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Watershed Restoration

Our company Ecology Artisans is quite a unique animal. Our tagline is, "Ecological landscape and farmland design and development company." We know it's a mouthful, but it doesn't even start to encapsulate everything we do. Our company is helping redefine how we associate and interact with our landscapes. Many ecological designers refers to their place of origin by relating to their watershed, for example, the Santa Ana watershed. Here at Ecology Artisans, we are big believers that bio-association is extremely important if we are really going to solve the ecological issues that we face today.

The Carlsbad Watershed - Photo Courtesy Of The Carlsbad Watershed Network

Watershed Restoration

We need to start thinking of ourselves, our cultures, and our families as a part of nature, instead of separate from it.

What does bio-associate mean? It's a manner of thought and personal connection to the world around us and our role within the associated web of biological and mineral cycles all around us. It's a step towards recognizing our awesome power and potential to greatly influence ecological conditions. We need to start thinking of ourselves, our cultures, and our families as a part of nature, instead of separate from it. Water is a crucial resource here in San Diego County, and we "humans" are the last remaining keystone species that effects how water cycles through our landscapes. Many other animals, such as the amazing beaver. Currently, I live in the Encinitas, across the street from Leichtag Commons, which is in the Carlsbad watershed. My micro-watershed is the Cottonwood Creek watershed. Many of you have probably seen all of the signs talking about the Cottonwood Creek watershed down by Moonlight Beach. If you haven't, I recommend you go take a look at it. The City of Encinitas has done a great job educating it's citizens about the importance of a clean watershed and how it can directly impact the cleanliness of the ocean and the ability to enjoy it. Many of the ecological landscape design and installation work that Ecology Artisans does every day helps continue to revive and repair the Carlsbad watershed and many others throughout San Diego County. Our urban watershed restoration work involves tackling one of the biggest water consumption segments: landscaping irrigation. Some homes use 50-65% of their water budget for landscaping, with large volumes either being wasted to the hot air via sprayers, or lost to the storm drains via overspray or runoff. Instead of planting riparian habitats or building large zuni bowls, we utilize smaller scale watershed restoration systems such as: rainwater tanks, infiltration basins, and other water catchment features that work in an urban environment.

A "wet" rainwater harvesting system installed in South Park, San Diego, CA

Last fall, we installed over a mile of water harvesting swales at Coastal Roots farm in Encinitas as part of their public food forest project. During the winter rain storms, those swales harvested over 1,000,000 gallons of water. This water infiltrates and slowly sinks down into our water table instead of quickly leaving the site in concentrated torrents. Its slow sink and permeation extends the rainy season thereby requiring less municipal irrigation water, and helps recharge local aquifers and contributes to plant health in the Cottonwood Creek watershed. This slowing of water leaving the Costal Roots farm allows for water to have greater potential reutilization as it makes its inevitable trek off the property via gravity or evaporation. And when it does finally reach the property edge, it's traveled through diverse soil communities that clean and purifies water. Our work aligns directly with the watershed restoration approach of Surfrider Foundation and Coastkeeper. Every beach goer and surfer at Swami's and Moonlight should be thankful for this rewarding work. Our actions of sustainable landscaping designs and installations are directly contributing to the reduction and prevention of stormwater runoff and keeping San Diego's oceans clean.

Over 1 mile of swales were installed on this site by Ecology Artisans. The goal being to slow the water down, spread it out, and sink it in. Let us hear you say it, "Slow it down, spread it out, sink it in!"

Our oceans might be our most treasured and valuable asset here in San Diego County from a pleasure and economic perspective. Our ocean cities drive tourism and help local businesses thrive.

Shouldn't we be doing more work to restore our watersheds through active regeneration and stewardship?

Ecology Artisans is not only restoring the Carlsbad urban watershed, but it is actively engaged in two larger projects in the San Luis Rey watershed. Kevin Muno and Josh Robinson, principals in Ecology Artisans, have purchased two farms that they are actively restoring and stewarding. One farm is a 17-acre abandoned avocado farm in Valley Center. The other property is an 80-acre ranch in Santa Ysabel. Both of these properties are unique because they are great analogues for how we restore watersheds all the way up to the head waters of where are watersheds start. Santa Ysabel is near the top of the San Luis Rey watershed at about 3,500 ft. elevation and Valley Center is lower in the watershed at about 1,200 ft in elevation.

Map of all the major San Diego County Watersheds - Photo Courtesy of San Diego State

How are we going to restore the water cycle on all of the barren hillsides where avocado orchards are now being stumped? How do we increase soil organic carbon and restore the water cycle on the over 200,000 acres of rangeland in the County? The essence of our work in both the city and the country is improving the San Diego County water cycle. What are some easy actions we can do to help restore our watersheds? Here is a short list of techniques:

  1. Increase ground cover in all areas (on the ranch scale, this can be done through mob grazing or through cover crops). No more bare soil on our hillsides and in our parks!
  2. Increase storage opportunities (building dams, diversion drains, rain barrels, and roads that collect water). Real estate developers are starting to catch on!
  3. Plant trees and other mediterranean appropriate perennial species to hold soil in place. (Look out for follow up posts on appropriate trees for our climate).
  4. Improve soil biology and soil organic carbon (through compost application and regenerative land management techniques).

Photo courtesy of Marin Carbon Farming Project

This is just a short list of action steps one can take on their 1/4 lot in the city or on their 1,000 acre ranch to improve our water cycles and revive our watersheds. Ecology Artisans is pioneering many ecological landscape and farm/ranch techniques on a variety of scales all throughout the county. We are arguing that we need to start having more discourse at the County level on efforts to ensure that our beaches and oceans stay clean and that we have enough water availability, both in ground and above for generations to come. Please help support our work by hiring us for a consultation on your property. We enjoy working on 1/4 acre lots and 1000 acre ranches! What watershed are you in?

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