Saturday, December 31, 2016

Page Springs Cellars is an inspiration

Page Springs is known as one of the most sustainable wineries in this area. This is a great story about all they are doing.

Monday, December 26, 2016

It's not WASTEwater, it's a resource!

Sedona is reportedly updating its wastewater plan. What follows is our input that we sent the engineer responsible for updating that plan:

We see opportunities through a multi-disciplinary lens: how to solve multiple problems at one time. Unfortunately we have as many questions as we do ideas. But maybe together we can explore innovative uses for the wastewater plant.

Here are some ideas and questions. I understand that these may ask you to stretch your perspective to beyond the plant. So when you are in the mood for some out of the box thinking, please consider these ideas. Since we don’t have engineers on our team, we would love to have your answers to some of our curious questions.

STORMWATER: We already gave recommendations regarding reducing stormwater (especially through green infrastructure) so you don’t waste energy and money treating rainwater. Do you coordinate your plans with those responsible for stormwater reduction?

ORGANIC WASTE and TRAFFIC: We understand there is some concern about composting regarding nitrogen and the artificial wetlands. We have numerous restaurants that would love to have a food waste collection program and because that waste includes meats and fats, a biodigester might be a better option than composting. Is there an opportunity to capture methane off your wastewater treatment plant, plus a biodigester, and could it help power a fleet of tourism-based public transportation buses. See our integrated recommendations regarding traffic reduction.

POLLUTANTS: A+ water still has pharmaceuticals and other pollutants so it’s not potable yet. What would it take to make it potable? Are the pollutants like endocrine disruptors concentrating via evaporation in the artificial wetlands, potentially hurting wildlife? Or is exposure to sunlight breaking them down? What happens when the chemicals in the injected water reaches the river? What more beneficial uses can the existing A+ water be put to? Is it safe to grow food (e.g., fruit trees, vegetables, fish ponds)? If not, what are the best practices/technologies and what would it cost to further treat it so it could be used to grow food? Failing that, what about growing native plants for habitat restoration? Verde River Growers grows native plants for the Forest Service. Wouldn’t it be better for them to use your water than to draw from the Verde River?

We wonder if there is a better use of the wastewater at The Dells property where you are currently disposing of much of it. This could include using your effluent (as is or with further treatment) to grow food, dampen compost or return to drinking quality and mix it with municipal water (which would reduce both arsenic and hardness.) As you can tell from our research, our water table is falling so we need to find better ways to meet our water needs. This is one of 11 sustainability indicators in our Dashboard of Community Indicators which we plan to release to the public after getting feedback from important stakeholders.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Tucson's rainwater and graywater systems provide multiple benefits

Brad Lancaster has a couple books explaining in detail how to do rainwater and graywater systems. They helped my husband and me put in both systems in our new house. We are all familiar with the Reduce-Reuse-Recycle hierarchy for waste reduction. The ah-ha for me in Brad's work is that there is a similar hierarchy in water conservation.

First, direct the water that falls on the land to places it is needed. It's inexpensive to shape the land to put stormwater where you want it. At our house, this stormwater is directed in turn into four small catchment basins, each with a fruit tree. The trees seem not to mind being underwater a couple times a year when we get heavy rains. We can keep on our property the first inch of rain in a day, reducing flooding concerns.

In Tucson, they have cut curbs so rainwater goes into similar tree wells. Why are we directing rainwater into stormwater systems which then have to be processed by wastewater treatment facilities? We are paying to clean rainwater! In a desert. The Alliance encouraged Sedona to include more "green infrastructure" in our stormwater plan. See the pictures in this article.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Poverty, forests and climate change

Some people wonder why sustainability includes social as well as environmental factors. This article shows the relationship between poverty, forest destruction and climate change. Poor farmers need a lot more land to grow food, so they often chop down forests to survive. If you're curious where greenhouse gases come from, check out these charts.