Name That Water Resource

Most residents in the Silicon Valley are aware that the “black water” generated inside their homes from sinks, toilets, and washing appliances flows to a central location and gets cleaned somehow. But have you ever wondered what types or levels of decontamination take place, or where the water goes once it has been treated? And what is the difference between the water that comes from treatment of black water and the “graywater” that some people are draining directly to landscapes from homes? How is that even possible, you might ask! Maybe you’ve also noticed purple pipes and associated signs in your community parks, on your campus, or around your workplace? Typically, they all state something similar – “Irrigated with recycled water, do not drink.” So, what is “recycled water”? And what are the relationships between all these types of water?

One thing to consider before diving deeper is to recall that all fresh water on the planet is recycled! The Earth has naturally recycled water for millions of years. In fact, the water we drink today is the same water dinosaurs drank millions of years ago. We recycle green waste, bottles, metals, paper, and plastic, so why wouldn’t we also recycle water?

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Recycled Water

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Recycled water is derived from treated wastewater and has been treated to remove contaminants like E. coli and nutrients, which allows it to be reused for irrigation, agriculture, industrial purposes, and other non-potable uses such as toilet flushing. The recycled water in Santa Clara County is treated to California Department of Health Services standards and is monitored by state, local, and federal agencies. Currently, about 10,000 gallons of recycled water are distributed through the countywide purple pipe system to recycled water customers EVERY DAY! Each time you spot a purple pipe, you can be sure recycled water is flowing through it. Using recycled water provides many benefits, such as reducing the need for imported water, which helps reduce human-use pressures on freshwater sources so that more remains in the environment. It can also help reduce the volume of treated water we discharge into the bay, which dilutes its salty water and can impact species that depend on the bay’s delicate balance of fresh versus saltwater. Using recycled water, we can maintain healthy ecosystems as well as a reliable, locally controlled water supply that is not reliant on the Sierra snowpack. Diversifying water sources helps address the severity of droughts and the negative impacts of climate disturbance.

Read more.

Purified Water

Advanced purified water, a form of recycled water, is wastewater that has been further decontaminated using advanced purification technologies: microfiltration, reverse osmosis, and ultraviolet light disinfection. After the water goes through this special purification process, the product is nearly distilled water that meets and even exceeds primary and secondary drinking water standards, meaning that it’s safe to drink. Valley Water (formerly the Santa Clara Valley Water District) currently blends advanced purified water, which is produced at the Silicon Valley Advanced Water Purification Center (SVAWPC), with recycled water produced at the San Jose-Santa Clara Regional Wastewater Treatment Plant to enhance its quality for recycled water purposes.  In the future, the goal of local water purveyors and treatment facilities is to use advanced purified water to supplement the drinking water supply through the replenishment of our groundwater basins or by sending it to a regular drinking water treatment plant. Take a tour and taste it for yourself!

Graywater/Greywater

Graywater is water that is diverted from showers, bathtubs, washing machines, and bathroom sinks that contains some soap and detergents but is clean enough for reuse on certain plants and landscapes. It is a decentralized way of reducing contributions to wastewater volume loads at the nearby treatment plant, while also conserving water through reuse in the landscape. Kitchen sink water or dishwasher water are not considered graywater in California. Graywater helps conserve our drinking water supply, decreases water and wastewater utility bills, decreases input to septic systems, and reduces volume burdens on wastewater treatment facilities. Did you know that you can get a rebate for installing a graywater system in your home? Valley Water offers money back on your investment in sustainable, cost-effective graywater laundry-to-landscape systems that redirect water from your clothes washer to your landscape without additional pumps, filters, or permits. Graywater is better for certain plants compared to others. In general, trees, shrubs, vines, California-native riparian plants, and hardier native plants perform well. Graywater can be used safely with fruit trees or berry bushes. Never use graywater to irrigate fruits or vegetables that come in direct contact with graywater or the soil surface, such root vegetables like potatoes or carrots. Maintaining a healthy soil, choosing the correct detergents, and using best practices for designing, installing, and maintaining your system are key to keeping your landscape healthy.

If you can answer YES (or Possibly!) to the following questions, then this type of graywater system may work for your home:

  1. The clothes washer is accessible, near an exterior wall or above a crawl space;

  2. The landscape's first graywater outlet is around 50-feet or less from the clothes washer (if your landscape is downhill from the clothes washer);

  3. The landscape is the same elevation or downhill from the clothes washer;

  4. The plants you want to prioritize with graywater irrigation are decorative trees, fruit trees, shrubs, groups of smaller plants or establishing drought-tolerant plants; and

  5. The graywater system can be at least 1.5-feet from the property line and at least 2-feet from the building foundations.

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Fall is the Time for Planting CA Native Gardens!

As fall arrives, it’s a great time to give your water guzzling yard a makeover and install a beautiful, low water use landscape instead that provides year round color and interest, habitat and food for local birds, butterflies and bees, and reduces maintenance needs.

For inspiration, take a look at Valley Water’s Landscape Rebate Program participant Sheridan Laine’s garden and follow along as she shares she experience of transforming her lawn to a California native habitat garden and participating in the California Native Plant Society’s Going Native Garden Tour.

To learn more about selecting, installing, and maintaining CA native plants in your garden, check out the 9 part video series from the Maintaining Native Gardens & Leak Detection Workshop, hosted by BAWSCA, City of Palo Alto and Valley Water. Landscape architect, Sherri Osaka, discusses all aspects associated with designing and maintaining a low water use garden, including irrigation, soil care, propagation, weed control and much more.

To learn more about receiving a rebate for transforming your lawn into a low water use landscape in Santa Clara County, and to start the online application process, click here. Remember, to remain eligible, application submittal and approval are required before starting your project.


How you can help our bird friends

As the Washington Post reported on September 19th, we have lost 3 billion birds in North America in the last 50 years. To put it another way, that’s nearly 30 percent fewer birds since 1970. You would be right to be alarmed.

But there are things we can do to help:

  1. Keep kitties indoors, or attach a bell on them when they go outside;

  2. Put decals on windows to help our feathered friends know where the glass is;

  3. Don’t use harmful pesticides in your yard - there are great alternatives, located here;

  4. Partner with insects in your garden. The majority of birds depend on insects, especially caterpillars, to feed their young, not bird seed;

  5. Plant native and bird-friendly plants. This is an excellent time to change out your lawn for bird and pollinator-friendly plants, and maybe qualify for a rebate!

Happy Gardening - and Birding!

A Cedar Waxwing enjoys a treat from a Toyon tree.

A Cedar Waxwing enjoys a treat from a Toyon tree.

Don't Plant a Pest!

With our beautiful, mild Mediterranean climate in California, it’s no wonder we can grow thousands of varieties of plants from all over the world.  Some of these plants, however, can do a little too well here and left unchecked, can cause economic or environmental harm, overtaking crops or rangeland, out-competing native plants that wildlife depend on for food and shelter, clogging up our waterways, or even increasing risk of fire or floods.  These non-native plants causing problems are considered “invasive.” Managing and removing these plants once they get out of hand can be a labor intensive, expensive process. According to the California Invasive Plant Society (Cal-ICP), at least $82 million goes to managing invasive plants every year in California.

Valley Water maintenance crew demonstrate the labor intensive process of manually removing and solarizing a stand of highly invasive Arunda grass.

Valley Water maintenance crew demonstrate the labor intensive process of manually removing and solarizing a stand of highly invasive Arunda grass.

It’s easy to assume that a plant on the shelf at our local nursery is safe to put in our gardens, but there are many popular nursery plants available that have invasive tendencies.  Organizations such as PlantRight and Cal-IPC make it easy to identify and avoid invasive plants though.  PlantRight’s Invasive Plant List highlights the top 7 invasive plants to avoid, such as the popular Mexican feathergrass, and suggests alternatives to plant instead.

Mexican feathergrass (Stipa/Nassella tenuissima) self-sows easily, often spreading far from its intended spot in the garden.

Mexican feathergrass (Stipa/Nassella tenuissima) self-sows easily, often spreading far from its intended spot in the garden.

Cal-IPC offers an extended list of plants that threaten California’s natural areas, rating the plants that are considered invasive or labeling others as ‘Watch” species that have the potential to become invasive. Some commonly used landscape plants on the list that are considered highly invasive include English ivy, highway ice plant, and several forms of broom. Others of concern include popular forms of periwinkle, cotoneaster, fountain grass, and the common fig tree.

PlantRight offers some great guidance on how we as home gardeners, landscape professionals or plant sellers can play a roll in reducing the negative affects of invasive plants:

  • Plant Right: Never plant invasive plants in the outdoor area.

  • Buy Right: Buy only non-invasive plants.

  • Sell right: If you sell plants, become a PlantRight partner.

Choose your plants wisely when planning your garden and remember, Don’t Plant a Pest!

Saving Seeds from your Summer Garden

Is your summer vegetable garden coming to an end? Don’t panic!

Some plants start to dry out and look like they no longer have a purpose, but don’t rush to clip them off or pull them out of the ground to put them in your compost pile or yard waste bin. This is the time of the year when a lot of summer crops start forming seeds, so sit back allow your plant to die back and put it’s energy into the seeds.

You can learn how to harvest seeds and save them to plant them next year by following this seed saving guide from the University of Minnesota Extension. This will not only save you money, but it will also help you create a more self-sustaining garden with varieties that you like and that thrive in your yard. You can also share them with friends and family, or at your local seed library.

The Master Gardeners of Santa Clara County will be offering a seed saving class on Sept 21 at the Berryesa Library in San Jose.

If you want to learn more about the importance of saving seeds, read this recent article on how seed libraries connect gardens, history and food from the Mercury News.

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City of Mountain View Unveils New Community Garden

The City of Mountain View presents the Grand Opening of Latham Community Garden on Friday, August 16, 2019 at 10 a.m. The ceremony is open to the public and will feature a dedication, ribbon cutting, community photo, light refreshments and self-guided tours. Latham Community Garden is located at 650 South Shoreline Boulevard.

The Latham Community Garden is one of three community gardens within the City of Mountain View. This .8 acre project features 84 plots, including six ADA plots and up to ten short term plots. Additionally, Garden members have shared access to a community shed and garden tools. All plots have been filled utilizing existing waitlists from the Willowgate and Senior Community Gardens. To learn more about the City’s community garden programs, visit www.MountainView.gov/Gardens.

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NEW!! Graywater Workshop Video

The summer is in full swing. Landscapes are getting thirstier as the days get hotter. Why not help your plants with a new graywater system? Graywater from your clothes washer is a locally controlled, drought-resilient water supply that helps you reuse water without needing a bucket!

But how do you start? How much does it cost to install a laundry graywater system? Who has the time to figure all this out? Valley Water is here to help.

Check out our virtual graywater workshop today! It’s divided into a 4-part series to help you figure out at your own pace whether a laundry to landscape graywater system will work for you, what you need to know about graywater from your sinks and showers, how to plan for project costs, and why graywater has benefits beyond reusing water.

After watching the virtual workshop, you can find more information, including how-to videos, can be found at valleywater.org/graywater and valleywater.org/GraywaterResources. Ready to take action?

Sign up for our Direct Installation Service made possible for a limited time through a partnership with Ecology Action. We will connect you with contractors to do the work for free or a highly-discounted price. Or, apply for Valley Water’s $200-$400 rebate. Take that first step to make your landscapes green and thriving with graywater by attending a virtual workshop today.

Happy Gardening (with graywater)!!

Lovely landscape, irrigated with graywater

Lovely landscape, irrigated with graywater