H2Know

By Jamie Ortiz / Illustrations by Eric Swesey 

Did you know that more than 70 percent of the world's surface is covered by water? Yeah? Well, did you also know that the composition of the human body is more than 70 percent water? OK... that's about the extent of our knowledge in the water department here at PacificSD, so we tasked real-life dihydrogen monoxide-expert Jamie Ortiz to get us all edumacated on a smattering of water-related issues affecting San Diego today.

Here We Glow Again
Recently, a wave of rumors has flooded the media with misleading information about radioactivity from the San Onofre and Fukushima, Japan, nuclear power plants. One outlet published images of a dead,  radioactive seal; others blamed the high number of sea lion pup deaths on radioactivity (starvation was the actual cause). The truth is that everything around us has some level of radioactivity - even something as seemingly innocuous as a banana. Be wary of what you read online.

Streams Of Consciousness
Every month, San Diego Coastkeeper's army of volunteers tests the vital signs of inland watersheds, natural drainage systems that empty to the ocean. The local nonprofit's recent Watershed Report shows that our waters suffer from myriad pollutants. Kind of like when we watch TV and eat burritos too many days in a row, our watersheds could use the liquid equivalent of a little yoga and organic veggies. Regulators use Coastkeeper's stream of data to help write a sort of "pollution diet" for San Diego's waters.

A Salt Weapon
Seawater desalination is on its way to San Diego. Touted as the solution to our water woes, desalination turns seawater into drinking water, which sounds great, but the process requires massive amounts of energy and money. Unless we use our water supply more intelligently (i.e., ditch the lawn, plant water- friendly gardens, install rain-catching barrels and take shorter showers), this slippery water-supply slope could lead to more monstrous desalination plants dotting the local coastline.

Laser Treatment
The San Diego Association of Governments has invested $20 million to restore sand washed away by tides and big waves at eight San Diego beaches. Where did the sand go? That's the question Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers are employing high-tech laser imaging to answer. The lasers track the movement of sand along Cardiff Beach. The data they produce will hopefully teach us how to protect some of our biggest economy boosters - our beaches - as well as the adjacent sea walls, roads and buildings.

Water, Water Everywhere
Our reliance on fossil fuels and other forms of dirty energy, combined with the resulting increase in global temperatures and melting arctic ice, will boost local sea levels by 12 to 18 inches by 2050, according to The San Diego Foundation. (Will Bay Park and the Gaslamp be beachfront?) The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere recently surpassed a level not seen in three million years, meaning we should probably slow our roll on greenhouse emissions. The easiest ways to reduce these levels are installing solar panels, riding bikes and turning off the lights - yes, these things do make a difference.

What's In Store
All manmade wonders, San Diego's 25 freshwater reservoirs capture and store enough rain runoff to service 1.2-million single-family homes. Along with water supply, a number of reservoirs offer fishing, boating, hiking, biking and picnicking in the surrounding parkland. Save swimming for the ocean.

Ants Say "Uncle"
Think twice before massacring ants with Raid. Chemicals found in household pesticides pollute California's urban creeks, killing essential bugs necessary for healthy ecosystems. Entering our streams through urban runoff, the pesticides make our waters toxic. next time, skip the Raid and use Boric acid (hydrogen borate) and sugar to battle ants, or just stop leaving leftovers on the counter.

Close Call
Tired of the 72-hour beach closures after it rains? The culprit is San Diego's Number One pollution problem, urban runoff. When it rains, or your neighbor overwaters, the overflow washes contaminants from gardens, streets and gutters through storm drains and directly into the ocean. Thankfully, San Diego's recently approved Municipal Storm Water Permit helps cities regulate pesky runoff pollution. The goal: 365 days of beach-going bliss.

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