A Crash Course in Local Water Issues

Today, we share our last blog post from Environmental Educator, Monica Rosquillas, who will be setting out on a new path in 2015. A member of the ILACSD team for more than two years, Monica just completed the Citizen Water Academy program and provides a brief rundown of what she learned below. You can even test your local water knowledge in a quiz she created!

Last October, I had the privilege of being part of the inaugural class of the San Diego County Water Authority’s Citizens Water Academy.

The Citizens Water Academy is open to future and emerging leaders in the San Diego region that desire to learn about critical water issues in the region.

Fall 2014 Citizens Water Academy participants
Fall 2014 Citizens Water Academy participants

It was a four session program the included presentations from local water experts and tours to local water facilities.

Here’s a short run-through of the academy and some interesting information I learned along the way.

Session 1 was held at the San Diego History Center in beautiful Balboa Park.
During this session, local water experts presented on San Diego’s water history and its future.
Within the last 24 years, San Diego has increased its water reliability through supply diversification.

picture 2
Did you know where our tap water comes from?


Here’s Michael Page, ILACSD board member who also participated in the Citizens Water Academy. On the right is Mark Weston, Water Authority Board Chair. On the left is Ramesses Surban, Citizens Water Academy student
Here’s Michael Page, ILACSD board member who also participated in the Citizens Water Academy. On the right is Mark Weston, Water Authority Board Chair. On the left is Ramesses Surban, Citizens Water Academy student

Session 2 was held at the Escondido Operations and Maintenance Center. We learned about Regional Water Infrastructure, Water Authority Operations, and the Water Authority’s Emergency Preparedness Efforts.

Did you know that San Diego uses enough water every day to fill Qualcomm Stadium twice?

During session two I learned all about what goes into importing water to San Diego, storing it, treating it, and delivering that water to our homes. I have always been conscious of my water use but I now have a new appreciation of San Diego’s clean and reliable tap water.

Ever wonder what happens to our water supply in case of an emergency? Watch this video  to find out.


Session 3 was at the North City Water Reclamation Plant.

There, we took a tour of San Diego’s Advanced Water Purification Facility, where wastewater is treated and recycled.

picture 4 picture 5

Session 4 was a busy day!

After breakfast and check in at the Escondido office, we got on a bus and headed over to the Carlsbad Desalination Plant.

The Desalination plant is a $ 1 Billion project expected to produce drinking water for the San Diego region as soon as fall 2015. The plant will meet about 7% of the county’s water demands in 2020.

Here’s how it works.

picture 6


We then headed over to Olivenhain Reservoir.  This is the region’s first major new dam and reservoir in 50 years. The Olivenhain Reservoir can store 24,000 Acre Feet of Water.

picture 7
Here I am at the Olivenhain Reservoir


Afterwards, we took a trip over to Stone Brewery in Escondido and were able to tour their water recycling facility.

Here I am at Stone.
Here I am at Stone.

Finally, we headed back to the Escondido office for our Graduation Ceremony.

Here I am with Mark Weston, Board Chair, and Maureen A. Stapleton, General Manager of the San Diego County Water Authority
Here I am with Mark Weston, Board Chair, and Maureen A. Stapleton, General Manager of the San Diego County Water Authority


The Citizens Water Academy provided me with the opportunity to learn firsthand from local water experts about the region’s water supply that I have shared with hundreds of students in San Diego County, hopefully inspiring them to conserve this precious natural resource.  If you’re interested in participating in the Citizens Water Academy, a project of the San Diego County Water Authority, they are currently accepting applications for their Spring 2015 class. Learn more information online.

Think you’re a water expert? Test your local water knowledge in a quiz that Monica created based on what she learned in the Citizens Water Academy!


Get a free oil filter and save our local environment!

BLopez_teamToday’s post comes from ILACSD’s Hotline Assistant, Barbara Lopez!

Many of us know that it is important to recycle used motor oil, but did you know that recycling the oil filter is just as important? One used oil filter contains about 10 ounces of used oil, even after draining, and therefore should not be thrown in the trash. By recycling your oil filter, you prevent used oil from entering our landfills, our water supply, and our environment. Also, recycling an oil filter keeps about one pound of reusable steel from going to the landfill. According to CalRecycle, if each oil filter sold in California was recycled, nearly 67 million pounds of steel would be diverted from landfills; that’s enough steel to build three large sports stadiums!

oilfilterflyerTo encourage residents to recycle their old oil filters, the County of San Diego, Department of Public Works and I Love A Clean San Diego will be holding oil filter exchange events on March 23, 2013. Residents of the unincorporated county can visit one of the participating AutoZone locations, bring in a used filter and receive a new one free. In addition to oil filters, residents can also bring in up to five gallons of uncontaminated used motor oil to recycle.

If you are unable to attend these events, there are other options available to properly recycle used oil filters and motor oil. Some communities offer a free home pick up of used motor oil and filters. Also, there are nearly 300 Certified Used Oil Collection Centers in San Diego County that accept up to five gallons of uncontaminated used motor oil; many of these collection centers will also accept oil filters for recycling. If you have motor oil that is contaminated or more than five gallons of uncontaminated motor oil, visit a Household Hazardous Waste Collection Facility for proper disposal. To see if free home pick up of used motor oil is available in your community or to find a Certified Collection Center near you, visit WasteFreeSD.org.

Upcoming Oil Filter Exchange Events
All events will be held on Saturday March 23, 2013 from 10am-2pm. Limit one free filter per person. Free offer valid during specified date, time, and location.

AutoZone at 1081 S. Mission Ave., Fallbrook 92028

AutoZone at 12421 Woodside Ave., Lakeside 92040

AutoZone at 370 Pala St., Ramona 92065

Spring Valley
AutoZone at 699 Sweetwater Rd., Spring Valley 91977
AutoZone at 9710 Campo Rd., Spring Valley 91978

To find out about additional recycling events, visit WasteFreeSD.org today!

Enjoy the Scene, But Keep It Clean!

Last year’s CBC trash bin.

I Love A Clean San Diego and other local nonprofits are at it again, hoping to make this summer the cleanest on record at some of our most popular beach destinations. As hundreds of thousands of people look to descend on local beaches this summer, I Love A Clean San Diego, FreePB,org, and Surfrider Foundation are working hard to make sure the beaches don’t bear the brunt of what thousands of people leave behind…trash! As part of the Clean Beach Coalition, our organizations work together to remind our community to be aware of the amount of trash they make, and also place temporary trash and recycling bins at the most popular beaches during popular holidays like the 4th of July.

Even with the added trash and recycling bins, inevitably some trash still ends up on the sand. If you’re sick of your favorite beach getting trashed, you can do something about it by volunteering at the Morning After Mess, scheduled for Thursday, July 5th at 9am! ILACSD will be hosting our cleanup site at Belmont Park in Mission Beach. Contact Jemma De Leon at jdeleon@cleansd.org or 619-704-2778 if you are interest in participating or have any event questions.

Our thanks go out to the sponsors who helped make this year’s campaign a reality!

Think Blue – City of San Diego Stormwater & Transporation Department
Pacific Beach Shore Club
Keep California Beautiful
Paradise Point Resort & Spa.

Visit CleanBeachCoalition.org to learn more!

Stopping Cigarette Litter, One Butt at a Time

Today’s post comes from ILACSD’s Director of Development and Marketing, Morgan Justice-Black!

A few years ago, I Love A Clean San Diego heard about a program being launched by our national affiliate, Keep America Beautiful. The Cigarette Litter Prevention Program, although in its infancy, seemed like a great addition to our program arsenal. Anyone who has participated in one of our cleanups knows that cigarette butts are far and away the most common item picked up. It’s a painstaking process, bending over and picking them up one by one. While removing cigarette litter is good, preventing it is even better. So that’s what we set out to do.

In collaboration with the San Diego Chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, we are implementing three new CLPP programs this summer. The areas targeted for ash can installation include: Oceanside, North Park, and La Mesa. Prior to placing the ash cans, our volunteers do litter scans to find the areas that have the most cigarette litter. Then, ash cans are installed, and the cigarette litter collection begins. Typically, after about a month, volunteers will do a post installation litter scan to see how many butts still make it onto the ground. One lucky volunteer has the dubious task of counting each cigarette butt in all the ash cans to see how many are collected during the first few months. In some cases, we’ve been able to collect upwards of 2,500 butts in a single month!

We are excited to expand this already successful program. The three new areas we are reaching join Mission Beach, Pacific Beach, La Jolla and Point Loma where ash cans were installed in previous years. We estimate these ashcans have prevented over 30,000 cigarette butts from littering our local environment each year.

Kevin, winner of our Creek to Bay Volunteers in Action Photo Contest, shows just a handful of the butts picked up at one cleanup location.

Local Students Defend the Sea at Kids Ocean Day 2012

Many people will look at this picture and squint at it thinking, what is that?

“Are those rocks?” is a common question we’ve heard since releasing this picture after last week’s Kids Ocean Day. The design is definitely not made of rocks, or shells, or even trash from a cleanup. This amazing image is a piece of living art made up of over 1000 people. Yep, those are local San Diego students, parents, volunteers and the ILACSD staff sitting on the sand at Crown Point Shores sending a message to the rest of San Diego to ‘Defend the Sea.’

Kids Ocean Day is how we here at I Love A Clean San Diego get kids involved in celebrating World Oceans Day each year. This amazing work of art started as just an idea a few months ago, and was brought to life by ILACSD’s Environmental Educator, Alex Mullen-Ley and Education Coordinator, Samantha. Our staff were up before the sun last Thursday, mapping out and drawing Alex’s design in the sand.

As the buses began arriving, 3rd-5th grade students from 8 local schools started the day by cleaning up the beach, finding cigarette butts, beverage containers and small pieces of plastic.

The excitement started to build as we began lining the students up to file into the aerial art and the news helicopter started circling overhead. It was amazing to watch our octopus come to life piece by piece as the students and volunteers started to fill in the lines of the image. Most of the kids had never been a part of anything like this and were very excited to find their place in the sand.

Last but not least, the I Love A Clean San Diego staff sat down to form the eye of the octopus.

The second helicopter arrived, carrying our friend and photographer Rachel Lebowitz from Outside the Lens, another local nonprofit that teaches youth to use digital media to create change within themselves and their community. We were so impressed at how well behaved the students were as we waited for word from Rachel that she’d gotten the perfect shot!

Kids Ocean Day was coordinated in 5 cities in California, all using the theme ‘Defend the Sea’ in their designs. Click here to visit the Ocean Day website and see all of the amazing aerial art images!

ILACSD Educators Get Kids Out of the Classroom and Into Nature

Today’s post comes from ILACSD’s Environmental Educator, Alex Mullen-Ley.

Students consult their field guides on a Nearby Nature walk.

It is easy to see that the staff members here at I Love A Clean San Diego are all fervent environmentalists.  I can confidently say that this enthusiasm is due in no small part to our unique childhood experiences in the great outdoors. Richard Louv, author of Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder, maintains that a child’s experience in nature is vital to his or her development.  Studies have shown that youth who spend time outside are happier, healthier, and are better at learning than those who spend most of their time indoors.  ILACSD’s Nearby Nature program allows our educators to help youth connect with nature by leading them on an outdoor walk through a natural area close to their school.  We recently had the opportunity to take elementary students from two very different schools out of the comfort of their classrooms and into the wild.

Our first group of students was from John Muir Elementary, a school with a rather serendipitous name located next to Tecolote Canyon Natural Park.  After a short set of instructions and a safety talk in the classroom, we led the students out the door and down into the canyon. It was cool and invigorating early in the morning, and I was amazed to hear that many students had never been to the canyon before, despite its proximity to the school.

We handed all of the students a field guide with colorful pictures of San Diego’s native species. They used the guides throughout the walk to identify the plants and animals that we saw during the short walk through the canyon.  The most exciting part of the adventure was when one group walked around a corner and saw a three-foot long snake lying across the middle of the trail not five feet away!  After everyone had calmed down, the students looked up the reptile in their naturalist guides and identified it as a harmless Gopher Snake. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief.

Back in the classroom, the students showed each other leaf rubbings that they had done and swapped stories about the different plants, animals and flowers that they had seen on the hike. Before we left, I asked my group if they were going to visit the canyon again with their parents.  A loud, “yeah!” evidenced their enthusiasm. The ILACSD Educators all left the school with satisfied smiles.

We drove all the way to James Dukes Elementary School in Ramona a week later. The school is in a comparatively rural location, but again I was surprised to hear that the majority of the students hadn’t yet explored the nearby greenbelt.

Students drew a picture of a yucca plant in their notebooks.

The kids had just learned about Kumeyaay culture, and were excited to tell us about how the Native American tribe had used elements from the surrounding environment to survive. The students became the teachers when they told us educators about how the Kumeyaay made sandals out of Yucca and Agave fibers, crafted pots out of clay, and ground up California Live Oak acorns to make most of their food.

Exhausted after the hike, the students collapsed in their chairs in the temperature-controlled classroom and filled out a short survey. The survey only had three questions: what the most interesting thing they saw on the hike was; one thing they learned; and what nature means to them. Their responses were all honest and heartening. Nature was described as awesome, special, wonderful, interesting, and in the words of one fourth grader, “calming. Any time I go into nature I feel safe.”

The Nearby Nature program is one of the most rewarding for us as educators. While we do enjoy teaching young students inside the classroom, it is extra satisfying to watch them get excited at seeing the native plants and animals in their neighborhoods.  The statistics do reveal that kids these days are missing out on the benefits of experiencing nature, but it pleases me to know that there are at least a few children in San Diego who have had the chance to explore a beautiful natural area in their neighborhood.

If you are a 3rd – 6th grade teacher in San Diego County who is interested in having your students participate in the Nearby Nature program next year, please contact our Education department at education@cleansd.org.

Intern Focus: Christina, Community Events Intern

Christina Diette came to I Love A Clean San Diego in September 2011 looking to gain experience in event coordination and make use of a love for the outdoors that she gained growing up in a rural community.  Since her start as the Community Events Intern, she has attended six outreach events and cleanups, and has spent countless hours in the office helping with event preparation, volunteer recruitment, and program maintenance.

Christina, right, with ILACSD staff at an outreach event

My father often tells me that he doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up. Somehow, I seem to have gained the same mentality. Almost three years after earning my undergraduate degree in History, I have yet to determine what I want to be when I grow up. With our current economy making it hard for graduates such as myself to find careers pertaining to our degrees, the world may still hold opportunities to travel down a rewarding path. Over the past four months, that path in my life has been with I Love A Clean San Diego.

According to Daniel Pink in his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, people are more motivated and satisfied in their work lives if they believe they are working for a purpose greater than themselves. As an intern at ILACSD, I do believe I am working toward a greater cause. With every email I send asking for volunteers and with every early Saturday morning I spend checking in volunteers at clean-up sites, I am making a difference in this organization’s ability to fulfill its mission to help the community learn about and participate in enhancing our local environment.

My experience at ILACSD has been varied and eye opening. I have had the opportunity to see firsthand the extreme amount of refuse that ends up in the Tijuana River. I helped young children recognize the difference between trash and recyclables at a street fair. I spent an evening at a mixer surrounded by eco-conscious locals and vendors on the rooftop of a green-certified hotel, and walked the streets of Pacific Beach counting cigarette butts to determine the success of the organization’s Cigarette Litter Prevention Program. I have always recycled, but this internship has showed me just how many more ways one can help make a difference.

Like my father, I may not know what I want to be when I grow up. I do know, however, that continuing to live an environmentally responsible lifestyle is a priority, wherever life takes me. Making a difference, however small, is the opportunity that ILACSD has afforded me and what I have learned here will stay with me always.