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MWD Launches New Call to Action: Drought-Proof Southern California by Reclaiming Nature's Heritage.

Business Editors

Metropolitan, Actress Rene Russo Launch New Long-Term Approach

to Water Conservation, Including Native Plant Campaign

In the driest year in recorded history, Southern California took the first step today toward reclaiming the region's natural heritage as Metropolitan Water District joined actress Rene Russo to unveil a new long-term water conservation strategy that encourages painless changes in outdoor water use and promotes appreciation and use of native, drought-proof plants.

"While we have enough water on hand to meet the Southland's needs in this dry year, we're asking Southern Californians to take water conservation to the next level -- into our lifestyles," said Metropolitan Chairman Phillip J. Pace, during a press conference at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.

"This campaign demonstrates we can take long-term measures that adapt to our region's natural climate variability. Smart water use is not just for dry or drought years, but something we must incorporate into our daily lives," Pace said. "With this in mind, the district's board has created a non-profit foundation to create a permanent Southern California Water Education Center to accomplish our goals of a drought-proof region."

Metropolitan's multi-faceted campaign shifts the focus of water conservation from inside the home to outside, where 30 to 70 percent of water is used.

"Today, we're calling on people to stop over-watering their plants, which is a major plant-killer, while promoting a new style of Southern California gardening that incorporates native, drought-tolerant plants," Pace said.

Russo, a native plant enthusiast, delivered a personal message about the importance of using native plants. "We don't have to be penalized for conserving water. We can get more and use less," Russo said. "It's reasonable, it's responsible and the gardens are remarkable.

"My own garden, which is primarily native plants, needs to be watered only once every two weeks during the entire summer. In the end, it's not just water-efficient, it is absolutely beautiful," said Russo, flanked by examples of native plants offered at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, a private non-profit research and educational institution devoted to promoting knowledge, conservation and wise use of California's native plants.

The campaign is being launched in the state's second straight dry year, with record dry conditions in Los Angeles, San Diego and across Southern California. Despite the lack of rain, the region is still assured of a reliable water supply because of investments made by Metropolitan and its 26 member public agencies in water conservation, recycling and groundwater cleanup programs, as well as additional water storage.

"This record-breaking dry year is a wake-up call for the Southland," said Dr. William Patzert, a noted climatologist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory. "It's a reminder that our region's climate history is a very dry story. We must be mindful of our dry past and environmental heritage."

Nora Jaeschke, representing the California Association of Community Managers and the Community Association Institute, announced that the respective property management and homeowners organizations were signing on to the campaign to adapt California's living spaces to the region's natural environment.

"Only by doing so will future generations reduce drought and its consequences," said Jaeschke, founder and president of N.N. Jaeschke Inc., who also serves in leadership positions with San Diego city and county water agencies.

Metropolitan's campaign reorients the district's existing conservation and education programs to focus on outdoor conservation and native, drought-tolerant plants. It also includes print advertisements, public service announcements, cable television and radio commercials, as well as movie theater slides throughout the district's six-county service area.

Tony Fellow, chairman of the Metropolitan board's communications, outreach and legislation committee, said the campaign asks the public to make reasonable lifestyle choices that make homes adaptable to the region's natural landscape and climate variability.

"By reducing the water being needlessly wasted outdoors by only 10 percent through our new approach, it will save 50 billion gallons of water. This is enough to meet the residential needs in a city like San Diego for one year," Fellow said.

Dr. Clement W. Hamilton, executive director of the botanic garden, said that less than 1 percent of all of landscape plants that are currently used are California native.

"That's a number we're looking to increase in coming years, as we promote urban landscapes that are attractive, reflect the best of California's heritage, and efficiently use water," Hamilton said.

Metropolitan's conservation campaign includes a multi-year marketing and advertising program, done in concert with the district's member agencies, to encourage long-term or permanent changes in outdoor water use. The district's region-wide water education program, which reaches about 30,000 students annually, will add curriculum designed around native plants, including native seed and planting programs.

The district also will ramp-up its ongoing "Protector del Agua" program, which trains professional gardeners and landscape maintenance workers in water-wise landscaping techniques, by adding components about the care of drought-tolerant, native plants. Next spring, Metropolitan will roll out a campaign that promotes the appreciation of native plants, joining with landscape experts to spread the word through a garden contest, public workshops and educational materials. More information about outdoor conservation, including tips, can be found on Metropolitan's Web site, mwdh20.com.

The newly established Southern California Water Education Center, to be located next to Metropolitan's Diamond Valley Lake near Hemet, will round out the district's efforts by serving as an example of how to live and thrive in the semi-arid region through a deeper understanding and appreciation of water.

The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California is a cooperative of 26 cities and water agencies serving 17 million people in six counties. The district imports water from the Colorado River and Northern California to supplement local supplies, and helps its members to develop increased water conservation, recycling, storage and other resource-management programs.
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Publication:Business Wire
Date:Jul 16, 2002
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