I N · T H I S · I S S U E
Local Water Solutions
TreePeople has advanced the notion of urban forestry more than any other organization in the world. The non-profit organization founded by a 15-year old boy, has planted two million of trees in Los Angeles and the surrounding forests, over 90,000 fruit trees in low-income neighborhoods and schools, and on a single day marshaled thousands of volunteers as 29 neighborhoods planted 3,000 trees along a seven mile stretch of the median strip of Martin Luther King Boulevard. TreePeople’s rainwater retention scheme, once scoffed by Los Angeles County, today is embraced as an elegant solution of massive proportions.
Years ago, eleven to be precise, and when I was Director of Efficiency Solutions for Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, I represented the Department at the ribbon-cutting of a novel storm-water retention project. Four thousand gallons of water were dumped on a South Los Angeles home in 10 minutes to simulate a 100-year flash flood, and no water ran off from the site.
This was Hall House, the first demonstration of its kind. Imagine if every home and business in L.A. could retain 100% of the water that rained upon it: The City wouldn’t need such massive storm drains. There would be no need for the massive concrete, lifeless channels that lash through LA, an insult to limnolonic decency and the ecology of rivers and arroyos.
Just checked the video clip of the 1998 event. There we are standing with umbrellas witnessing the spectacle! This was TreePeople and Andy Lipkis in full swing. Andy Lipkis’ vision of greening L.A. begins with urban forestry. And you can’t just plant trees, they need water. When it rains in L.A., it pours. But today this precious resource is largely channeled as waste to the ocean, full of oil and urban debris. Lipkis and TreePeople raise awareness: Rain water needs to be held on site, in cisterns and rain barrels, with excess then retained for hours to percolate into the ground water table, cleansed and able sustenance for thirsty trees.
To view the full Youtube clip, please click here
Some years later, shooting video in L.A. from a helicopter with a nose—mounted camera, a shocking statistic became vividly clear: More than 30% of the land area in Los Angeles, perhaps most cities throughout the world, is covered with impermeable roads, sidewalks, parking lots, etc. Cement and asphalt. Another 30 – 60% is rooftops. An aerial view made this barrier to the soil and groundwater so very clear. All completely impermeable and blocking nature’s ability to effective use and cleanse the water on site.
Fast forward ten years, and witness LEED certifications and green building designs. In Santa Monica, the LEED Silver main library retains 100% of the water that lands on site, captured in a massive cistern and able to provide 100% of landscape water for the entire year. At the Fraunhofer Institute in Freiburg, Germany, “bio-swales” are basic mounds of dirt that keep water on site. TreePeople’s recent demonstration is in the form of an 216,000 gallon cistern collects rainwater from its rooftops and parking lot, providing 100% of the watering needs of this intensive site where thousands and thousands of trees get their start before being replanted. Clearly, rainwater retention – perfected over the ages by societies dependent upon rainwater – holds enormous promise.
Water is a fundamental element of sustainability; it is at the root of healing the urban environment of the southwest. TreePeople has been advocating, and demonstrating, an approach well known for ages, and forgotten in the last century, just as our water shortages have become most severe and climate challenges need pragmatic solutions. This special issue of EcoMotion Network News highlights TreePeople and the logic that has so many benefits for our society and societies around the world.