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Earth Dr Reese Halter's Blog


story ran on Sierra Madre Tattler Sept 3, 2013

Climate change has imposed a long-lasting drought gripping the West, ringing out every last drop of fresh water from the Rio Grande to the Los Angeles basin including our picturesque community of Sierra Madre.

Once upon a time the nearly 11,000 denizens of Sierra Madre had a plentiful source of drinking water; snowpack spring melt waters and rainfall from the Angeles Mountains, home to the thousand year old subalpine limber pines, provided enough moisture to recharge our aquifers – a reliable and abundant supply of ground water.

Prolonged irregular precipitation patterns with above normal temperatures have placed Sierra Madre in a dire predicament: An extreme water shortage.

A $2 million pipe has linked into San Gabriel Valley Metropolitan Water District (SGMWD) and for the first time Sierra Madre will draw water from a supply treated with chloramine or chlorine and ammonia. Chloramine is known according to Citizens Concerned About Chloramine to affect human breathing and cause severe skin irritations.

When my friend, Sierra Madrean Warren Betts, told me about this new disinfectant to be introduced into his community, I wondered why SGVMWD was not using ultraviolet germicidal irradiation instead of chlorine and ammonia?

Ultraviolet radiation uses very short wavelengths of light to effectively and efficiently eradicate all microorganisms. It mitigates the need to introduce caustic and toxic chemicals like chlorine and ammonia into the Sierra Madre water system and ultimately into children’s bodies.

The water crisis in Sierra Madre also draws attention to how each of our homes and us take for granted how precious and important water is throughout the Los Angeles basin, highlighting the immediate need to safeguard it.

Australia has been brutally lambasted by climate change over the past decade and they have implemented smart water conservation policies. It’s incumbent upon the Sierra Madre city council to examine the successful Australian model and adopt further stringent water conservation measures.

The greatest expenditure of household water is sprinkling it profusely across our lawns, which invariably is followed by unnecessary and harmful fertilizers and herbicides. Why not consider making it a family project, get rid of your profligate water-spending lawn and go native with thrifty Californian plants that are adapted to arid conditions and are bee and butterfly friendly such as: Milkweed, butterfly sage, penstemon, verbena, sunflowers, poppies and black-eyed Susan’s.

In addition, I suggest planting a couple fruit trees like apple, citrus or pomegranate as they too will provide a safe and healthy source of nectar and pollen for our urban bees, and give your family, friends and neighbors healthy bounty. Please do not use any pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or miticides in your garden – combinations of these chemicals are killing our bees.

Also consider planting a Californian conifer like Sequoia or Jeffrey pine in your yard. Mature trees cast shade, reducing home cooling costs by as much as 40 percent.

It’s clearly time for each of us to make the commitment to change our water spending habits, and then we can change our family water-use habits. Lastly, as a transformed model city – Sierra Madre can provide future-proofing leadership for other California communities to lower their water footprints and prepare for the drier times ahead.

Learn more about Sierra Madre’s water with Erin Brockovich at the San Gabriel Valley Water Forum on October 3rd.

Australia, Radio 1, National: Ockham’s Razor

Earth Dr Reese Halter is an award-winning broadcaster and distinguished conservation biologist. His latest book with Chris Maser is Life, The Wonder of it All

Contact Earth Dr Reese Halter

Text © by Dr Reese Halter 2013. All rights reserved.


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