You can make a difference to the hurt being caused by climate chaos and the great extinction event in your town or your city! How? Reuse, repurpose, and recycle this information. You can push your local politicians to act. It will make a difference!
This is the letter for week 150 of a weekly climate strike that went on for 4 years in front of San Francisco City Hall, beginning early March 2019. For more context, see this story. For an annotated table of contents of the topics for all the strike letters, see this story. Meanwhile…
STRIKE FOR THE PLANET
Once you pass a tipping point, it’s too late
This week’s topic: How To Ensure SF Has Water
San Francisco’s base level survival (equivalent to life in a refugee camp) requires local sources of water and energy. SF has not secured either. Below are contacts and information you need to take the steps to secure water for SF. Energy resources will be next week. Time for accomplishing this is almost out.
Water for SF
Blackwater recycling, water conservation, composting toilets, increased permeable surface areas, bioswales, and planting a true native urban forest to assist precipitation (as well as cool the city) all help get us closer to a sustainable, clean, local water supply and likely survival. Below are information sources for each of these.
- Tiny Forests
Afforest is the oldest tiny forest organization and the best diy info source. The National Geographic article introduces the idea of tiny native ecosystems, not just forests (something SF could easily implement with increased, native bioswales). The other two links are to organizations with data on tiny forests, especially on carbon sequestration and temperature, and anecdotal experiences.
- composting toilets
The first link is to a range of home use composting toilets. The second is to an American commercial center that uses only composting toilets. Both give numbers in terms of water savings.
- water waste
The 2022 CA drought regulations impose fines for wasting potable water. They prohibit washing sidewalks and buildings, and street cleaning or construction site preparation using potable water.
- permeable surfaces
The first two links are to SF’s permeable surfaces permits and an overview of SF’s permeable surfaces permit process. There is zero visible enforcement of the 50% permeability requirement for existing buildings in SF; the third link is to the code requiring permeability.
- native plants
The first link is to an illustrated list of plants native to SF. Natives are better suited to the environment and better at trapping and holding water. The second is to a comprehensive checklist of SF natives.
- efficiency and leakage
The first link is to the NRDC’s Water Smart Cities site and resources. The second is a leakage reduction resource. Both are geared to municipalities instead of individuals.
The links are to individual, commercial, and municipal systems, plus the relevant (and inadequate) CA code.
- blackwater recycling
There is nothing new or revolutionary about blackwater recycling, and there are multiple places all over the world, rural and urban, densely populated and not, including in CA, that have decades of experience with blackwater recycling. I’ve given you multiple letters with specific contacts, including phone numbers, emails addresses, names, and webforms. And I guess I have to do it again.
Namibia — https://www.planet.veolia.com/en/wastewater-recycling-drinking-water-windhoek-namibia and https://www.namwater.com.na/index.php/services/56-hydrological-services?start=6 take you directly to the program and Contact Us pages.
South Africa — This https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969719354622 links to a paper on a field test of household blackwater recycling.
Israel — Here is a general overview of blackwater recycling in Israel (https://www.fluencecorp.com/israel-leads-world-in-water-recycling/) and the Wastewater treatment page from Mekorot, the national water agency (https://www.mekorot-int.com/blog/project/shepdan/).
Singapore — This is the Singapore National Water Agency’s info on NEWater, and there is contact information linked on the page. https://www.pub.gov.sg/watersupply/waterquality/newater.
Texas — This takes you to Austin’s blackwater recycling program https://www.austintexas.gov/department/site-blackwater-reuse-pilot-project-meet-oscar-and-clara. There are other programs in Texas that are only used during drought years.
Orange County — Orange County (!) has recycled blackwater for 14 years. This is a general article (https://www.ocregister.com/2019/11/08/orange-countys-pioneering-wastewater-recycling-system-embarks-on-major-expansion/) and here are specifics from the Orange County Water District (https://www.ocwd.com/what-we-do/water-reuse/). Some of their blackwater-to-drinking water practices are longer term than those of the systems above, such as groundwater replenishment, but the governing state regulations are the same.
San Diego — San Diego’s Pure Water system already went through the courts so we don’t have to or we don’t have to do it without precedent. https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/politics/story/2021-03-06/san-diegos-pure-water-sewage-recycling-system-ready-for-construction-after-litigation-delays.
That should be enough to get you started.
Because the graphic below? Turns out those numbers were optimistic. We’re already well underway for all the yellows and oranges, and the reds are starting up faster than we’d thought.
We’re in a megadrought, and megadroughts last decades to centuries. If we intend to survive this megadrought, we need to immediately implement much better water conservation and require reuse. Blackwater recycling has been done all over the world for decades from Namibia to Singapore to Texas to San Diego, greywater reuse is becoming common in commercial buildings, composting toilets create fertilizer and slash water needs, and native urban forests and permeable surfaces collect and store any water we do get while also cooling the area (which saves water). None of these strategies are difficult or very expensive. What is difficult, expensive, and deadly is a lack of water. It’s long past time we got serious about living through this drought. Otherwise we may not live through it.
1. Sarah Kaplan. “Satellite images show the Amazon rainforest is hurtling toward a ‘tipping point’”. The Washington Post. 7 March 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/climate-environment/2022/03/07/amazon-rainforest-tipping-point-climate/.