Ocean Friendly Gardens, Water Quality
February 22 2016

Rainwater Is A Resource, Not A Nuisance, Says New York Times

by Paul Herzog

The New York Times just ran an article about how city officials like Los Angeles Mayor’s and Los Angeles water agency managers are now seeing rainwater as resource, not a nuisance. The Surfrider Foundation agrees, and utilizing it is also a way to prevent ocean pollution. It can be simple, inexpensive and done everywhere – and it’s being done now. Healthy landscapes act like “sponges” to soak up water and filter pollution, plus absorb carbon from the atmosphere. Even the parkways, streets and parking lots can inexpensively be “greened up” to do their part. These solutions also reduce the chance of flooding and damage to property and safety.

Every inch of rain on a 2,000 square foot roof generates 1,200 gallons of water to direct to landscapes, resupply groundwater, and keep creeks flowing. As Treepeople’s Andy Lipkis said in the article, every inch of rainfall in big cities like Los Angeles create billions of gallons of water.

The Surfrider Foundation calls it Ocean Friendly Gardens, where CPR – Conservation, Permeability and Retention – is applied to revive waterways and oceans choking on pollution and soil that is parched. Surfrider has worked with water suppliers, water quality agencies and fire departments to install Ocean Friendly Gardens, both along the coast and inland. Other non-profits and landscape professionals are doing the same. It’s a message that groups throughout Los Angeles – and the state and country – are all getting behind, and calling the “watershed approach.” Imagine where you live, work or play as a mini-watershed, in which water drains from a high point to a lower point. In between, you want to slow that water down, let it spread out, then soak in. (The New York Times has written about our Ocean Friendly Garden Assistance Parties.)

Los Angeles’ turf removal incentive program standards come close to this, and essentially just need to add the requirement to retain rainwater. In fact, environmental groups and landscape professionals are working with the Mayor’s office and City staff on up-grading the turf removal incentive standards. We want do-it-yourselfers and landscape professionals following these standards. But to meet the need to retrofits the huge number of sites, we need workforce training on a scale like the Civilian Conservation Corps of the Great Depression.

Ocean Friendly Gardens and green streets, water conservation, wastewater recycling and restoring natural waterways - the components of Surfrider's Clean Water Initiative - are solutions that we promote to protect local water supplies and to keep pollution from reaching the ocean. We have written about this integrated approach in a previous blog post. We are stoked to see that government, non-profits and the private sector can help property owners (and renters) uncover the solutions that are literally right beneath our feet.  Learn more about what we can all do to protect clean water in our communities on surfrider.org, including great educational resources like the Surfrider produced film, “The Cycle of Insanity,” which is linked on the Clean Water Initiative "Resources" page.