Letter to the Editor: Alameda Point Collaborative is saving water

Letter to the Editor: Alameda Point Collaborative is saving water

Letters to the Editor
Alameda Point Collaborative

Spring break volunteers help to install water friendly landscaping at the Alameda Point Collaborative. Photo from the Alameda Point Collaborative website.

Dear Editor,

The recent wet weather has not lulled Alameda Point Collaborative into a false sense of security. The agency continues to move forward with plans and improvements that will make a significant impact in water usage throughout the APC community.

APC first began to tackle the issue of water conservation five years ago when it was awarded a grant from the California Department of Water Resources to install a water efficient irrigation system and drought tolerant landscaping in its residential areas. Since the installation of the new system, water usage has been cut in half, resulting in a water reduction of more than 1 million gallons per year. It has also saved many hours of valuable staff time that have been redirected back into programs for APC residents.

Education and adaptations have also been happening in APC’s 200 units of supportive housing. In 2013, which has been reported by the Department of Water Resources to be the driest year on record, APC installed low flow showers and toilets in each residential unit. Staff has used the monthly resident newsletter to educate community members about current drought conditions, and provide practical tips for everyday water conservation.

“APC takes pride in being a resourceful community, and our water conservation methods have been no exception,” Executive Director Doug Biggs said. “From improvements to our infrastructure to educating residents and leveraging the support provided by volunteers, we have been able to make changes that not only benefit our own community, but also serve as a positive example to the our external friends and neighbors.”

Traditionally, one of the biggest APC water users has been its urban farm. The farm, part of the Farm2Market program, produces approximately 10,000 pounds of sustainably grown produce each year grown by APC resident on-the-job trainees. Over the last year, farm staff has made two modifications that have resulted in staggering water savings.

The first was the creation of a water catchment system to divert water used to wash harvested produce into large underground cisterns, conserving nearly 300 gallons per week. The farm also installed a drip irrigation system to replace traditional sprinklers that has reduced water use by more than 10,000 gallons a week. Because drip irrigation delivers water exactly where it is needed, the Farm2Market crew is also enjoying a reduction in its weekly weeding duties.

The Farm2Market water conservation projects were a true collaboration between the farm’s professional staff, trainees and community volunteers. According to APC Program Director Phyllis Sakahara, one volunteer stands out for special mention. Eric Wiens has been volunteering with Farm2Market for the last year and has contributed more than 400 hours of service. He helped with the design of the water catchment and irrigation systems, led volunteer groups to install the underground cisterns and personally laid the piping for irrigation system.

“Most of our water conservation efforts would still be in the planning stages without Eric’s contributions,” Sakahara said. “Without his skills, dedication and the sheer number of hours he put into making these projects happen, we would not have the infrastructure that is helping our farm to run more efficiently.

APC will award Wiens its annual Volunteer of the Year award at its fourth annual Not Your Mother’s Garden Party to be held from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday, May 18 at Ploughshares Nursery. For additional information on the event and other honorees, please visit http://apcollaborative.org/gardenparty.

Lisa Dyas
Director of fund development and community relations
Alameda Point Collaborative