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Posts Tagged: Ben Faber

Laundry-to-landscape graywater systems can keep plants alive in drought

UC Master Gardener Mary Steele.
UC Master Gardener Mary Steele has a trusty top-loading Maytag washer that was built before newer, water-saving models were on the market. Not wanting to dispose of her perfectly good washing machine, and concerned about conserving water, she decided to have a system installed to recycle laundry graywater for use in her Laguna Niguel front yard.

Steele, a UC Master Gardener in Orange County since 2000, brought in a contractor to install a valve behind her washing machine and flexible tubing to channel graywater to mulch pits in the front yard. The pits ensure that there is no graywater runoff or pooling on the property, important factors for using the recycled water. Steele found that the pits also work well for distributing fertilizer to her plants.

“I feel very positively about it,” Steele said. “One of my rose bushes, a climbing Fourth of July, is happier than it's ever been.”

With recent changes in state regulations, residents of single-family and two-family homes in most California communities may install simple laundry-to-landscape graywater systems without a permit, said Janet Hartin, UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) environmental horticulture advisor.

“On average, 10 to 25 gallons of water is generated per load in a front-loading washer and about 40 gallons per load from a top loader,” said Hartin, a horticulturist with UC ANR Cooperative Extension in San Bernardino, Los Angeles and Riverside counties. “A family of four running about eight loads of wash per week can keep three to six mature trees well irrigated just with laundry water.”

Hartin and co-author Ben Faber, a UC ANR Cooperative Extension advisor in Ventura County, recently published a 10-page guideline that details the basics of developing a laundry-to-landscape graywater use system in California. The publication, Use of Graywater in Urban Landscapes in California, can be downloaded for free from the UC ANR online publications catalog.

A valve behind the washing machine allows users to direct water to the landscape instead of the sewer. (Photo: Central Coast Graywater Alliance)
The new publication contains helpful information for planning a laundry-to-landscape system and understanding plumbing requirements, safety measures and the amount of water needed for optimum growth of trees and shrubs in selected California landscapes.

Hartin and Faber's publication focuses on washing machine water because, among the legal sources of graywater – including bathtubs, showers, bathroom washbasins and laundry tubs – regulations pertaining to its use have been eased at the state level. State health codes preclude the use of toilet discharge (‘black water') and wastewater from kitchen sinks or dishwashers in order to prevent the spread of pathogens in the landscape. Safe use of laundry graywater still requires precautions to maintain food safety and prevent pollution.

Hartin recommends laundry graywater users carefully select their laundry detergent to make sure it does not contain boron, phosphates or bleach.

“Choose liquid detergents over powders to avoid potentially high levels of sodium and fillers containing sodium which can have a negative impact on plants,” Hartin said. “Products such as Borax that contain boron can also prove toxic to plants. Although boron is required for plant growth, it is needed in very small amounts. Also, instead of using chlorine-containing bleach, use oxygenated bleaches like hydrogen peroxide.”

Laundering cloth diapers or other similarly soiled items should be done with the washing machine draining into the sewer, not the graywater system.

“The first concern should be making sure pathogens are not transferred onto humans or food for human consumption,” she said.

The recycled water can be used to irrigate trees, shrubs and flowers, but not root vegetables or in any capacity where it might touch edible leaves or fruit. To be on the safe side, Hartin recommends using potable water for all edible crops and using recycled graywater for ornamental plants.

UC Master Gardener Mary Steele's front yard, which is irrigated with laundry water.

An initiative to improve California water quality, quantity and security is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.

Author: Jeannette E. Warnert

Posted on Wednesday, September 9, 2015 at 5:36 AM
Tags: Ben Faber (4), graywater (1), Janet Hartin (1)

Many agricultural issues can be resolved with UC Cooperative Extension

A panel discusses the future of agriculture in California.
There are many issues facing Ventura County farmers that UC Cooperative Extension is working to resolve, according to presentations yesterday at an event celebrating UCCE's first 100 years of science and service. The event was covered by reporter Carol Lawrence of the Ventura County Star.

At the event, UCCE advisors talked about the status of ag industry in Ventura County, where total farm production is nearly $2 billion annually. Strawberries, the county's leading crop since the early 2000s, are valued at $690 million. However, production is threatened by dwindling water supplies.

"We can't avoid this topic," said Oleg Daugovish, UCCE advisor.

UCCE advisor Ben Faber also discussed the water situation. The average annual rainfall in Oxnard was 17 inches between 2003 and 2008.

"We're living in an environment that rarely sees the average rainfall," Faber said.

Faber's work includes showing growers how using too much or too little water is more likely to cause plant disease and demonstrating new ways of measuring the water content in soil, the article said. One solution to water woes is using recycled water in nurseries. The practice saves 14 to 42 percent of water.

UCCE advisor Jim Downer talked about the movement of exotic pests that are a potential challenge to agriculture. California is particularly vulnerable to these pests because of its vast and varying geography and climate, he said.

Ventura County's top 10 ag commodities were on dispaly in a Model T truck at the UC Cooperative Extension Celebration of Science and Service.
Ventura County's top 10 ag commodities were on dispaly in a Model T truck at the UC Cooperative Extension Celebration of Science and Service.

Posted on Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 11:00 AM

UC farm advisor outlines problems posed by invasive species

Faber said kudzu (shown above) was introduced as a ground cover, and then took off in the southern U.S.
Invasive plants and insects are proliferating faster than ever, causing massive problems in the environment, UC Cooperative Extension farm advisor Ben Faber told farmers at the Ventura County Research Symposium yesterday, the Ventura County Star reported.

Faber said invasive species are being introduced at a rapid rate around the world, and are primarily spread by humans.

He differentiated between non-native plants that are beneficial, such as avocados and citrus, and invasive plants that have been accidentally introduced into an ecosystem where they run rampant.

"An invasive species is something out of place and out of control," he said.

Fresno State report confirms state’s farmers apply water efficiently
Fresno State press release

Claims that California farmers are wasteful and inefficient in managing their water supplies are inaccurate, according to a new report released by Fresno State's Center for Irrigation Technology.

The study is the culmination of a yearlong effort by irrigation experts to update the 1982 University of California Cooperative Extension report “Agricultural Water Conservation in California with Emphasis on the San Joaquin Valley” by David C. Davenport and Robert M. Hagan.

The new study concludes that the 1982 report correctly framed the potential for agricultural water-use efficiency, and many of its findings are still relevant 30 years later.

Posted on Thursday, November 17, 2011 at 8:55 AM
Tags: Ben Faber (4), invasive weeds (1), water (1)

Many UC academics heeded Kennedy's call to 'serve the cause of peace'


When President John F. Kennedy created the Peace Corps in 1961, he not only sent thousands of Americans to serve the cause of peace in the developing world, he set them on a course of service that continued when they returned to the U.S. A significant number came to work for UC Cooperative Extension.

One of them is Jim Grieshop, a now-retired UCCE community education development specialist, who was profiled in an article in the February issue of Alaska Airlines Magazine marking the Peace Corps' 50th anniversary.

Acceptance into the Peace Corps helped Grieshop achieve his personal goal of living and working in Latin America, the article said. In May 1964, he arrived in Cayambe, Ecuador, to spend two years as a science teacher. He quickly learned to be flexible.

"The science teacher in the village didn't really want me to teach science," Grieshop was quoted in the story. "So I taught English in primary schools and the high school . . . . We put on a rodeo, we did some summer programs - I was kind of making it up as I went along."

Here are some of the other UCCE academics, past and present, who served in the Peace Corps:

Monica Cooper, viticulture farm advisor in Napa County, volunteered in an agrarian community in Panama.

Jeff Dahlberg, director of the UC Kearney Agriculture Research and Extension Center, served for three years in the Republic of Niger.

Chris Dewees, retired specialist in Cooperative Extension marine fisheries, volunteered in Chile.

Morgan Doran, livestock and natural resources farm advisor in Solano County, volunteered in Ecuador.

Ben Faber, Ventura County farm advisor, served in Togo, Africa.

Mark Gaskell, small farm advisor in San Luis Obispo County, served in Venezuela.

Juan Guerrero, farm advisor emeritus for Riverside and Imperial counties, worked with subsistence farmers and large-scale commercial farmers in Paraguay and Peru.

Susan Laughlin, retired regional director, spent three years in Colombia.

David Lewis, watershed management advisor in Marin County, volunteered in Niger.

Mike Marzolla, 4-H advisor in Ventura County, coordinated a school and community garden program in Guatemala.

Richard Molinar, small-scale farm advisor for Fresno County, served in Honduras.

Jeff Mitchell, cropping systems specialist, UC Kearney Agricultural Research and Extension Center, served in Botswana, Africa.

Rachel Surls, UCCE director in Los Angeles County, served in Honduras.

Jack Williams, the retired Sutter/Yuba county director, worked alongside farmers in Kenya, Africa.

Ken Wilmarth, former 4-H advisor in Stanislaus County, and his wife, Jenny, spent two years in Chavin, Peru.


Have I missed any UCCE Peace Corps volunteers? Please post a comment letting me know.

President Kennedy greets Peace Corps volunteers in 1961. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)
President Kennedy greets Peace Corps volunteers in 1961. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons.)

Posted on Thursday, February 3, 2011 at 9:16 AM

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