Natural Resources

Natural Resources

Water DPR | Least Tern Species Overview San Dieguito River Park More Resources

Promote an environment beneficial to life through the protection and wise management of natural resources in the public interest.

Water - Direct Potable Reuse (DPR)

Up until 2016, California experienced the worst dry period in 1,400 years. Notice, I did not use the word drought, as `drought' implies that rain will return and all will be normal. Well, we have a new normal and what we are experiencing is the "New Normal"- quite a bit less rain. Remember, 2015's "El Nino" was a California dud. This new normal we are experiencing is probably here to stay. What should we do to solve California's water problems?

Carlsbad desalination plant

Conserving water has almost reached its limit. Conserving will not help much more. We are close to the practical limits, as the last two years have demonstrated. Where is the water going to come from?

California dumps 1.3 trillion gallons of treated wastewater (from sewers) a year into the ocean. Urban water use is 3.34 trillion gallons a year, so about 40 percent of urban water is wasted. Recycled water (purple pipe) accounts for 0.228 trillion gallons, and to treat 1.3 trillion gallons more to purple pipe standards is not cost effective. Imagine digging up every street to lay purple pipe. Our best alternative is to treat the 1.3 trillion gallons from sewer plants to drinking water standards.

Actually, we are drinking reused water now as all rivers that supply us have sewer plant discharge, and since we consider this natural, or don't think about it, is there is no public concern? Potable refers to water that has met Federal and State drinking standards. Water that meets drinking standards from sewer plants and goes to a drinking water treatment plant or to the pipes is called DPR (D for direct) and water that goes to a lake or groundwater source before consumption is called IPR (I for indirect).

Using advanced technology, this water is cleaner than bottled water or the water from your tap. Briefly the purification steps are - purple pipe water (safe to drink) plus membrane filtration plus reverse osmosis plus UV advanced treatment (oxidation) to drinking water supply. This water is so pure it dissolves pipes and has no taste, so minerals are added.

This method is very cost affective. Orange County is treating 100 mgd (million gallons per day), or about $800 dollars per acre foot, while Carlsbad sea water desalination costs over $2,000 dollars per acre foot. The State Water Project costs about $1,550 dollars per acre foot. Notice that sewer people use "Million Gallons" and drinking water people use "Acre Foot" (325,800 gallons = one acre foot). The difference in costs is in electric energy, so our carbon footprint should also be considered when making source decisions.

Reusing water instead of ocean dumping it will help us attain sustainability, independence, and clean air. Our wastewater treatment managers are waiting for the California State Water Resource Board to finish their study of the safety of treated DPR, so they can begin to utilize this important and economical water source.

- Don Omsted, National Resources Director 

Least Tern Species Overview

California Least Tern GullCalifornia Least Terns are in the gull family and are the smallest of the terns. They are migratory and nest primarily along the California coast and the extreme northern Pacific coast of Mexico. Their swallow-like flight is very light and graceful and noted for a much more rapid wing beat compared to the other terns and gulls. All terns have forked tails, which distinguish them from the gulls, and have the same grey tops and white underbellies that you see in the gulls. Least terns have a distinctive black cap and a white V across the eyes and above the golden yellow beak. The fledglings are sand colored top and bottom.

Terns feed on anchovies, smelt, silversides, and small crustaceans. Be sure to look for birds returning from the ocean with fish in their beaks. Males will be using their fish to impress potential mates or to feed their young. When fishing they will hover like helicopters and then plunge into the water without submerging, only scooping up fish near the surface.

Terns begin breeding when about three years old. Courtship is an elaborate rite that takes place on the breeding sites in a ritual called fish-flight display. A male flies in with a fish in his beak, and is often chased by a female looking for a mate. The flights are spirited and vocal as the pair weave high in the sky and then descend quickly towards the sand. Courtship can also takes place on the ground as the male struts and dances around a female, holding a fish in his beak. If she accepts him, she joins the dance. Pairs are seasonally monogamous.

Nests are simple scrapes in the sand on barren or sparsely vegetated places. Usually two eggs are laid and are incubated for about three weeks by both male and female. They both feed their young. The chicks hatch with their eyes open, down covered, and capable of walking soon after hatching. They can fledge (fly) in about 4 weeks.

By mid-June the raucous parents in the colony have left for the Pacific coast of Mexico and maybe to the Pacific Coast of South America. The fledglings are left behind but have been taught to find fish, and they too soon depart. (This way these parents don't need to kick the young ones out of the nest.)

Least Terns have been protected since 1971 under the Endangered Species act. Since then, California's protected breeding pairs have increased from 600 to about7,100now. Thisistheresultofcreatingprotected fenced sites, along with regular predator removal, rigorous monitoring, and significant research. In San Diego County, Camp Pendleton has 1,355 breeding pairs, Batiquitos Lagoon 431, Mission Bay 305, and the Navy (San Diego Bay) has 1,041 pairs.

- Don Omsted 

San Dieguito River Park

It's being called North County's Natural Treasure, a Vision of Success, and it is right in our backyard.


The San Dieguito River Park is a natural open space park that runs from the coast at Del Mar, to Volcan Mountain near Julian, with entry points to trails, historical points of interest, and interpretive centers all along the way.

Our League members had an informative and exhilarating walk on the Dust Devil Nature Trail with SDRP Interpretive Ranger, Leana Bulay. We are grateful to her for educating us about the park. We also learned more about the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy a non-profit citizen organization dedicated to implementing the park. This is a group worth supporting. Click on the link to find out more.

The seed of the idea for the River Park began in 1986 when a group of active citizens gathered with the intention of protecting the San Dieguito Lagoon from development (the lagoon to the east of the Del Mar Fair grounds). That idea grew into the concept of a continuous trail system that would run the entire 55-mile length of the San Dieguito river with a "Coast to Crest" trail.

Today, 37 miles of the trails have been built and the planning area for the park extends to the "viewshed of the San Dieguito River Valley and its tributary streams + that is, what you could see if you were standing on the valley floor".

That initial meeting of community activists turned in to a great model for community-government-volunteer collaboration. A Joint Powers Authority (JPA) was formed, representing the cities with jurisdictions bordering the river (Del Mar, Solana Beach, Escondido, Poway, San Diego City and County), along with community group representation via the Citizens Advisory Committee (CAC).  The League currently has representation on the CAC by San Diego LWVNCSD member and ILO board appointee, Margaret Schlesinger. Two supporting organizations for fundraising, land acquisition and volunteer support also formed: the San Dieguito River Valley Conservancy and the Friends of the San Dieguito River Valley.

The successes of this collaborative vision over the past years include lagoon preservation, hiking, biking and equestrian trail construction and maintenance, habitat restoration, invasive species control (plants and animals), plans for three visitor interpretive centers, and restoration of historic sites such as the 1880 Sikes Adobe homestead. In 1992, a project with SDG&E began to restore lagoon wetlands as a mitigation for negative fish impacts from the San Onofre nuclear power plant. A recent partnership with the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO), resulted in the creation of the Santa Isabel Store and the Backcountry Interpretive Center. 

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The League’s Position

The League of Women Voters of the United States believes that natural resources should be managed as interrelated parts of life-supporting ecosystems. Resources should be conserved and protected to assure their future availability. Pollution of these resources should be controlled in order to preserve the physical, chemical and biological integrity of ecosystems and to protect public health.

Statement of Position on Natural Resources, as Affirmed by the 1986 Convention, Based on Positions Reached from 1958 Through 1986.

Click on the links below for additional resources for info and study: