of the residents of Hinkley, California, who became ill with many different types of cancers after the town’s water supply became contaminated with chrom-6. The contamination came from a Pacific Gas & Electric plant, which had been using chrom-6 to prevent their pipes from corroding. That is perhaps the reason that the mention of this chemical in groundwater can be so frightening.

Photo Credit - Ben Husmann, Flickr Creative Commons

Photo Credit – Ben Husmann, Flickr Creative Commons

Even so, it is crucial that we rely on science when determining how the chrom-6 will be regulated in California. The contamination found in Hinkley was around 2,000 ppb (parts per billion), which is exponentially higher than natural levels of chrom-6 found in water supplies throughout the state.

Too High, Too Low, or Just Right?

California just became the first state in the U.S. to propose an enforceable Maximum Contaminant Level (MCL) standard to limit the amount of chrom-6 in drinking water. Right now, it is just a proposed standard, and the public is invited to comment on it.

Olympic Pool 2

Some people believe that the proposed standard of 10 ppb (the equivalent of 10 drops of water in an Olympic sized pool) is too stringent. They argue that a 10 ppb level will not reduce the risk of illness much beyond a more lenient standard, and that it will be too expensive for water districts to treat to 10 ppb. They point out that the higher cost of treatment will be passed on to consumers in higher water bills.

Other critics contend that a limit of 10 ppb is not strict enough, citing California’s previously published Public Health Goal of 0.02 ppb, which is much lower.

What is truly important, however, is that the final MCL is based on the best available  science.

Why is the Proposed MCL Higher than the Public Health Goal?

California’s Public Health Goal (PHG) for chrom-6 is 0.02 parts per billion. A PHG is not an actual enforceable standard of safety; instead, it is a starting point for creating that standard.

EMWD Tour - Sample

PHGs are almost always much lower than the regulated standard for any substance. PHGs are simply a “best case scenario,” or what researchers might like to see if water agencies weren’t hampered by any real-world restrictions. They are found using statistics. The process does not take into account whether or not scientists can identify the PHG level in a water sample, or whether it is technologically possible to treat water to that level.

In the case of chrom-6, the PHG of 0.02 ppb is lower than the lowest amount of the substance that scientists can reliably detect in water using most standard lab methods, which is 1 part per billion. As a practical matter, it is difficult, if not impossible to hold water agencies accountable for so low a level of chrom-6.

If We Know Chrom-6 is Toxic, Why Are We Arguing Over a Standard?

We have known for a long time that chrom-6 causes cancer when inhaled, but have been unsure about whether or not it causes cancer when ingested (meaning when people drink water that has chrom-6 in it). The reason for that uncertainty is that when chrom-6 reaches our stomachs, our stomach acid actually turns it into chrom-3 (or trivalent chromium) which is beneficial to us. Our stomachs protect us from getting sick from it.

Water Lab

However, a 2008 study with lab animals showed that if given enough hexavalent chromium, the stomach can become overwhelmed and fail to convert all of the chrom-6 into chrom-3. The animals were given water that was so full of chrom-6 that it was yellow, and at that point, they did develop cancer. The question is, at what point does the stomach become overwhelmed and drinking water with chrom-6 become dangerous to humans?

What Happens Next?

We have not yet reached the end of the public comment period for this standard and we will not know what the final result is until the end of the year or perhaps the beginning of 2014. However, we strongly believe that the final regulated standard should be based on sound science so that we can best protect our families and communities by ensuring that we deliver safe, reliable water into the future.

A Remote Control for Your Sprinklers

Did you know that between 50% and 70% of the water you use may be going to water your lawn? And that, additionally, you may be over-watering your lawn? According to the EPA, most people overwater their lawn – which causes it to be unhealthy in addition to wasting water.

The number-one reason people overwater their lawn is because sprinkler controllers are notoriously difficult to understand – and even to reach behind mounds of stuff in a dirty and hot garage. A new product called WaterDex circumvents the difficulty of reaching and understanding your controller by giving you a remote control that can be used anywhere in the house.

WerDex3

WaterDex allows you to control your sprinklers from inside your home.

WaterDex owners can adjust their sprinkler setting by going onto the company’s website to look up their region’s index number, a set percent their sprinkler system should be watering. Customers then set that percent with a wireless remote and let the sprinkler system do the rest. It is something that can be done as often or as seldom as one likes. WaterDex owners can even sign up to receive email notifications of their region’s index.

“WaterDex not only has the ability to help consumers reduce their water bills, but if enough people use the product it could significantly reduce water waste at a time when water agencies across the country face frightening water shortages and consumers are realizing dramatic increases in the cost of water,” says Matt Davenport, owner of Rockrose Technology, the company that invented WaterDex. Rockrose is a local company based in Irvine.

WaterDex8

Watering gardens and landscapes likely accounts for between 50% and 70% of your water bill.

Water agencies have long been promoting smart controllers, which interpret weather data from local stations automatically, but those require replacing the controller system itself, which can be something a consumer is not ready to do. According to Rockrose Technology, WaterDex is a simpler and cheaper option. It also has “toy value” for the gadget-obsessed.

You can find WaterDex at Lowes or go to their website at http://www.WaterDex.com.

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

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