Thursday, July 30, 2009

Make Your Garden Part of 'Bringing Back The Natives' Tour

If you have a garden or yard that has more than 50 percent native plants, you may want to be part of next year's "Bringing Back The Natives Garden Tour."

The tour is set for Saturday, May 2, 2010 and includes gardens in both Alameda and Contra Costa County. More than 50 gardens are featured, and yours could be included as well.

CCWD has long been a sponsor of the award-winning tour since drought-tolerant native plants are featured in the gardens.

Lawns Are Water Guzzlers

We've heard from customers that keeping lawns healthy during the drought is one of their biggest challenges in saving water. We have a good guide to keeping your lawn going even with less water. It's called Drought Survival 101, and you can see it online.

The Santa Clara Water Agency estimates that by cutting your watering times by one minute, you'll save 20 gallons of water per day.

Mulch & Car Wash Coupon Programs Continue To Do The Job

CCWD’s “Mulch, Mulch, Mulch” and “Smart Wash Car Wash” programs have been very successful.

There’s no limit on how often you use the coupons. So print some coupons, then stop by the nursery and throw some bags of mulch in the trunk, then detour to the car wash and save some water there.

Water Matters Gets Additional Air Dates

Water Matters, a half-hour show on local water issues, has been given six additional air dates on NBC Channel 11

The show has segments on three water districts, including CCWD.

The District segment features Assistant General Manager Greg Gartrell and Water Conservation Supervisor Chris Dundon, along with customers who are saving water in their drought-resistant yards.

Here's the schedule for the show, sponsored in part by CCWD. The web page devoted to the program is here.

Saturday, Aug.8 noon

Sunday, Aug. 16 10am

Saturday, Aug. 29 3pm

Sunday, Sept. 6 10am

Sunday Sept. 13 9pm (post NFL)

Saturday Sept. 26 10:30am

Huell Howser To Feature CCWD

Speaking of television shows, TV personality Huell Howser interviewed Greg Gartrell earlier this week for a future feature on his California Water series titled “Tap Water: The Drink of Choice”.

Greg and Huell discussed the water quality benefits that Los Vaqueros provides for Contra Costa Water District customers. They also discussed the watershed’s beneficial habitat and recreation opportunities.

Filming is underway and the segment is schedule to be available this fall.

CCWD To Stop Filling Los Vaqueros on Aug. 1

The Contra Costa Water District will stop filling Los Vaqueros on Aug. 1. The reservoir will be about 88 percent filled at that time.

Water quality in the Delta is dropping, so the District will most-likely soon be using water stored at Los Vaqueros, meaning the reservoir water level will start heading down.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Drip Systems Explained at Ruth Bancroft & Markham Gardens

Drip irrigation will be explained at two of the area's most beautiful gardens in August.

A new summer workshop series at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek launches with a talk on drip irrigation by Water Management Trainer and Landscape Designer Lori Palmquist on Saturday, Aug. 18 and continues through October with other topics ranging from Lawn Removal to Harvesting Rainwater.

CCWD is a co-sponsor of these talks.

The cost is:

$20 for Ruth Bancroft Garden Members
$20 for Garden Conservancy Members
$25 for the General Public

Sign up for three or more classes from the series, and receive a $10 discount!

Here's more information:

Markham Garden Also Has A Drip Irrigation Class

The Urban Farmer’s Tom Bressen will speak on "Making Every Drop Count Tips and Techniques for Landscape Watering" on Saturday, Aug. 8 from 10 a.m until noon.

Tom wrote a 32-page book on drip irrigation titled:"The Drip Irrigation Handbook"

The presentation will be held at the Garden Center Markham Nature Park and Arboretum,1202 La Vista Avenue in Concord.

The cost is $10.

Here's more information.

Wow! You've Been Replacing Toilets & Washers

CCWD's fiscal year closed on June 30, and our customers have been working hard to save water by buying high-efficiency appliances.

Rebates for high-efficiency washing machines were up 57 percent when compared to a year ago, with 3,600 rebates provided. You can earn a rebate of up to $200 on a new-approved high-efficiency washing machine.

Rebates for high-efficiency toilets were up 37 percent with 2,300 rebates provided. You can earn up to $175 for an approved high-efficiency toilet.

The nice thing about these rebates is that the new toilets and washers will be saving water for many, many years into the future.

CCWD's rebate program is unchanged for the new fiscal year, but the funds that pay the rebates have limits.

We suggest you buy new toilets and washers as soon as comfortably possible to ensure that you get the rebate you're entitled to.

Look here for more information on CCWD rebates.

Water Matters Saturday

Water Matters' the half-hour television special that discusses local water issues and ways to save water, is now on the air.

Co-sponsored by CCWD, the Marin Water District and the Sonoma County Water Agency, the program discusses local water issues and ways you can save water at home.

The CCWD segment includes a portion on Los Vaqueros, what's involved with a CCWD home water survey, and living with a drought resistant front and back yard.

You can see it this Saturday at 11 a.m. on NBC 11, it will also be on the air again Sunday, Sept. 13 at 9 p.m after the NFL game)

Look here for more information on Water Matters.

With Crazy Weather, Here's a Hint For Knowing When to Water

With our weather being hot one week, and downright cool the next, it's hard to know when's a good time to water your lawn.

In our "Drought 101" phamplet, we advise people to watch their lawn. "If your lawn takes on a blue-grey tone or the grass blades don't spring back after you walk on in, it's time to water."

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Cover That Pool, Save Water & Money

If you have a swimming pool, the automatic filling mechanism makes it difficult to know how much water you’re losing to evaporation since the pool is always full.

There are many variables to water loss in a pool, such as wind, how much sun is on your pool, temperature at night and during the day, the size of your pool, how often it’s used, and humidity. But you can lose up to 1.5 inches of water per week in your pool due to evaporation. Unless you have a little pool, that's a lot of water.

One way to cut down water loss is with a pool cover. It keeps the water where it belongs, and can also cut your chemical loss, saving money in two areas.

So, take a look at a pool cover. CCWD recommends you consider the type of pool cover that can support a person’s weight if someone were to fall in.

The Department of Energy has a good guide to pool covers.

Water Matters on NBC 11

Look for a new television show on NBC 11 that focuses on how local people are saving water.

CCWD is one of three water districts in the Bay Area sponsoring the television show “Water Matters.” The half-hour show covers all kinds of topics about water, including lots of practical tips for saving water.

Part of the show tells how CCWD gets its water, and follows a District Home Water Use Survey. There is also a visit with a local family who has installed beautiful drought-resistant gardens in their front and back yards that attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

The show is set for:

Saturday, July 25: 11 a.m.
Sunday, September 13 9 p.m. after the football game.

We’ll expect to soon have clips from the show on our website:

City of Clayton Asking For Water Waste Help

The City of Clayton – recently named by Money Magazine 87th among the “100 Best Places to Live” – is asking for help in finding water waste due to broken sprinklers.

An exhibit in the Clayton Library asks people to help the city to find broken sprinklers at homes, on median strips and parks by calling City Hall at 673-7300 or sending an e-mail through its website.

In addition, the city has relaxed its rules requiring that lawns stay green.

Good job, Clayton!

You Can Call Us As Well

If you see water waste in any area of the District, call our Water Savings Team at (925) 688-8044 or by sending an e-mail to

Include as much information as you think we'll need to solve the problem.

We’ve had hundreds of calls, and nearly all of them have been solved after a visit from our Water Savings Team. Thanks

Mulch & Car Wash Coupon Programs Have Been Huge Successes

CCWD’s “Mulch, Mulch, Mulch” and “Smart Wash Car Wash” programs have been very successful.

There’s no limit on how often you use the coupons. So print some coupons, then stop by the nursery and throw some bags of mulch in the trunk, then detour to the car wash and save some water there. Drive home with a clean car; put some mulch in the garden and save even more water.

Water Conservation Kiosks Move

Our popular “Beat the Drought” Water Conservation kiosk is now at the Clayton Library and will soon be at the Bay Point Library. Look for the blue kiosk, and see how Hollywood has glamorized water!

Friday, July 17, 2009

CCWD Customers Saved 15% ; Good Job!

CCWD customers have certainly done their share to "Beat The Drought."

In May and June, they saved 15 percent, which is exactly on target for the District's Drought Management Program.

The 15 percent savings is compared to an average for the years 2005, '06 and '07. These are the same years the District uses as a base for comparisons as part of the "Drought Management Program."

We don't use 2008 as a comparison, since we had asked customers to voluntarily cut back that year, and many did.

In the first two months of the Drought Management Program, customers have responded exactly to the level we have asked them to. It's remarkable.

Of course July and August are usually the hottest months of the year, so customers need to keep on working at saving water. But if the keep doing what they have been, we should be in pretty good shape.

Our customers have been sending us ideas on how they save water at home, and you can read it here.

If you haven't done so already, ask our water surveyors to come out to your home. You can read about the program here, and sign up online.

Exceptions Not Retroactive

Some customers have waited until they receive their bill before filing for an exceptions request, which allow increases to their individual water budget due to changes in their home.

These changes range from having the in-laws move in to having a medical condition that requires more water.

The thing to remember: The exceptions request is not retroactive.

If you let us know that your circumstances have changed, after you receive your bill, it's too late. If the exception is granted, it only applies to future bills.

You can fill out an exceptions form online.

'Water Matters' Returns Sunday

"Water Matters," The half-hour television special that explores the drought, and also shows how different people are saving water, will air again on Sunday, July 19 at 3 p.m. on NBC 11.

The show features CCWD in one of its segments, showing what happens during a typical water survey, along with how one family has cut their water use dramatically by redesigning their year.

It will also be aired two more times:
Saturday, July 25: 11 a.m.
Sunday, September 13 9 p.m. (post NFL game)

Look here for more on the show, including viewing clips, please look here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Water Saving Ideas From CCWD Customers

A few weeks ago we asked our customers for some water-saving ideas, and they came through nicely with some sound ways to save water.

The ranged from saving water while waiting for the shower to warm up, to fixing faulty sprinkler control valves.

So please take a look, maybe there's an idea or two you can use to save water and some money as well.

Hot Weather & Saving Your Lawn & Plants

High temperatures in the Concord-area are expected to remain in the low 90s for next 10 days. So here are some ways to save your plants and keep your water bill low from Water Conservation Specialist Bob Eagle:

If you have plants that were shocked during the last heat wave, you may spray a special wax on them that will reduce water loss on hot afternoons. Ask at your local nursery for these waxes, that are also used as a natural insect repellent.

As for the rest of your yard, add mulch --if you haven't already-- to areas around your bushes, shrubs and near trees. Many local nurseries are participating in our Mulch, Mulch, Mulch program, that includes good-sized discounts for mulch when you print our coupons.

Another suggestion from Bob is for your lawn...usually the biggest water guzzler in most homes.

Mow the lawn at the highest level possible, like 2.5 to 3 inches. Bob says you then spread a thin layer -- about 1/4 inch -- of compost over the top of the lawn. This will keep moisture in your lawn. Bob says even in the heat, the most you need to water your lawn is about four times per week.

It's probably too late in the season to receive many benefits from aerating your lawn, said Bob.

Free Water Wise CD Available

Our popular custom Water Wise CD is available for free. It's designed especially for the conditions in the Contra Costa areas. If you're replacing water guzzling plants, or are redesigning your yard, this is the guide for you.

All you need to get one is be a CCWD customer, and sign up. We'll send the CD to your home.

The CD has all kinds information on plants that thrive in the Contra Costa area. It includes:"

* a comprehensive, easy-to-understand plant selection guide takes the guesswork out of plant placement and care, allowing the creation of a lush, healthy garden.

* tips on practical matters to consider before beginning a project to avoid costly mistakes

* examine the "dos and don'ts" of water-wise gardening

* learn how to determine water needs before you plant

* discover the best methods for eliminating pests

* try your hand at composting.

Looking For A Nice Simple Water Saving Video?

The California Water Awareness Campaign put together this 13-minute video with lots of practical hints for saving water. If you're new to the idea of saving water, this is a great way to see all the things you can do.

It will point you in the right direction to save water right away. Just for fun, many of the scenes were shot right here in Contra Costa County.

Have any questions about saving water?

Send us an e-mail, we answer promptly!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

'Water Matters' Hits The Airwaves

'Water Matters' the half-hour television special that discusses local water issues and ways to save water, is now on the air.

Co-sponsored by CCWD, the Marin Water District and the Sonoma County Water Agency, the program discusses local water issues and ways you can save water at home.

The CCWD segment includes a portion on Los Vaqueros, what's involved with a CCWD home water survey, and living with a drought resistant front and back yard.

So take a look at the CCWD section below, or see the entire half hour show when it airs again:

Here's the schedule for the remaining showings:

Friday, July 10: 11 a.m.
Sunday, July 12: 9:30 a.m.
Sunday, July 19: 3 p.m.
Saturday, July 25: 11 a.m.
Sunday, September 13 9 p.m. (post NFL game)

Keep An Eye On Your Irrigation Timer

One of our home water surveyors says she's noticing a trend in many homes that have gardeners taking care of the maintenance of the yard.

The gardeners are putting too much water on the lawn.

She said one home with a very large yard had the timers for the lawns set for three 12-minute cycles, every night of the week. With multiple stations, this home was wasting thousands of gallons of water every week.

With pop-up spray sprinklers, CCWD recommends that at the height of summer -- July when sunny days are longest and temperatures the hottest -- that the most you water a lawn is four days per week and three cycles of six-minutes per cycle. We recommend you start your cycles at around three or 4 a.m. and stop watering by 8 a.m. when evaporation and windy weather can literally steal the water you intended for your lawn, trees and shrubs.

That will keep your lawn alive, encourage deep root growth, save water and keep you closer to your water budget.

So have a conversation with your gardener and check your timer to make sure you're not wasting water.

The Cost of Leaky Faucets

A National Geographic publication titled "Water for Tomorrow" estimates that leaky faucets are costing American households more than 1 trillion gallons of water per year.

If you have a leaky faucet that loses 60 drops of water per minute, you'll waste nearly 6.4 gallons of water per day or 192 gallons of water per month. That could be enough to send you over your water budget.

Water Conservation Kiosks At New Locations

We moved our Water Conservation Information kiosks to new locations. You can now see them at the Ygnacio Valley and Pittsburg libraries. Ask us a question, and we'll send you the answer via e-mail.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Water Saving Ideas That Work From Our Customers

We've asked our customers for some of their water saving ideas, and have been impressed by what we've seen so far.

Let us know how you're saving water, and we'll spread the word.


"We have cut down our water use by 50 percent. We replaced our entire lawn with drought tolerant plants. We flush all toilets with water collected from showers. We replace bed linen less often, take shorter showers and reuse dish water to irrigate some plants. We collect rain water. Cover the pool to reduce evaporation and stress plants so they become less water dependent.

"We feel passionately about conserving water all the time, not only in drought years."

Ilana...Walnut Creek


1. Heavily mulched all gardens
2. Collecting rinse water from washing machine to use in garden.
3. Collecting rinse water from kitchen & bathroom sinks.
4. Collecting water from shower until warm water starts flowing.
5. When working in yard, shower off with hose to cool down, clean up and water grass.
6. Only flush toilets when solid material present.
7. Fix leaks in sprinkler system and adjust sprinkler heads so no water goes on sidewalk.
8. Cut back lawn and garden watering to minimum required to keep plants alive.
9. Shut of water in shower and in sinks when soaping up. Never let it run.
10. Used CCWD Smart Car Wash coupons to have car washed instead of washing the cars myself.

"The coupons worked fine. The attendant recognized the coupon and the process was smooth. I’ve made additional copies of the coupon so that I can go to that car wash on a regular basis in the future."



"The biggest way we've saved water is by detecting and fixing a faulty timer on our irrigation system. CCWD was very helpful in ruling out a leak on its' end, thanks. Also, we have your shower timers in every bathroom, and we are all getting good at limiting scrub-downs to four minutes.

"We've actually reduced our usage by half since last year according to our bill (mostly because of fixing the irrigation timer).

"My husband and I paid closer attention to how our sprinklers were running and discovered a solenoid valve was running for hours instead of the mere minutes we'd programmed. Since we replaced the faulty valve and wiring our sprinklers shut off like they're supposed to and there's no more puddles in the street.

"Since responsible irrigators time their irrigation in the very early morning, we are not always awake to notice problems like this. It might be worth reminding customers to check on their systems during real-time runs to make sure problems don't go undetected for months (as ours unfortunately did). We only figured this out by getting up at 3-4 a.m. to check!

Jennifer...Walnut Creek

We have more correspondence from our customers and we'll publish them in the next installment of the blog, and we'll put them on our website at

Watch "Water Matters" on NBC 11

We're excited about a television show that will be aired locally on saving water.

"Water Matters" was shot here in the Bay Area and features a number of local water districts, including CCWD.

The show not only discusses our water situation, but also many ways to save water, including visits to local homes where there have been dramatic water savings.

Here are the air times:

Thursday, July 9 11 a.m.
Friday, July 10 11 a.m.
Sunday, July 12 9:30 a.m.
Sunday, July 19 3 p.m.
Saturday, July 25 11 a.m.
Sunday, Sept. 13 9 p.m.


Secrets of Irrigating Unveiled

CCWD Water Conservation Specialist Bob Eagle will speak to the Clayton Valley Garden Club Wednesday, July 8 at Diamond Terrace Retirement Community in Clayton at 7 p.m. Everyone is invited.

Bob will talk about the secrets of irrigating gardens successfully in Contra Costa County.