MISSION CRITICAL: Sustainability

May 12, 2015

When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.
~ John Muir­­­­­­

Courtney McLeod Golden, AIA, LEED AP, NCARB, is a Partner with Dreyfuss + Blackford and her passion for sustainability drives her efforts; design and otherwise.

TID – More Power (and Water) To You
I’ve spent a huge part of my life in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Skiing in the winter; backpacking, bicycling, camping and climbing in the summer. The Sierras are magical…and they are the lifeblood of California’s economy. In a typical year, these peaks supply water for 23 million people and over 55% of our State’s hydroelectric power. The devastating effects from four years of unprecedented drought has sparked renewed focus on managing California’s “liquid gold”.

Long before mandatory water conservation efforts were in place, forward-thinking water districts like our client, Turlock Irrigation District (TID), recognized the importance of water conservation. Since 1887, TID has protected this precious resource and continued to provide their growers with a safe, reliable and affordable water system; even during the worst of times.

Agriculture in the Central Valley cannot thrive without water from the Sierras. In 1997, TID joined the Agricultural Water Management Council (AWMC) and proactively introduced an Agricultural Water Management Plan (AWMP). The current AWMP evaluates water use within the District and management practices that focus on the best use of available resources. The AWMP describes TID’s water supplies and irrigation demand; local conditions; facilities and operations; rules and policies; and a variety of water management activities. Activities include a series of efficient water management practices (EWMPs) designed to improve water use and distribution. TID will update their AWMP this year and then every five years thereafter. The results of this plan have paid off. The District will have water for their farmers at a time when other districts have simply run out.

The District utilizes a strategy known as Conjunctive Use which balances surface and ground supplies. In normal and wetter years, surface water makes up the bulk of the supply and through deep percolation past the root zone, recharges the aquifer. This water is stored in the aquifer so that in dry years, it can be pumped from the ground to help meet irrigation demand. 

Courtesy of Department of Water Resources

Courtesy of Department of Water Resources

Although TID has no authority to regulate groundwater use, that didn’t stop the District from becoming a leader in regional groundwater stewardship. They developed a groundwater model 25 years ago, predicting the behavior of the aquifer under a variety of conditions. TID has continued to update and improve this model. Today, it is a useful tool for evaluating potential future impacts of land use changes, sustainability of groundwater supplies and drought planning efforts. TID was the first local entity to adopt a Groundwater Management Plan in 1993 and is a member of the Turlock Groundwater Basin Association (TGBA).

Getting the Drop on Californias Water Crisis
According to Governor Jerry Brown, it is a “new era” in California. Conservation and regulation of water use has filled State headlines the way gas lines did during the oil crisis of the 1970’s. Districts like TID are taking a proactive stance; upgrading their delivery systems, automating canal controls and building smaller surface reservoirs to reduce spillage rates. Water regulation, like power, is becoming increasingly reliant on technology; Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems; and internet communications to monitor this important resource.

In 2014, TID engaged Dreyfuss + Blackford to renovate the Turlock Police Administration and Operations Building (formerly Turlock City Hall) and design a new Mission Critical Operations Center. From this central facility, the District will manage their water and hydroelectric power distribution systems, improving reliability for the next 50 years. The design includes a 90-foot-long video display wall that will allow the District to more efficiently schedule, store, release and supply resources using real-time data and analytics.

Sustainability: Come Rain or Shine
Necessity is the mother of invention which is why Dreyfuss + Blackford has long been dedicated to the principles of sustainable design. With only 1% of the world’s water being accessible and drinkable, we have a responsibility to conserve even during normal years.

In the US, it is estimated that buildings constitute over 45 percent of all energy and about 47 billion gallons per day (or 12 percent of our total water usage). In 2011, Dreyfuss + Blackford completed our first LEED Platinum certified project for California ISO. Using reclaimed water from the building cooling towers and capturing graywater to irrigate their campus landscape, California ISO is saving over 2,000,000 gallons of fresh water use per year (equivalent to six acre feet of water). More water savings can be achieved using on-site water purification systems called Living Machines that mimic the ecological processes of wetlands to convert sewage into reusable water.

Courtesy of NRDC and Pacific Institute

Courtesy of NRDC and Pacific Institute

Resource conservation is like putting money into savings for retirement. As a lifetime resident of California, I look at the water crisis over the last four years as an opportunity to change for the better. I have a special appreciation for water districts like TID that will keep “liquid gold” flowing for future generations of California’s farmers and sustain our State’s agricultural economy.