Newport Beach is a bustling beach town in idyllic southern California. It satisfies the TV stereotypes associated with living life in the “OC” (Orange County). Large homes, expensive cars, high-end shopping malls, surfboards, flip flops, shorts, and scantily clad suntans on Pacific Coast Highway really do exist. Newport Beach is also the last stop before urban water runoff hits the ocean. Newport Beach, like other oceanside cities, has to pay attention to what travels through its city streets on its way to the ocean. Like many cities nationwide, it works tirelessly to educate residents about water conservation and how water use (and misuse) impacts the environment. The city does a really good job delivering its message. How do they do it? They have a high-energy, forward-thinking Water Conservation Coordinator.
Shane Burckle has been the city’s Water Conservation Coordinator for over 2.5 years. As the year-round coordinator of this program, he creates outreach programs for Newport Beach and partners with interest groups to create public service announcements and special events such as the WaterMiser Workshop. The goal of the WaterMiser Workshop is to encourage Newport Beach residents to use native plants or “California Friendly” plants in their home gardens. To make this transition as easy as possible, renowned nursery Rogers Gardens provides the plants and the guidance necessary to help residents with their new approach to gardening. The WaterMiser event allows residents to learn about conservation from guest speakers and to connect with vendors specializing in products such as water harvesting tools, smart sprinkler systems, and how to wash your car without water. The first WaterMiser Workshop was held in 2009 and it was a huge success. Eighty people sent in RSVPs and 200 people showed up. This year, 120 people accepted the city’s invitation.
The city’s outreach programs also include:
- A WaterMiser Video filmed bimonthly and streamed on to the water district’s website at www.WaterSmartNewport.org.
- Public service announcements that are played in all Newport Beach movie theaters.
- Water Innovation Now, a program created in conjunction with the Orange County Department of Education challenging K-12 students to create solutions addressing the Earth’s water crisis. Students are required to present their solution in a digital presentation.
- Leaders in Environmental Action Films (LEAF) is a program targeted towards high school students challenging them to create 30-60 second “ecommercials” to raise environmental awareness about a topic of their choice.
- The creation of a demonstration garden at city hall to enable residents to see water conservation principles applied to an urban landscape. The demonstration garden will be completed in 2012.
The city of Newport Beach serves 30,000 homes and approximately 50,000 people. As a municipal water provider that is run and managed by the city’s own Utilities department, the city functions independently from the Municipal Water District (MWD). Years ago, the city invested in ground water basins and this enables the city to use a ground water system. This makes the city less dependent on the MWD. It used to be that 78% of the water provided to Newport Beach residents came from the ground. However, now this amount has dropped to 63% because of ongoing drought conditions. Managing water use for 50,000 people with 50,000 different opinions about water conservation is a difficult task. You know what they say about bringing a horse to water.
Fortunately, the Newport Beach water district has made a plethora of educational resources available to residents. The district’s website contains tools for educators, programs for children, and many resources to encourage residents to look beyond their front door to see how the water crisis in southern California is really a worldwide water crisis. Burckle has observed that people don’t know how to conserve water and therefore do not bother to do it. The information in the Resources section of the city’s website is a step towards eliminating these barriers to action.
Question for EE Week Readers:
What do you do to conserve water on a daily basis?
(Readers: You are invited to comment on any question presented to you this week. Look for questions at the end of most articles.)
Publisher Comments: Far more than oil, the control of water wealth throughout history has been pivotal to the rise and fall of great powers, the achievements of civilization, the transformations of society’s vital habitats, and the quality of ordinary daily lives. In Water, Steven Solomon offers the first-ever narrative portrait of the power struggles, personalities, and breakthroughs that have shaped humanity from antiquity’s earliest civilizations, the Roman Empire, medieval China, and Islam’s golden age to Europe’s rise, the steam-powered Industrial Revolution, and America’s century. Today, freshwater scarcity is one of the twenty-first century’s decisive, looming challenges and is driving the new political, economic, and environmental realities across the globe.
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