Blog Series: Climate Change, Resilience and You (Part 2)

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In our on-going mission to prepare, prevent and protect the Chollas Creek Watershed community from the devastating effects of Climate Change, Groundwork San Diego has dedicated a series of monthly blogs to help residents better understand how Climate Change directly affects them. Our best hope is to develop a current action plan of resilience, so our community can survive and thrive in era of Climate Change. This is the second part of the series.


Leaving the Lights On

Generating our own power through Microgrids and Advanced Energy Solutions.


In last year’s fire season, several regions of California were plagued by electric utility mandated power outages. As we watched the news, many of us saw horrifying stories of what happens to a community when they have to survive for days on end without power for homes and businesses. Without electricity, things we take for granted like going to the store, keeping perishable food and medicine cold, and driving at night become annoying, difficult, and sometimes, dangerous tasks.

In 2019, citizens in the neighborhoods of Talmadge and Kensington saw firsthand how easily fires can spark in Santa Ana conditions. “Embers [were] as big as fists”, said one Talmadge homeowner to the San Diego Tribune, as he relayed his experience of seeing “a wall of fire” as he drove home. Residents in these areas narrowly avoided evacuation, as the fire was extinguished quickly by the San Diego Fire Department. In a neighborhood in Chula Vista, some residents were not as lucky. They had to be quickly evacuated as fires consumed fence lines around their homes. Fortunately, most of the properties were spared when their fire department stopped the blaze.

Two close calls.

Thankfully, both cities were prepared. Emergency services responded quickly. Our local heroes stepped up and saved the day. Still, for many of us, this was closer to home than we thought was possible.

Many citizens in the city of San Diego do not think that wildfires directly affect them. Since we are not surrounded by acres of woodlands, we do not feel threatened by wildfires. However, there are numerous canyons that run through the neighborhoods of San Diego and its surrounding cities. In San Diego, city officials have stated that Municipal Services only have the budget and manpower to clear brush in canyons once every three years. It is very likely that similar statements are being given by city officials in neighboring cities, like Chula Vista and El Cajon. These circumstances are now causing urban San Diegans to come to grips with a new reality: we are more vulnerable to wildfires than we previously thought.

The majority of the largest, most destructive, and deadliest wildfires in California have occurred in the last 17 years. Brush fire threats are projected to grow significantly due to increased warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions and more persistent drought conditions.With drought, Santa Ana conditions and annual wildfire season becoming the “new normal” in California, local governments, business and residents are looking for new ways to keep the electricity on during emergencies and periods of planned outages when fire hazard is high.

California’s electric utilities face large financial costs when their equipment sparks wildfires. Our public electric companies feel that the safest way to prevent this is to cut power the grid. The state already gives utilities the authority to shut down power during times of high winds and dry conditions. As we have seen this year, two of the three largest electric utilities in California, Pacific Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison, have shown that they are fully committed to this strategy and will enacted it when ever they feel it is necessary. In some areas of Northern California, these outages have left hundreds of thousands of residents and businesses without power for several days to even a week.

What is the San Diego’s answer to this? Resilience.

The City of San Diego’s is leading the nation with its resilience planning to combat Climate Change. Groundwork San Diego is supporting the City and in the areas of planning and implementation. To prevent the chaos caused by wildfire related power outages and grid shutdowns, microgrid sites will be set up throughout our community via solar panels on rooftops of schools, government buildings, home and businesses. To ensure that we capture enough solar power to reach our goals, carports will be built in the parking lots of residential, commercial and government buildings to increase the amount of structures where solar panels can be installed. We will use electric battery storage facilities at community centers, schools and government buildings to collect and store power onsite. These power storage sites will also be designated as community emergency centers, in times of need. The rest of the energy will be sold back to the electric utility. The funds and credits that we generate from the electricity sales will be used to reduce the costs of electric power for the whole community.

Once the microgrid is fully functional, we will have access to electric power that is independent of the grid. If the grid is shut down or there is a power outage, we will be able to keep our refrigerators running and have basic electrical services. In times of severe emergencies and longer power outages, the energy stored in battery storage facilities will used to provide power for community emergency centers. These are places in the community where residents can pick up bottled water and food rations, charge cell phones and get current status updates and instructions from local government and emergency services. This will also give our community the power we need to keep clean water flowing, keep hospitals open and keep safety and emergency departments like fire, police and ambulance services working.

Currently, we are in the planning stage of this process. Sites for solar panels and battery storage facilities are being chosen and negotiated. Partnerships are being developed between the City, non-profits, SDG&E and clean power companies. Funding sources are being evaluated. Roles and responsibilities are being decided and agreed upon on by all parties involved. The timeline for the next stages of microgird development is being created as well.

While all this planning and development going on, you may be thinking what can you do to help bring microgrids to your neighborhood? You can always contact you city officials, like your city councilperson, and let them know that you want microgrid technology installed in your community. You can also help the community, and your bank account, by getting solar panels installed on your home. There are many programs that can help make installing solar affordable. If you want to find out more about these programs, contact us at Groundwork San Diego. We can put you in contact with these programs, so you can see how much money your family can save on electric bills when you use solar. If solar panels are not an current option for you, and we also can direct you to affordable backup battery power options to keep your refrigerator running, so food does not spoil when there is a power outage.

To keep your family safe, create a crisis plan for your home. In an emergency situation, like a fire or earthquake, you need to be able to safely evacuate your home. Make sure your family knows what exit routes are available. It is also good to choose a spot outside of the home to meet. To ensure all family members know what to do and where to go, have safety drills where you practice evacuating the home and meeting at the designated place. To stay sharp, practice periodically.

While we are on the subject of safety and planning ahead, it is good idea to pack an emergency bag and keep it in a place where you can easily grab it and run out the door. Keep your emergency bag small and simple. Your emergency bag should contain a portable radio, a flashlight, batteries, important documents and pictures, a couple bottles of water, and non-perishable food/snacks, cell phone power cords and a small first aid kit. Important documents can include social security cards, birth and marriage records. You may want to write down a couple of emergency contact numbers of family or friends and put them in the bag, just in case you cellphone runs out of power and you need to make a call. Another good idea is to keep copies of your documents and pictures in a safe location outside of the house, like at a family member’s house, or you can store copies of documents and pictures electronically on digital media, like a flash drive, your cell phone or in a secure location in the cloud.

In era of climate change, we all have to do what we can to keep our community safe when disaster strikes. At Groundwork, we will keep working to ensure that the Chollas Creek community will be able to generate its own power in times when a crisis causes the grid to shut down. We will stay focused on our community’s future, so you can focus on your family’s safety and well-being. A little planning and preparation can make all the difference in ensuring that we all are prepared when wildfires threaten our homes directly or indirectly through power outages.

Plan well and stay safe.

Until next time,

Your friends at Groundwork.


For more information about wildfire safety or to get other safety tips, visit


Blog Series: Climate Change, Resilience and You (Part 1)

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Our on-going mission is to protect the Chollas Creek Watershed community from the devastating effects of Climate Change. In keep with that mission, Groundwork San Diego has created a series of blogs. This blog series will help our community’s residents gain a better understanding of Climate Change, illustrate how it directly affects them and show community members what they can do to help stem the tide of these effects.

This series will also highlight our Climate Action Plan for Community Resilience.

We have partnered with the City of San Diego, local universities, charitable foundations, local businesses, public utilities, multiple local, state and national agencies and other community based organizations like ourselves to research, identify, outline and implement climate actions that can bring about positive change in our own community.

This plan of resilience represents our best hope and is the key to ensuring that our community survives and thrives in era of Climate Change.

This is the first blog in the series.

Change and Resilience: A Bond Forged in History.


Resilience has always gone hand and hand with change.

Change is when something different happens to
 or the world around you.

Resilience is the ability to recover from the
hardships caused
 by change and get things back to normal.


Before the word climate was attached, the early ideas of “Change” and “Resilience” were first defined in the sciences of biology and ecology, around the mid 1850s. In the “The Era of Darwin”, many scientists believed that if changes were made to the Earth, or its species, then Earth would use its “resilience” to take steps to counter those changes and bring things back into balance. At the core of Resilience, was a centuries old idea called the “Balance of Nature”. This idea stemmed from a belief that Earth, itself, was the entity responsible for maintaining natural order. “Balance of Nature” is a commonly held belief in many cultures that has been passed down through the ages, from one generation to next. Even today, many people still believe that if anything, including humans, upsets the balance, the Earth will always make the necessary corrections to bring things back to its normal state.

Research on Climate Change also goes back to the 19th century. In the late 1890s, several scientists, in the areas of chemistry and physics, started reporting that CO2 levels were increasing. One of these scientists, Svante Arrhenius of Sweden, wrote a research paper in 1896 that showed a relationship between increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere and an increase in the Earth’s surface temperature. In 1903, Arrhenius was awarded the Nobel Prize in the area of Chemistry, in recognition of some of his earlier scientific discoveries. In 1907, he wrote a book where he claims that the burning of coal and other fossil fuels is the cause of increased levels of CO2 in the atmosphere. He also states that gases created by the increase in CO2 can trap the sun’s radiation and cause a hothouse effect, or what we now call, the greenhouse effect.

However, Arrhenius, and other leading scientists at the time, did not see Earth’s increase in temperature as bad thing. They wanted to keep the world from entering the next ice age. Human population was increasing. They argued that if there are more humans, then we need more land to grow food. Another ice age could reduce the amount of available farmland, which in turn would reduce a major portion of Earth’s human population. They saw the increase in temperatures as a way to increase humanity’s chances for survival. Many of those same scientists were also afraid to stand up, tell the truth and rock the boat.

The Industrial Revolution was already in full swing. It charging forward, gaining speed and momentum, like a runaway train. Many scientists felt that they were powerless to stop it. Scientists who spoke up about the dangers of burning coal and other fossil fuels were ridiculed and ignored. The brave souls who continued to “fight the good fight” were labeled as troublemakers, crazy people, or in some cases, enemies of the state. Everyone else did whatever they could to avoid being labelled as “one who stands in the way of progress”.

Since the train had already left station, most scientists focused their research in areas where they could get funding and be published. Scientists also did not have the tools they needed to prove that the increase in the Earth’s temperature would have negative effects on the Earth. Those tools were decades away from being invented. In addition to these hurdles, many scientists also held onto the same belief that the general public had: the Earth always makes the necessary corrections to get things back on track. Over time, most of the people who knew about the early research on CO2 and global warming died. The research itself was filed away and forgotten. The train moved forward. Humanity moved on.

In the 20th Century, as technology continued to advance. science advanced right along with it. Things moved slowly, at first. Then, science gradually picked up speed from the 1920s to the 1960s. Then computers were invented. From 1960s to the 1990s, science took off like a rocket. More and more researchers, from various unrelated disciplines, discovered that the “balance of nature” was shifting. Some scientists even started to realize that the combination of human population growth and industrialization was having a negative effect on our planet. Other researchers found that changes were happening at a rate that faster than Earth could respond. The commonly held belief that the Earth’s natural resilience was fully capable of bringing things back into balance was proven wrong, time and time again.

As scientists from different fields of study kept coming across these inconvenient facts independently, a few concerned scientists started to reach out to scientists in various other fields. They wanted to compare notes and see if the changes viewed in their area of study had some connection to changes seen other other scientific disciplines. Then more scientists started to take notice and do the same. Finally, scientists started to formally organize their combined research projects and brought the whole scientific community together to create a unified picture of what was happening to our earth.

What they found out was staggering.

To put things in perspective and share their findings in a way that we all can understand, we offer this illustration:

Imagine that the earth is a restaurant and all of humanity dines at this restaurant. Ever since the restaurant opened, diners could order whatever they wanted off the menu, without looking at any of the prices or paying their tab. One day, a group of waiters (read: concerned scientists) walk into the dining area and put a bill on each table. The headwaiter of each zone of the restaurant taps a spoon on a glass to get the attention of all the diners in his or her area. Each headwaiter stands on a chair and makes the following announcement:

“The piece of paper in front of you is a collective bill for all the meals that have been eaten at this restaurant. Each one of you is responsible for paying this bill. If the bill is not paid, then the restaurant may have to close. We understand that some of you may feel that you are not responsible for contributing to the payment of this bill. If you fall in this category, we thank you for your patronage and leave you with these parting words, ‘You are always welcome to eat somewhere else.’ ”

How did humanity respond to this? We all banded together, as we entered the 5 stages of grief.

At first, most people, including our political and business leaders, did not believe that humanity bore the brunt of the blame for all these “unrelated occurrences”. Many of those who did believe Earth was changing, thought that these changes were just a part of the Earth’s natural cycles. We all heard the truth, but it was too hard to swallow. We just could not believe that humans could irrevocable damage something that has been here for so many millions of years before us. Slowly, people started to accept that Climate Change is real and that it is a serious problem. According to a report by the Pew Institute in April of 2019, two-thirds of Earth’s population currently believes that Climate Change is a major threat to our existence and that humans are the cause of it.

As we started to grapple with the sobering reality of Climate Change, we also started looking for solutions to counteract the effects of what we have done to Earth. Scientists, thought leaders, politicians at every level of government and businesses in every economic sector started exploring strategies to move forward and attack this crisis. Then someone realized that we might be able to answer our current crisis by dusting off an old idea.

Change and Resilience have always gone hand and hand.

We explored Resilience again. However, before we could champion the idea, we needed to make some changes and give Resilience an upgrade. We realized that could no longer wait for the Earth to right our wrongs. We knew had to take a hard, unflinching look ourselves and re-examine our relationship with the world. Humanity would have to take the lead on this and clean up the mess we created. Resilience had to be updated to reflect our new role and responsibilities. In the era of Climate Change, Resilience is now defined as the ability to recover quickly from catastrophic events caused by Climate Change, so we can take the necessary steps get things back to a normal state. This strategy allows us to do the following:

1. Recover quickly from Climate Change events and get back to living life at a normal pace
2. Assess the current state of our environment and learn to adapt to any changes
3. Take ownership of our mistakes
4. Make the necessary steps to correct our mistakes
5. Learn from past efforts and mistakes, so we can minimize the effects of future Climate Change events
6. Work towards securing a future where we can bring an end to Climate Change and prevent Climate Change events from happening in the first place.

This new idea of Resilience took hold and started to spread like the wildfires and warming trends that now plague our world. Plans for Resilience have expanded from the international level all the way down to the City and community level.

When government agencies, businesses and non-profit organizations make a Climate Action Plan to address Climate Change, plans for Resilience are key component of their plan. If a plan for Resilience is made at the community, city or county level, it is called Community Resilience. If a plan for Resilience has to cover a larger area, like a state, a nation, a continent, an ocean or the world, it is called Climate Resilience.


Thank you for allowing us to bring you a brief history of what has taken place up to now. Equity, or the ability to be to be fair or impartial, is one of the guiding principles of Groundwork San Diego. We wanted to make sure everyone was on the same page and give residents in our community have a better understanding of Climate Change, Resilience and the role that we, as humans, play in this story.

In the upcoming blogs of this series, we will cover how Climate Change affects us locally. We will also show how the City of San Diego is helping to maximize our local Resilience to Climate Change and how Groundwork San Diego is doing the same for the Chollas Creek Watershed at the community level.

Our next blog is about wildfires, power outages and how both of these may be closer to us than we think. We will get you up to speed on what is being done by Groundwork San Diego and our local government to keep electrical grid shutdowns from affecting our community. There will also be information on what you can do to keep your family safe in the event of urban wildfires and power outages.

Until we meet again,

Your friends at Groundwork San Diego.

Community Solar Coming Soon!

By | Community Solar, Staff Blog, Uncategorized | No Comments

Climate change hits low income communities the hardest, disproportionately affecting these families with problems such as heat waves, high energy/water costs, outdoor and indoor air pollution. Groundwork San Diego-Chollas Creek has developed plans for an innovative Advanced Energy Community in the Chollas Creek Watershed to bring residents accessible, affordable, green energy and improve air quality.  It is being called the Chollas EcoVillage (pictured below), and will be one of the first in California.

Access to solar energy in under-served communities was made possible recently when the California Public Utilities Commission approved a new low-income solar program to be required from utilities such as SDG&E.  For the first time, going solar will become an available and affordable option for tens of thousands of low-income Californians who live in economically and environmentally at-risk communities. The program will offer subscriptions to community solar projects for renters and others that lack roof space or the financial flexibility to install solar.

The Chollas EcoVillage will be the site of a large solar project, most likely a bundle of solar panels on a commercial parking lot carport, called Community Solar. Groundwork will help build the solar installation, and SDG&E will make the energy available to the community at A 20% BILL DISCOUNT!

Groundwork is encouraging residents the Chollas Creek Watershed, as well as San Diegans who live outside the watershed, to take a survey on the Groundwork website to tell SDG&E they want community solar NOW!

Chollas EcoVillage

Makers Space at the EarthLab

By | EarthLab | No Comments

Over the past few years, the maker movement has been at the forefront of instilling in young people an interest in STEM fields, and in taking roles in society of producers rather than simply consumers.

In a white paper presented by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, MAKER-CENTERED LEARNING AND THE DEVELOPMENT OF SELF, researchers developed a number of significant findings:

  • Maker movement tools, such as 3-D printers and arduinos, are central to the future of manufacturing and the new economy
  • Maker experiences enable students to become self-directed learners/problem solvers, and are characterized by empowerment and self discovery
  • Students develop skills in evidence-based explanations
  • Greater racial, gender, and socio-economic diversity must come to the maker sector

Groundwork San Diego, serving over 3000 students annually through its EarthLab Climate Action Program, is now developing a Sustainability Fabrication Lab at Millennial Tech Middle School. The goal is to ignite the passion of the makers movement in youth surrounding the Chollas Creek Watershed.

It is also an undisputed fact of the achievement gap. Overall, 82.3% of US high school students graduated from high school in 2014-2015. Whereas 88% of white students graduated, only 70.8% of black students and 78.5% of Latino/Hispanic students graduated. A similar distribution occurs concerning 4-year college graduation, whereas 60% of students in the highest wealth group graduate from college, only 32.5% of middle wealth groups do, and 11% of students from the lowest wealth group achieve this goal.

The Sustainability Fabrication Lab is located in a dedicated classrooms on the campus of Millennial Tech Middle School adjacent to the EarthLab. This designated classroom has been identified for use during school days, after-school, Saturdays, inter-session, and summer programs. The Lab will be informed by the successful Innovation Station, operated by Chula Vista Elementary School District, but the space will be differentiated by its focus on environmental sustainability. The Lab design will be led by former director of the Qualcomm Thinkabit Lab and advisor to the Innovation Station. A feature of the Lab will be a school-to-STEM career focus, reflecting the trend noted in Education Week that middle schools are increasingly looking for ways to expose students to careers to keep them engaged and motivated (research shows that 60 percent to 70 percent of students become “chronically disengaged” in 7th and 8th grades, making it critical to provide an early sense of career options). EarthLab Climate Action Park field trips will also integrate hands-on outdoor science with classroom Lab activities.

The first group of Sustainability Fabrication Lab students are part of an after-school program called the EarthLab STEAM Team. Students are provided with a climate action/environmental justice challenge in their neighborhood. The students are provided the time, materials, and mentorship (UCSD students) to support their environmental sustainability projects. Driven by the fact that they live in the most park-deficient region of San Diego, the students chose to develop and physically create a park infrastructure model that will support community needs while also administering the use of green technologies. Students worked together to create and present their impressive projects to the class.

IRWM Family – Erma Williams

By | Community Support, Completed Projects



 Gardening: A Family Affair

As Erma William’s children were growing up, she realized that she had to provide something for them to do, “to keep them out of trouble, and away from the gangs”. What she found, and passed down to them, was her own love of gardening. Eventually her children and grandchildren grew to love garden and landscape work, as well. Her adult son does landscape work at the Stadium, and still helps his Mom on a regular basis in her garden at home. Her daughter, a law student at Berkeley, works in the garden of her housing community, while working on her law degree.

A recently married grandson does landscape work to help pay his way through Seminary. Another grandson, (Jr. High school student) proudly shows the sun flower seeds that he planted in the garden, that are now almost as tall as he is. A granddaughter planted squash. The plants are starting to come up as well.

Erma tells everyone who stops by how much she loves her garden! The installation of water conservation systems, (greywater and rain barrel) allow her to use rain water, and reuse water from the laundry, to easily grow her beautiful roses, and delicious collard greens, tomatoes and herbs.

Erma Received:

Greywater System, Rain Barrel, Yard Landscape, Low-flush Toilet, Low -flow Showerhead

Increase Clean Energy:  Solar, Upgraded Windows

Grid Alternatives: Solar


Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Play Structure Dedication Ceremony

By | Community Support, Farm

When the EarthLab Climate Education Center was established years ago, we envisioned a place that would grow alongside the growth of our community. This dream is alive today, as we work on revamping the EarthLab to welcome more programming and opportunities for the future of climate action. To this end, the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc. – Epsilon Xi Omega Chapter San Diego made their mark at the beginning of the month.

On May 5th, we were blessed to have a dedication ceremony for the new butterfly play-structure that the AKA Sorority so generously donated to the EarthLab. Speakers from AKA, Groundwork, the Office of Juan Vargas, and more, shared their kind words to honor the work we’ve all been doing towards climate justice and education in the Chollas Creek Watershed region and beyond.

We had a wonderful time being inspired by these amazing women, and the dedication ceremony was concluded by releasing butterflies into the EarthLab, where there are sure to find joy among the colorful flowers in our Native Plant Garden. We were all so excited to christen the butterfly play structure with the butterfly release, and at the end of it all I think everyone present felt hope and determination towards the mission of expanding the climate education and career opportunities for the local youth. Thank you Alpha Kappa Alpha for your incredible donation and strong energy! Generations of EarthLab students will be able to enjoy your gift to our community. Enjoy the photos below.


Earth Day at the EarthLab

By | Community Support


This past Earth Day, we celebrated our local environment by taking care of it. Over 200 volunteers came to the EarthLab Climate Education Center to answered the call of Earth Day, which happened to coincide with I Love a Clean San Diego’s Creek to Bay Cleanup day. San Diego proved on this day that we care deeply about the natural beauty that glues our city together.

Hundreds of community heroes and NASSCO volunteers joined together to complete a host of tasks necessary to the upkeep of this beautiful outdoor space. Volunteers pulled weeds, cleaned trash out of the creek, added mulch, revegetated sensitive areas, and planted seeds that will grow to match the love of our community members. From toddlers to elders, we came together to enjoy the conservation efforts and to learn how to take care of our watershed through activities led by our university student educators from SDSU and UCSD. People of all abilities had the opportunity to contribute and take part of the events.

JoAnna Proctor, our Education Director, was ecstatic to see the amount of children who came from Millennial Tech Middle School’s Solar Sprint Club, Saturday School, and the EarthLab Ambassadors. Alongside them were younger children from the Earthlab Saturday Science Club. Add to this the NASSCO families and community families, and we have upwards of 60 youth taking part in earth-friendly activities in the “Kid Zone”. This included planting succulent gardens, playing nature made instruments, creating leaf art and flower wreaths, face painting, and a nature play area. To have whole families coming together to share the experience of caring for our planet shows that the future of climate action is bright, and that generations of climate justice leaders are being inspired by our EarthLab Climate Education Center.

We would like to thank our wonderful volunteers, from the community and from NASSCO, their families, I Love A Clean San Diego, UCSD, SDSU, and Millennial Tech Middle for their dedication to the mission of climate action in our Chollas Creek watershed community.

Lenox Drive Project

By | Completed Projects, Public Service


In November 2017, construction began at Groundwork’s Lenox Drive VHRP project.  It took a lot of elbow grease and patience to complete all the requirements, including permits, documentation and training. So it was exciting to get to work on the project!

Within a couple of days, the creek went from looking like this:


To a smoothly graded channel free of the degraded concrete drop structures that had been causing water to pool and create habitat for mosquitos.  This is what the site looked like on November 11, 2017 when grading was almost completed:

Next, the crew planted native vegetation according to the approved Habitat Restoration and Maintenance Plan.  On November 28, 2017 planting was completed, and mulch was applied to prevent erosion as the plants grew in:

On January 9, 2018 the restored creek channel had its first test – a heavy rain resulted in significant water flow in the channel, and the results were excellent! Rapid flows were slowed by the rocks preventing scour and erosion that often occur in deteriorated urban creek systems.

A few days later when flow had gone down a bit, we could see a naturally meandering channel of water gurgling down the creek. Exactly what we were looking for in a healthy stream.

For several months, the team continued to water the growing plants on the channel banks, and by the end of March 2018, plants looked healthy, and were growing well.

The Chollas Creek Watershed Student Ambassadors Take Action!

By | Community Support, Farm


Thanks to the generous support from SDG&E’s Environmental Champions program, Groundwork partnered with students from two Lincoln Cluster schools (Chollas Mead and Millennial Tech Middle School) to engage over four hundred students in climate action awareness and education. Students learned the causes of, and developed solutions to, climate change.  They used their own watershed, the Chollas Creek Watershed, to understand the potential threats of climate change to their neighborhoods and to the larger San Diego region.  Field trips to the Birch Aquarium and Torrey Pines State Park provided students with information about the science of climate change, and a regional perspective on how family activities upstream in the watershed affect San Diego Bay and the Pacific Ocean.

As part of their climate action campaign, students developed presentations to families and community leaders on the value of drought-tolerant landscaping and healthy habitats to healthy planet, and completed home audits to give families a chance to make a difference.

Millennial Tech Middle School students thank SDG&E.


Energy and Water Conservation Rebates: Part 2

By | Uncategorized


If you are a resident of San Diego, there are all sorts of rebates out there that can help you save money on your bills, and also help you conserve water and energy. You can access these things and much more at discounted prices by taking advantage of the rebates and savings offered by the City of San Diego, SDG&E, SoCal WaterSmart, and the Center for Sustainable Energy. If you need help accessing these rebates after reading through this, call Patrice at 619 540 0430.

In this article I’ll run you through the rebates and discounts you can get, and some information regarding each one.

The first set of rebates we highlighted was to help you bring water conservation into your home, saving you money and water while you use your daily appliances. The following article will be based around the water conserving technologies you can use outside your home, mostly targeting landscape water usage. But first a word on stormwater runoff:

Stormwater Runoff

In our urban and suburban neighborhoods, where there is more concrete and asphalt than there are patches of green or brown, rainwater moves across all those impermeable surfaces, picking up pollutants along the way and delivering them to our rivers and ocean. (This is demonstrated in this wonderful video featuring local EarthLab students.) The rainwater picks up oil, grease and dirt from the roadways, and carry trash into the waterways and storm drains. After every rain, the City of San Diego has to close the beaches as the bacteria contamination in the water is at unsafe levels for people to be swimming in. Stormwater runoff pollution is a challenge for most cities, intensifying the negative effects urban development has on the environment.

A great way to do your part in preventing stormwater runoff, is to make use of the rainfall to irrigate your garden or landscaping. Two seperate Rain Barrels and Cisterns rebates are offered through SoCal Watersmart and the City of San Diego Transportation and Stormwater department.


City of San Diego Rain Barrel Rebate

The link below has all the information you need to get your rebate of up to $1 per gallon (maximum is $400) and other information about the installation and how to have it irrigate your landscaping. From a general estimate of Rain Barrel prices, they seem to be priced more or less around $100 for a 50 gallon barrel. With that price, you could save 50% the purchase price after your rebate. The minimum size of rain barrel for this rebate is 45 gallons.

Click here to check it out: City of San Diego Rain Barrel Rebate


SoCal Water$mart Rain Barrel and Cistern Rebate

The SoCal Water$mart program is ran through the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and has plenty of other rebates for both residential and commercial applicants. I’ll point out more of these rebates as we continue. This rebate has a minimum size of 50 gallons for rain barrels and 200 gallons for cisterns. For each rain barrel (up to two rain barrels) you will receive a rebate of $35, and rebates for a cistern depends on size, from $250 back for a 200-500 gallon cistern, up to $350 back for a cistern exceeding 1000+ gallons.

According to SoCal Water$mart, you are free to take advantage of both these rebates for the same rain barrel.

Here is their rebate: SoCal Water$mart Rain Barrel and Cistern Rebate


City of San Diego Graywater Rebate

According to the page linked above, a family of four could reuse 22,000 gallons each year by using the rinse water from their washing machine. Graywater systems, sometimes known as Laundry to Landscape systems are pretty straightforward: they take the water from your washing machine and funnel them into your landscape instead of down the drain, making use of the perfectly clean water to take care of your garden. Just use an environmentally friendly laundry detergent for your loads, and you can start saving water and money with this simple, but innovative system. With this rebate, you could save $150-$250 on your no-permit Graywater system. If you get more complex setup going, with water from your bathtub and shower, and more plumbing work required, then you might have to get a permit to install your system, which has been made a much easier process after 2013. You could save up to $1000 on materials and permitting fees for those more complex systems requiring a permit.

Set yourself up for savings with the rebate here: City of San Diego Graywater Rebate


City of San Diego Free Residential Water Surveys

To learn more about the efficiency of your current water usage, consider having a free water survey done on your home. A specialist will come out and check for leaks and water saving opportunities, as well as provide you some pieces of equipment and information to help you begin saving water. A lot of the survey will be in the home, but if you have a landscape, this can be very important to maximizing your water usage on your garden or lawn. If having an expert in water efficiency visit your home and fill you in on everything you could be doing to save money and water sounds good to you, then set up your survey below.

Click here for the water survey:  City of San Diego Free Residential Water Surveys

Socal WaterSmart Rotating Sprinkler Nozzles Rebate

Just like the website reminds us, it’s not a great feeling to see a sprinkler furiously watering the concrete of the sidewalk, while wholly ignoring the landscape it was meant for. This could be your home! Rotating sprinkler nozzles are easy to position to make sure that you’re watering what you need, and nothing else. They save 20% more water than conventional spray heads. The rebate is for a minimum of 30 Sprinkler Nozzles, and will save you at least $2 per nozzle. They can run from around $3 – $8 a nozzle in stores, so this is a pretty good chunk of savings you could take advantage of.

So take advantage of it here: Socal WaterSmart Rotating Sprinkler Nozzles Rebate


Socal WaterSmart Weather Based Irrigation Controllers

Why stop at the sprinklers? We’re headed in the right direction, and the next stop on your path to smaller bills and conserving water is a “smart” irrigation controller. This controller uses weather data to set your watering time according to the temperature. If the day is cool, you’ll need less water for your landscape, and this controller will automatically calculate and limit or extend the watering time. These controllers can prevent overwatering your landscape by 13,500 gallons a year, and save you 700$ over their lifetime. Based on a few of the models listed on the site, one of these devices will run you from around $100 – $300. The rebate starts at $80 per controller for under 1 acre of landscaping, and $35 per station for over 1 acre of landscaping.

Learn more and pick one of these up with the rebate here: Socal WaterSmart Weather Based Irrigation Controllers


Soil Moisture Sensor Systems

This soil moisture sensor is just what you need alongside the last two devices that will really make your irrigation cycles efficient, and responsive to the changing environment. These sensors are placed to capture data about the moisture of the soil. Just like the weather information, if the soil is still most, it will let your irrigation controller know to not water it or water it less. When you buy one of these, from their list of qualifying models, it will tend to come with a sensor and a calibrator. You’ll need to get a irrigation controller if it doesn’t come with one. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to claim this rebate if you already claimed the rebate for the weather-based irrigation controller. Either you get the rebate for the controller, or for this moisture sensor. These sensors run from around $100 – $160 and the rebate is, again, $80 per sensor, or $35 per irrigation controller station.

Learn more and claim the rebate here: Soil Moisture Sensor Systems

     Indulge me in a daydream: That beautiful and rare San Diego rainfall comes around, and is collected in your huge Rain Barrel. Your Soil Moisture Sensor reads that your drought tolerant landscape won’t need to be watered that day, and automatically limits your irrigation without even needing to consult you. A few weeks pass and now the sun is smiling vigorously on our city. You thank the sun for being so bright, but secretly you wish it would chill out just a bit, because you’ve been sweating through your clothes so fast that you seriously consider moving to a nudist colony in the desert to avoid all the laundry that’s piling up. Before you pack your bags (nudists must be light travellers!) consider that your washing machine is set up to water your landscape, and your Weather-Based Irrigation Controller is letting you know that, with this heat, you’ll need to run those Rotating Sprinkler Nozzles a bit longer today. Go ahead and wash that sweaty pile of laundry, you know it’s not being wasted, and you know it’s being accurately distributed across your landscape, thanks to the help from the City of San Diego’s Free Residential Water Survey. So forget about moving to the desert, sit down on your porch and enjoy your happy garden. But panic runs through you once more: You see the mail-lady approaching your home and you’ve got the urge to pick up where you left off, and join that nudist colony to avoid paying these bills that are coming your way. But the mail is already in your hands, and well golly-gee, you’re spending less on your utilities than ever before! Maybe you’ll stick around after all…

That concludes the water rebates I’ve found, although there might be more out there that I’ve missed. If you find any, send them my way at to spread the word. Check out the next one for a whole new crop of rebates and opportunities to start conserving water, energy, and money.

–  Ali Mehraban
Newsletter Editor &
Climate Action Intern