Sonoma and Napa Fires are the backdrop of this firey sunset in Novato

Fiery Sunset in Black Point Novato October 17, 2017

Four Essential Actions for Wildfire Preparation

Plus the Secret Ingredient to Effective Preparation

Wind and warmer weather underlines the threat of wildfire for the rest of October.  This month is usually the worst, but if warming conditions prevail, “wildfire risk could rise again before winter rains arrive in earnest,” says Weatherwest.com.

Preparing for wildfire is a combination of prevention (a longer-term solution) and short-term preparation. 
Below are four essential short-term actions you can take now. 
They will minimize the risk to you and your home.

I have first-hand knowledge of wildfire preparation and prevention. 
Living in a North Bay community designated as “at risk” for wildfire, I am well versed in both prevention and preparation.  The unnerving “Red Flag” warnings from Nixle (learn about them below) reminds us to stay focused on safety. We are a proactive group.  And, so far, we’ve been fortunate. 

Following FireSafe Marin guidelines, our neighborhood works together trimming trees, scheduling fire department consultations and following their recommended activities. 

This coming weekend is our second “chipper day.”  Funded by a grant, our Fire Department will send out a chipper and crew to dispose of the trimmings from cut trees and shrubs.  Hand-made signs posted throughout our neighborhood are friendly reminders for taking action. 

I believe that what has made us successful (the secret ingredient) is teamwork. Working together with a common goal of fighting danger.  As a group we’ve been more effective than as individuals.

The four activities below are the essentials of what you can do now.  There is also an evacuation checklist you can use.

Preparation
Sign up for Emergency Notifications

If you haven’t already, sign up now.

Nixle
It will alert you to any emergency events and evacuations in your area. You will also receive non-emergency alerts about local criminal activity.  Those messages can be annoying, but trust me, Nixle is an invaluable system.

County Notification
This link from ABC7 news will direct you to where and how to sign up for your county.
Your county may give you options, i.e., text, phone or VOIP, on how messages may be received.

Decoding alert messages

Evacuation order: Means evacuate now do not delay to gather belongings.  Fire expected in less than an hour. 
Evacuation warning: Evacuate soon, but there is time to gather belongings quickly.
Shelter in place: It is safer to stay in your current location. 

Preparation
What to know – Resources

Know your neighborhood escape route. Work with family and neighbors if applicable.
Make copies of important documents like passports, insurance policies, birth certificates. Then put them in a safe deposit box.
Fire Department Risk Assessment Request a visit your local Fire Department representative for a free vegetation management inspection.
Cal Fire has a comprehensive brochure and checklists

Preparation
Pack a “Go Bag” Put it in your Vehicle*

What to pack and where to find items you will need

*This list was adapted from FireSafe Marin. They also have a comprehensive checklist.

Preparation
Where to Purchase Disaster Supplies

If you are looking for reviews and advice on where to purchase disaster supplies, the list below can help.

Wirecutter, which is a New York Times Company has much information about where to purchase, costs and what is in pre-assembled kits. 

Aside from the above, there are local big box stores where you can purchase emergency supplies.

Costco

Home Depot

Prepare
Outside Debris Removal

Clear your roof
Remove dead leaves and debris from your roof and gutters
Keep branches 10 feet from your chimney
Cover your chimney outlet and stovepipe with a nonflammable screen of 1/2″ mesh

Dry leaves on roof - they are a fire hazard

Get dry leaves off your roof!

Landscape and Debris Cleaning
Remove all debris, i.e., fallen leaves, dead plants, construction materials away from structures
Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet from structures
Move liquefied petroleum gas containers to a minimum of 10 feet from structures

Create a Defensible Space (See detailed version for more information)
The law requires every home have a 100-foot defensible space around it

Zone 1-up to 30 feet
Remove all dead plants, grass, and leaves.
Remove dead dry leaves; pine needles from rain gutters and roof.
Remove tree branches from your chimney, and the ones that are hanging over your roof.

Zone 2 – up to 100 feet
The remaining 70 feet should be a “reduced fuel zone.”
Cut or mow grass to a maximum height of 4 inches.
Create horizontal space between shrubs and trees.
Create vertical spacing between shrubs and trees.
Keep plants well hydrated.

How to Use Equipment Properly
Mow grass before 10 am.
A string trimmer is safer for clearing vegetation than a mower.
Never on Red Flag days or when it is windy, hot and dry.
Spark arrestors* should be installed on all portable, gas-powered equipment.
*A spark arrestor prevents the emission of flammable debris.

The Difference a Team Makes

Our community’s “at risk” status didn’t register when I bought my house nine years ago.  The only inkling about our prospects was a faded road sign that said “Keep up Your Fire Safety Efforts” and a neighbor’s stray comment that we “have fire drills every other year or so”. 

Then came October 2017.  The Napa fire.  Santa Rosa.  And, a couple of terrifyingly close-call fires on Highway 37. A harbinger of summers to follow. I felt scared; powerless over the whims of a warming climate.  Then I discovered working with my neighbors.  Planning and talking about solutions to minimize risk, as a group, changed my perception of the potential dangers.  Though I have no control over climate conditions, I feel safer now.  Ultimately, battling Mother Nature as a team made a difference.

Sources for this article

Cal Fire
Fire Safe Marin
Firewise USA

Additional Resources, checklists, graphics
Cal Fire Homeowners Checklist (short and long-term strategies)

 


Water saving trends, tools and tips for your SF Bay Area landscape

Irrigation technology is becoming more efficient.
Our post lists trends and tips you can use to irrigation more efficiently. 

Smart Irrigation Controller Trends
What you need to know about trends in Smart Irrigation Controllers

It’s about accessibility!
And, cloud storage.
Controlling your system on any device anywhere.  All you need is an app.
Access using your cell service or WiFi.

Remote access on your device enables you to

Program the controller.
Revise schedules; start and stop.
Manage water budgets.
They can detect leaks. 
User will receive real time notifications, saving precious time and water for homeowners and Property Managers.

Programming a Smart Irrigation Controller is more complex
Get training or hire a professional

To fully utilize their water saving capability a ton of data needs to be entered correctly.
For example: soil type, slope information, sun or shade, plant types and type of irrigation.

Weather data is accessed via the web or local weather stations.
Historical weather data can help with a watering schedule and it can serve as a back up if there is an interruption in service.

See our previous blog for rebate information.  Depending on the district, there might still be rebates for purchasing smart irrigation controllers.

Irrigation Tips

Practices that will save you water

Hydrozone your plants
It just means grouping your plants by their water needs.  Your drought tolerant plants are mixed in with water loving plants neither will be happy.  You will either have crispy leaves or root rot.
Example: seasonal color beds have different water needs from turf areas.  They should have separate valves.

Pay attention to the water needs of maturing plants
Their water needs may change as they grow.

Manage your irrigation system’s water pressure
Adjust as needed.  An example: too much pressure will cause runoff and waste water. 
Older sprinkler nozzles may need replacing.  See below on trends and tools for irrigation.

Irrigation Trends & Tools

Spray Irrigation Trends | Pros & Cons

It is designed to irrigate with a high volume of water using spray heads.
It is best for large turf areas that are wide and flat.

Pros

It is easy to repair.
Spray patterns are adjustable.
Water is distributed uniformly.

Cons

They waste water due to evaporation and runoff.
Because water is applied to foliage – there is potential of plant disease.
Winds will reduce its efficiency of application.
They are only 50-70 percent effective.


Trends
High efficiency nozzles can reduce water use.
We recommend them when appropriate.  “They require longer irrigation run times.
“Make sure you are aware of your plant water needs”, says Paul Swanson, thirty-year veteran of GGI and the company’s Director of Business Development.

Drip Irrigation Trends| Pros and Cons

For plants other than turf, drip is most efficient.  Over 90 percent. 
Water is released slowly and directly into the soil from its emitters.

Pros

The water goes directly to the base of the plant.
It costs less to install, than a sprinkler system.
Water is applied slowly.  Particularly good for slopes.  It minimizes the chance of runoff.
Lower water use; less waste.
Less contact with foliage. Less chance of disease.

Cons

Because the tubing is below ground, repairs are more complicated.
It requires regular maintenance to ensure plant health.  This is the only way to confirm that the system is releasing sufficient water.
Tubing can become blocked so periodic flushing is a necessary part of maintenance.

Conclusion

Not only does California have to plan for potential droughts, but the reality is that water prices will continue to rise.
A study contracted by the Institute for Public Utilities states that water and sewer rates are growing by an average of 7 percent a year.  This exceeds income growth.  The reason – customer revenues are no longer sufficient for utilities to recoup rising operating costs.

Sources

The irrigation experts at Gardeners’ Guild
Irrigation Association
Love your landscape
Turf Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

dollars and cents


Take advantage of these 2018 SF Bay Area Water District Rebates while they last.

Water conservation rebates for 8 SF Bay Area districts. 
Everything you need to know including how much you will save, prerequisites and other details.
Plus links to each district.

Commercial and residential water district rebates.

Most popular are the “cash for grass” programs.
Also rebates for efficient irrigation equipment. 
Want a printable report? See link below.

SF Bay Area Water Smart Landscape Rebates
 

Residential*

Lawn Conversion Rebate**

$.50 per square foot of lawn removed.

Add $.25 per square foot when you convert the lawn area sprinklers to qualifying in-line drip irrigation

Add $1.50 per square foot when you qualify for California’s separate lawn conversion program – residential only.

Rebates up to $2,000

**Must have an existing lawn

Irrigation equipment rebate – includes

Rebate may not exceed $2,000 for residential and multi-family properties (with 4 units or less)

  • Conversion – from sprinklers to in-line drip
  • Replace conventional sprinkler nozzles with high-efficiency ones. 
  • Smart/weather-based controllers to replace conventional ones.
  • Install a system-wide brass/bronze pressure regulator.
  • Irrigation submeter – install a submeter to improve leak detection and manage water use.

Commercial & Multi-Family*

Lawn Conversion Rebate**

$.50 per square foot of lawn removed.

Add $.25 per square foot when you convert the lawn area sprinklers to qualifying in-line drip irrigation

Rebates Up to $15,000

 **You must have an existing lawn

Irrigation equipment rebate – includes

Rebate may not exceed $12,500 for commercial and large residential properties.

For qualifying EBMUD commercial customers

  • Conversion – from sprinklers to in-line drip
  • Replace conventional sprinkler nozzles with high-efficiency ones. 
  • Smart/weather-based controllers to replace conventional ones.
  • Install a system-wide brass/bronze pressure regulator.
  • Irrigation Submeter – Install a submeter to improve leak detection and manage your water use.

Residential

$2 per square foot of turf removed, for up to 1,000 square feet and a maximum rebate of $2,000 per household.

This program is administered by the State of California.

Laundry to Landscape Graywater program.  Applies to single-family or 2-unit residential property. For more information.

Commercial & Multi-Family

There are no SFPUC Commercial rebates


Residential

Up to $50 for each item on the list below

Up to $250 for All Five

Applies to single-family and duplex residential customers only.

  • Pool covers
  • Organic mulch
  • Laundry-to-landscape system components:
  • Rain barrels

Turf conversion

Receive up to $2 per square foot – up to $2,000. Per household

Program funded by the State of California

Commercial

Turf conversion

Up to $2 per square foot

Commercial, industrial and institutional sites, as well as multi-family residential sites in areas served by dedicated irrigation meters are eligible

To qualify, a minimum of 1,000 square feet of turf must be removed


Residential

Cash for Grass program

Remove automatically irrigated lawn.

Replace with District approved, low-water use planted landscapes.

Up to $50 per 100 square feet of lawn area.

The incentive is limited to $400 for single family dwellings, $100 for townhouses or condominiums, and $50 for apartments.

Weather Based Irrigation Controller Rebate

Uses weather data and site information to automatically adjust watering schedules. Increases water use efficiency. Reduces run-off and improves the health of your landscape. It can save 30% or more on your landscape water use. It is less expensive than you might think.

Rebate amount: $100 or $30 per active station up to $1,200 per controller, whichever is greater. Rebate cannot exceed the purchase price of the Smart Controller

Commercial

Cash for Grass program*

Remove automatically irrigated lawn.

Replace with District approved, low-water use planted landscapes.

Up to $50 per 100 square feet of lawn area.

The incentive is limited to $400 for single-family dwellings, $100 for townhouses or condominiums, and $50 for apartments.

*The commercial rebate is approved on a case-by-case basis. Call 415-761-8944 for more information

**this district serves Novato area and parts of West Marin


Residential

Efficient Irrigation

Up to $100.00 max for pre-qualified equipment from this list

Options – See link for details.

  • Drip irrigation retrofit.
  • High-efficiency nozzles able to popup 6” or higher
  • Rain/weather sensor – optional
  • Weather-based irrigation controller

Cash for Grass

$.50/sq ft up to max of 500 sq ft or $250.

Must be pre-qualified

Review details in this link

Efficient Irrigation

Up to $1,000. Max per meter for pre-qualified equipment

Options – See link for details

  • Drip irrigation retrofit
  • High-efficiency nozzles able to popup 6” or higher
  • Rain/weather sensor required
  • Weather-based irrigation controller

Cash for Grass

$.50/sq ft up to max of 5,000 sq ft or $2,500.

Must be pre-qualified

Review details in this link


Napa Rebates

Residential

Cash for Grass program

Converting high water use turfgrass with district approved, low-water use, drip-irrigated plants or permeable hardscape materials.

Receive up to $1 per square foot –Per household

Maximum of $750 for Single-Family Residential

(equivalent to 750 sq. ft)

Supplemental funding is also available while it lasts – by the State of California

Commercial  

Cash for Grass program

Converting high water use turfgrass with district approved, low-water use, drip-irrigated plants or permeable hardscape materials.

Receive up to $1 per square foot –Per household

Maximum of 2,500 for Commercial/Multi-Family

(equivalent to 2,500 sq.)


Solano County Rebates

Residential

Up to $50 for each item on the list below

Up to $250 for All Five

Applies to single-family and duplex residential customers only.

  • Pool covers
  • Organic mulch
  • Laundry-to-landscape system components:
  • Rain barrels
  • Hot water recirculating systems

Smart irrigation controller rebate

Rebate up to $300, $700, or $1000 depending on the number of stations

Commercial  

Turf replacement  

Receive up to $1 per square foot – up to a maximum of 5,000 square feet for customers who replace turf with water-wise landscaping. 

Smart Irrigation Controller rebate  

Receive up to $1,000.

Customized Water Efficiency Rebate  

Provides rebates (amount not shown) for water efficiency improvements to irrigation systems as well as indoor water using appliances. 

Customer must meet certain criteria to be approved.

Program ends June 2018, or when funds are depleted.


Contra Costa Rebates

Residential

Turf replacement  

Get up to $1,000 by replacing your water-thirsty front lawn with a water-wise landscape.

Smart irrigation controller rebate

$12 per active (used) irrigation station (zone) up to 50% of the list cost of the controller(s). Limit one rebate per customer per address.

Get up to $50 for equipment and installation on a qualifying system.

Pool Cover Rebate

Get up to $50 back on a qualifying pool cover.

Water Graphic-California's New Permanent Water Regulations Explained

California’s New Permanent Water Regulations Explained

We explain California’s new permanent water regulations, in plain language.
Why it was passed. Its effect on you. Below there is a link to resources that will help you conserve.
And, we squish one ridiculous myth flying around the web!

Freshly signed into law by Governor Brown, the bills now make water conservation “a way of life” in California. 
Bills AB 1668 and SB 606 aim to reduce water usage by twenty percent, per capita by December 31, 2020.

Background 

*Climate modeling by Climate Scientist Daniel Swain uncovers another trend – drier autumns with a late onset of the rainy season and a corresponding drier spring.  Source:  published in Nature Climate Change.   

Who is affected?
All California residents.

Why?

A high probability of future extreme drought conditions and the need to plan for them.

It will motivate agencies to repair old and inefficient infrastructure.

What do I need to know?

The state mandates local water agencies to establish water use targets based on their respective region’s climate, land use and population. 

  • Indoor water use limit of 55 gallons per person, per day through January 1, 2025.**
  • Outdoor water usage standards are not developed yet.  (includes landscapes and pools).  DWR will study climate and landscapes around the state to determine guidelines.
  • Commercial, institutional and industrial standards will be defined by 2021.

**East Bay Municipal Water District website, see link below, has information to help you calculate your own water usage.  There’s also a handy table that lists water usage for showers, sinks, washers and other household appliances.

East Bay Municipal Water District Web Page Link

Separating Myth from Fact

Myth

You can’t shower and wash clothes on the same day.

Fact

Not true.

Most washers now use only 9 to, at the most, 26 gallons of water.

An average shower for 8 minutes uses 17 gallons of water. 

Some Perspective

Average per capita = per person.

San Francisco’s average water use is less than 55 gallons per person, per day.

There was a 55-gallon standard set for indoor use set almost 10 years ago.

The 55-gallon limit is more than what is allowed in some countries in Europe.

There are numerous water crises in urban centers all over the world. Water pollution accounts for many of them.  Others, a result of extreme drought.  In all cases, experts say, poor water management is the reason it became a crisis.  Cape Town was expected to run out of water earlier this year, but a last-ditch policy of severe rationing  narrowly avoided a catastrophe.  The city’s doomsday alarm clock was reset for next year.

 

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coreopsis Perennial

Above: Coreopsis – a perennial and native to North America


8 Easy Drought Tolerant Plants for Your SF Bay Area Climate. And, how to care for them.

These plants are beautiful and tough. They will save water and add color to your garden.

One of these 8 plants will work for your SF Bay Area climate.  Whether you live in the hottest inland part of the San Francisco Bay Area or on the coast.

Get the printable version of our report below
Download the Report

 
Lantana
Lantana, a non-native perennial
Attributes Non-native
They come back, year after year. In an array of colors.
Colors Pink, purple, yellow, red and orange
Bloom times  Spring, summer and fall
Light Requirements  Full sun
Water Drought tolerant
Maintenance Easy; deer resistant
Notes Bees and butterflies love them
They like well-draining soil


Salvia Leucantha (Common Name Mexican Sage)

Salvia Leucantha, a drought tolerant perennial
Attributes From Mexico; one of numerous varieties of Salvia
Colors This variety is purple
Bloom times  Late summer to early frost
Light Requirements  Full sun; will tolerate some shade
Water Drought tolerant
Maintenance Easy to grow
Notes Butterflies and hummingbirds love them
Hardiness to 15 degrees; tolerates windy conditions


Achillea Moonshine (Common Name Yarrow)

Achillea Moonshine or Yarrow is a drought tolerant perennial
Attributes Native. Showy flowers that can be dried; fragrant
Colors This yarrow flowers are yellow.
Bloom times  Early to late summer
Light Requirements  Full sun
Water Drought tolerant
Maintenance Easy; deer resistant
Notes Attracts bees, butterflies and other beneficial insects
Hardiness Heat tolerant



Dietes (Common Name Fortnight Lily)

Dietes, a perennial that adapts to wind and fog
Attributes From Africa, from the Iris family
Colors White, yellow or pink flowers
Bloom times  Spring to fall
Light Requirements  Full sun to partial shade
Water Drought tolerant
Maintenance Needs regular pruning and deadheading
Hardiness Adapts to wind and fog

Ceanothus Diamond Heights

Ceanothus Diamond Heights, native ground cover
Attributes Native ground cover or shrub
Colors Yellow chartreuse and variegated foliage
Bloom times  Spring has pale blue flowers
Light Requirements  Shade to part sun
Water Drought tolerant
Maintenance Easy; deer resistant, pruning not necessary.
Hardiness Likes coastal temperatures. 
Hardy to 20 degrees


Cistus x purpureus (Common Name Rock Rose)

Cistus x purpureus or Rock Rose, a hardy shrub
Attributes Non-native, fire-resistant, tolerates neglect
Colors Bright pink almost purple showy flowers
Bloom times  Spring, and summer
Light Requirements  Full sun
Water Drought tolerant
Maintenance Easy; deer resistant
Notes White (salvifolius) or light pink (xskanbergii) are adaptable to fog and wind
Hardiness Tolerates heat



Arctostaphylos Emerald Carpet (Carpet Manzanita)

Arctostaphylos Emerald Carpet, drought tolerant ground cover
Attributes Native ground cover or shrub; evergreen
Colors Deep green foliage, white flowers
Bloom times  Winter to spring
Light Requirements  Full sun, partial shade
Water Drought tolerant
Maintenance Easy; deer resistant
Notes Bees and butterflies love them
Hardiness to 15-20 degrees


Penstemon Carillo Red

Penstemon Carillo Red, native great for cut flowers


Attributes Native, makes beautiful cut flowers
Colors Red tubular-shaped flowers
Bloom times  Early to late summer, blooms for 4 weeks or more
Light Requirements  Full sun to mostly sunny
Water Drought tolerant
Maintenance Deer resistant
Notes Attracts pollinators
Hardiness Tolerates hot dry climates