Due in large part to its residents’ dedication to greening their homes and their enthusiastic approach to conservation and sustainability standards, Mar Vista has been chosen by Los Angeles officials to be part of a pilot program for an innovative water-saving project.

The Rainfall Harvesting initiative will be one of many components of a water conservation event that will take place Tuesday, July 21st at the Mar Vista Recreation Center.

The Wise Water Use Expo is designed to disseminate important information on how to not only adhere to the current water conservation standards that are mandated by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, but also to offer residents and businesses practical solutions to dealing with the existing drought.

Sherri Akers, vice chair of the Mar Vista Community Council’s Green Committee and one of the expo’s organizers, says that her community is probably not unique in its approach to water conservation and making its homes and neighborhood green.

“I think that what we’ve done is we’ve created a channel to find each other,” Akers explained. “We’ve also had the leadership on the Mar Vista Community Council that has provided a platform for this opportunity.”

Akers also credited the Mar Vista Farmers Market for its assistance in providing community members the space to distribute information about the expo.

“This is the kind of event that we hope inspires other communities to want to do something similar,” said Joseph Treves, a local Realtor who is the chair of the event. “I think it brings a consciousness and an awareness to people (about the drought) and hopefully, soon there will be this critical mass and more people will start talking to their neighbors about water conservation.

“I think that this event will be a model that other communities can use in the future.”

In many ways, the Wise Water Use Expo is an encore to the Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase, an April tour of over 30 homes that featured residences that had installed native plants, replaced much or all of their grass lawns with hardscape and that are using less water for gardening and irrigation.

Akers, a green consultant who owns Green Door to Door, concurs.

“At the Green Garden Showcase we saw how eagerly people responded where we had solution information,” she recalled. “At my home, I found many people came in with notes from the blog to specifically ask me about my tankless water heater or solar panels.”

Akers has chronicled the success of the garden showcase at www.marvistagreengardenshowcase.blogspot.com along with updates about the expo at www.wisewateruseexpo.blog spot.com/ and other green initiatives that are ongoing in Mar Vista.

“If we want to live where we want to live going into the future and if we want it to be affordable, we have to start taking measures,” Treves said. “And this event will bring this to the forefront.”

The expo will feature representatives from public agencies and organizations dedicated to water conservation, as well as a number of guest presenters who are well known for their environmental advocacy.

Among them are actor-activist Ed Begley, Jr. and Kevin O’Donnell, a sustainable design strategist who was also a presenter for former Vice President Al Gore’s Climate Change Project and Green Gardens Group L.A.

In addition, there will be a variety of free raffle items, including two dual flush toilets, a smart sprinkler control, an onsite landscape assessment and a one-hour vegetable garden consultation.

Rainbud, a Mar Vista company that supplies and installs rain barrels for residential irrigation use, is donating a barrel to the expo. One of the company’s co-owners, Paula Henson, said that having the expo in Mar Vista was an important reason why Rainbud decided to participate.

“One of our goals is making a change in the local community,” said Henson, a landscape designer and Mar Vista resident. “Joseph and Sherri have really taken the lead in dedicating so much of their time to water conservation efforts.”

The community’s passion for green gardening was a key factor in its selection to host the city’s pilot conservation project, according to Wing Tam, an assistant manager of the Los Angeles Watershed Protection Division.

“Mar Vista has a very active community that values green standards and water conservation,” Tam said. “Also, Mar Vista was a logical area to try the pilot program because they are part of the Ballona Creek Watershed, where there is a certain level of water pollution.”

Los Angeles also used a study conducted by the Santa Monica Restoration Committee that was instrumental in choosing the community in which to establish the Rainwater Harvest initiative.

The program will provide free assistance to residents and commercial businesses willing to collect rainwater for storage and use for their private property irrigation. Its purpose is to reduce the polluted rainwater that goes into the ocean and help conserve the use of potable water.

While the expo is in Mar Vista, other communities will also be participating. Nicholas Karno, who is a member of the Venice Neighborhood Council’s environmental committee, which is co-sponsoring the water conservation event, said that communities near the coast are often more conscious about the harmful effects of toxins that enter the ocean.

“Being a beach community, here in Venice we’re very sensitive to water systems, the protection of the coastline and the pollutants that are washed into our oceans,” he said.

Treves, a Mar Vista homeowner, agrees.

“Venice, Mar Vista and Santa Monica have really been in the vanguard in taking these initiatives and pushing them to the forefront,” the expo chair noted. “A lot of the water that runs into the street picks up contaminants and goes out to the bay, and as coastal communities, that’s all the more reason that we have to protect the precious things that we have and that we see as valuable.”

Tam said that an added benefit of participating in the water conservation expo is the potential for helpful feedback on the pilot program.

“Because Mar Vista residents are environmentally conscious, they can provide suggestions on how to improve the project,” he said. “When we do decide to go citywide, we want it to be very practical.”

Akers said the fact that there will be a number of practical solutions available to those who attend the Wise Water Use Expo is what makes it more than just a typical lecture on water conservation.

“There will be very concrete solutions and the resources there at the moment to help people implement the solutions,” she said.

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