By Alyssia Torres
Cal State Long Beach students anxiously await approval of their application to help conserve water for community garden organization, Long Beach Organic. Once approved, the students’ prototypes for rainwater catchment systems and fog harvesters will be set into motion at nine community gardens in Long Beach.
“Acknowledging the sustained drought we’re having and that water prices could go up, we want to hopefully supply water that does not come from the tap,” said Engineers Without Borders-USA President Jeffrey Ruben, who added that he hopes the students’ prototypes will eventually remove the amount LBO needs to pay for tap water.
LBO is a non-profit organization that turns vacant lots into community gardens where local residents can grow food.
The organization has partnered with CSULB students to submit a proposal to EWB-USA’s Supplying Alternative Water (SAW) program. EWB-USA will take up to six weeks to review the proposal.
“We’re already doing some light design mock-ups. We move into full gear once we get an ‘ok’ in all aspects—in funding, design, and engineering,” said Ruben.
The students who will create these prototypes are from the CSULB chapter of EWB-USA.
“Students are doing all the research and development,” says Gwendolyn Arreguin, vice president of the chapter. “We use professional faculty and advisors to point us in the right direction, but for the most part we are doing everything ourselves.”
The program will begin at LBO’s Zaferia Junction Community Garden on 10th Street, where the garden is angled into the bay area close to the ocean.
“I feel that location is going to be the most fruitful,” says Ruben.
Zaferia Junction has been a focal point for local residents to gather to garden organic food. The garden not only supplies local households with organic produce but it also supplies produce to Long Beach Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter feeding 500 people a day.
“It gives us an opportunity to share the wealth. As our soil becomes better each season, we have more to harvest. I’ve always believed one of the joys of gardening is sharing what you grow. This produce goes to feed some of the neediest people in the community,” says LBO Garden Director Joe Corso.
At Zaferia, water conservation has already begun. LBO educates their gardeners on the dangers of over watering.
“Most people don’t underwater, they usually overwater,” says Corso. “We put moisture meters at all of the gardens. We’ve really tried to cut down our consumption and our waste.”
Zaferia gardener Lourdes Grayson is in her second plot season at Zaferia Junction and says the recent heat wave has been a concern for the health of her plants.
“I had a couple of plants die off. I actually decided not to plant my fall crop right away,” explains Grayson.
Normally, in a heatwave Grayson would be tempted to overwater her plants. But Grayson has made an effort to conserve water by using the moisture meters provided by LBO and by limiting her watering to every other day for about five minutes. Grayson has even put mulch around her plants to keep moisture in the ground so she doesn’t have to water her plants as often.
Corso fears that if this drought persists it could impact the future of the charity garden and its beneficiaries.
“If water were restricted we may have to think about not doing it in the future—that would be a shame,” said Corso, adding that the garden’s location and the rain catchment systems could help optimize the impact of the rain.
“It’s actually in a low spot, which could collect rainfall if we have rain,” said Corso.
Even with the lack of rainfall in Southern California, Ruben believes the SAW program will still be successful in conserving water because of the fog harvesting system.
“The program is important in that it explores sustainable ways to interact with our natural environment without dipping into already strained sources,” Ruben said.