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Here’s how YOU can help with water stewardship in Southern California

An Inland Empire Waterkeeper watershed cleanup day

Each and every one of us can be a water steward. Whether it’s being mindful of how we use this precious resource in our daily lives, deciding to participate in water governance or volunteering for one of Southern California’s water stewardship nonprofit organizations, every Californian can play a part in keeping the region healthy — not just today, but for generations to come.

Inland Empire Waterkeeper is a local grassroots nonprofit organization with a mission to enhance and protect the quality of the waterways within the Upper Santa Ana River watershed. Since 2014, Waterkeeper has partnered with Arrowhead® Brand 100% Mountain Spring Water on Crest to Coast restorations, which aim to improve the quality of waterways throughout the Santa Ana River watershed, from springs in the San Gabriel Mountains (the “crest”) all the way to Huntington Beach (the “coast”). “It’s a fitting [partnership] because we both pride ourselves on encouraging stewardship of local waterways here in communities in which we serve,” said Korina Rangel, Waterkeeper’s programs coordinator.

“Waterkeeper staff and Arrowhead employees, their families and support from community volunteers together have removed over 76,000 pounds of litter and other illegally dumped items from the river and its tributaries,” Rangel explained.

Initiatives like Crest to Coast are crucial, but there are lots of other ways to practice responsible water stewardship, even in our own homes. Whether it’s turning off faucets while brushing our teeth, choosing water-wise plants for our yards or placing litter in trash receptacles (as trash littered on our streets ultimately washes into waterways through storm drains), everyone can conserve and protect SoCal’s water.

“When you’re running your water to try to get the hot water to come ... you can start with a bucket that actually captures the water from the shower head and you can later use it in your garden,” said Peigi Duvall of Indig Design, which specializes in California native plants and sustainable practices in residential landscapes. “I do that all the time.” Duvall has been encouraging water stewardship in California for years. A California native herself, she teaches courses on sustainable landscaping through Stanford Continuing Studies and is on the board of the California Native Plant Society.

Drought-tolerant landscaping at the Cucamonga Valley Water District’s Frontier Project building

Southern California homeowners don’t have to look far for plants that require less water, as many native Californian varieties have evolved to be water-wise. “They grew up in a land that has little rain,” said Duvall. “Most of the plants have adapted themselves, so that they don’t need the usual amount of water that people try to put on landscapes.”

Another outdoor water-waster is evaporation from backyard swimming pools. A cut-to-fit pool cover can reduce water loss by 90 percent while saving pool heating costs. Indoors, small changes like installing low-flow faucets and showerheads, and big changes like installing a high-efficiency washing machine, add up to major water savings.

Rangel has some recommendations for water-smart ways to keep cars clean: A car wash is actually a better choice than home hand washing because professional car washes are careful conservers: “They recycle water.” And if washing your own car is still the plan, there’s a smart way to do that, too: “If people still want to wash their car at home, I would recommend that they wash their cars on the lawn instead of the driveway. That way any chemicals or any grease will absorb into the ground instead of entering a nearby storm drain.”

No matter where you are, effective water stewardship begins with smart choices. For instance, the Arrowhead brand’s Cabazon, Calif., facility practices stewardship with a water catchment system that’s built into the floor beneath the bottle assembly line, capturing spilled water and reusing it as a cooling fluid for plant operations.

“We love the beauty of California, but also have to manage through the droughts and the other conditions that we face in this state,” said Larry Lawrence, natural resources manager for the Arrowhead brand.

If you’re ready to get hands-on in caring for California’s water, Waterkeeper’s Crest to Coast cleanups are open to the public. Volunteers help restore natural areas by removing litter and debris that would otherwise contribute to pollution of the local watershed. This year, Waterkeeper is focusing on tributaries of the Santa Ana River in San Bernardino. The cleanups benefit both the community and the environment by improving the water quality for those who use the river as a source of recreation, as well as for the plants and animals that call the river home. Three more waterway cleanups are already scheduled for this year.

—Paul Rogers for Arrowhead® 100% Mountain Spring Water