Drip Irrigation Class Provides Hands-on Opportunities

By Heidi Varian

Heidi hosted the drip irrigation workshop a historic home in Benicia that she is restoring with some friends to create a site people can visit for an “eco-vacation.”  The site will also be the location for the upcoming Permaculture Design Certificate course. Learn more about that here!

The Sustainable Solano drip irrigation class started out with good feelings right from the beginning of the day. The best part of getting back to some sense of normalcy after the pandemic is to be outdoors, hands in the soil, and experiencing the camaraderie that you can’t have over Zoom.

There were familiar faces and new students. The teaching garden was quiet, shady and calm. Instructor Seth Wright of Water Service Irrigation Co. was appreciated as clear and understandable. Overheard were comments about his good energy and relatable teaching style. He came prepared with visual aids and a white board presentation to augment and clarify his lecture.

Sustainable Solano’s Michael Wedgley prepared his garden with a unique and creative guild design, sample swale area, raised bed for the class to learn, and provided a display of permaculture literature. He also presented a piece of PVC pipe cut to the length of the space desired between the drip lines to simplify and speed up the process of hands-on installation.

When Seth began the participation part of the class, the class needed very little encouragement to join in the learning and fun. Everyone had an opportunity to measure, cut, and connect the system.

Michael and Seth as a team facilitated a very efficient install and even had time to discuss troubleshooting. The culmination of the workshop was flushing the lines and the cascading water drew applause.

Drip Irrigation Basics

Unable to attend the in-person workshop, but still interested in how you can put drip irrigation to use for water savings at home? Check out this online talk with Seth Wright of Water Service.

Warming Water and What Can be Done

On March 21st, The League of Women Voters hosted a panel discussion on climate change, rising sea level, water shortages and increased water cost in Benicia. The panel consisted of three key Solano County residents. Jerry Potter, a Nasa Climate Scientist, spoke about climate models used to predict global warming and shared overwhelming data regarding increasing temperatures on earth. Not one person in the room argued against the evidence.  He emphasized that storms  and drought will be more intense as temperatures increase.

Andy Florendo, from the Solano County Water Agency covered the history of Lake Berryessa, Lake Oroville and our Solano County water shed.  He stressed the disturbing fact that California water shortages will remain chronic and if do do not begin using water more efficiently.  Mayor Elizabeth Patterson talked about integrated water management and  highlighted the importance of working together as a County to be more efficient with our use of water in our Mediterranean climate.

During the Q&A session, one main concern voiced from a woman on a fixed income was the high cost of water in Benicia.  From the shakiness in her voice, the room could sense how deeply increasing water costs were impacting the financial health of her household. She was making significant changes to conserve water in her household yet her water bill remained a financial burden. This is a problem with no real easy solution. The cost to treat poor water quality is a major component to why bills are so high.

Mayor Patterson was kind enough to listen to my question after the allotted time for Q&A. I asked, “What incentives are being done to motivate Benicia residents to install laundry-to-landscape greywater systems?”  Residents are washing their clothes weekly, so why not recycle this water to irrigate the landscape?  Using secondary water sources such water from your washing machine is a steady water source during the summer and can be used to water fruit trees, berry shrubs and many other plants.

Mayor Patterson commented that would like to hear from the Benicia community about ways to come together to conserve more water.  Show up to the next town hall meeting and collaborate with the community for creative solutions to use water more wisely.  The next city council meeting is Tuesday, April 3 at 7:00pm held in the Council Chamber at City Hall. Hope to see you there!


Roof Water Harvesting

By Erik Olsen


Today we are talking about catching the abundance raining down from the sky! Where I live we get 3 to 4 months of rain per year and a long 8-9-month dry spell. During the dry time of year water becomes scarce and here in California drought has been prevalent for years. This is why capturing the rain from the roof of houses, barns and other structures can be an incredible way to catch in store some of the resource of the rainy season’s abundance.

In this video, I’ll take you through my home rainwater catchment right after it was set up. We will follow the path of water from where it gets collected off the roof, to the conveyance system, to a transfer tank, and finally pumped to a 10,000-gallon storage system high on the landscape. I can’t tell you how good it feels to have that 10,000 gallons of water security at the height of summer. 

Catch your rain!


Contest Challenges Kids to Imagine a Day Without Water


Solano County middle and high school students and their teachers are being asked to “Imagine a Day Without Water”- this year’s theme for the 2018 Water Awareness Video Contest, sponsored by the Solano County Water Agency and local water utilities. Participating students and teachers will have the chance to win up to $1,500 in cash by creating an original 60-second Public Service Announcement video on a variety of water efficiency topics, highlighting actions that can be taken each day to use water more wisely.

Solano County teachers who sponsor multiple students will receive an additional incentive of Amazon gift cards.


The contest is open to middle school and high school students in Solano County. Submissions will judged on entertainment value, originality, videography, style and organization, audio/sound, movie content and accuracy. The deadline to enter is Wednesday, April 11, 2018.

For contest rules and entry forms and tips on using water efficiently, visit the video contest page at www.solanosaveswater.org

Locals Turn Their “Waste” into “Want” at our Home Composting Workshop

Attendees of our June home composting workshop learned great tips on how to turn yard trimmings and kitchen scraps into rich, healthy soil for their gardens using simple composting methods, including the use of earthworms. The class gathered at one of the beautiful and productive Benicia Demonstration Food Forests where there were plenty of inspiring surrounding examples of the roll that healthy, live soil plays in a flourishing and thriving garden.

The workshop was led by local permaculture and landscape expert, Kathleen Huffman,who helped connect the dots between soil health, plant health, and human health through an informative presentation and hands-on demonstration for creating various types of small composting areas in residential environments. A study of soil conditions at various stages within the garden and solutions to common concerns about space constraints, rodents and foul smells were addressed. Attendees learned directly how to best manage soil health, the easy way, and how healthy soil should look like for best results in the garden.

This workshop is part of Sustainable Solano’s “Healthy Soil, Healthy Planet” educational series offered in partnership with Republic Services. Republic Services will be sponsoring three additional soil workshops this year. The next one is September 9th.  Please visit our calendar for details and future dates.

Wise Water: An Informative Video from Sustainable Solano

For the past two years we’ve been working on our Demonstration Food Forests, with a major component of it being Wise Water use. Now, with the help of Constance Beutel, videographer extraordinaire, we wanted to share with everyone how very simple and replicable it is. Greywater workshops and installation workshops are always being offered. Please check our Events or contact Nicole Newell, Sustainable Landscaping Manager, for more information.

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