San Francisco Finds Parking…On the Web


photo: Cawi2001

These are the days of traffic snarls, extended rush hours, bridge toll increases and scarce parking in many areas of the city.

However, there are some San Franciscans besides cyclists and public transit boosters taking matters into their own hands. I am talking about parking space brokers.

Its no surprise that established garages should have an online presence; many people opt to park in such lots everyday to go to work, so it’s nearly a given that such lots will allow reservations and payments via the web. But you can also arrange a ready space in a random private driveway, church parking lot or off-hour establishment.

Gottapark has been around for several years, bringing  the “haves” of parking together with the “have-nots”. Anyone will a parking space to rent, or a parking hopeful looking for a spot can log on and make a match.

Then there is ParkingCarma, a similar service that ups the ante by providing “real-time” monitoring for parking sites with high-tech gadgets. The company states in its online profile: “ParkingCarma is pioneering new ground by using technology to improve quality of life and the environment, while solving one of today’s largest metropolitan issues: Parking. SmartParking is the application of information technology to improve parking, thereby mitigating the environmental impact of vehicles.”

Um, okay.  I’ll go along with quality of life thing, but I doubt if lack of parking is the biggest environmental impact of vehicles.

But on further examination of the ParkingCarma site, they do make some persuasive points. Namely, pre-arranged parking could help ease traffic congestion and prevent people from driving around and around aimlessly looking for a spot- which would of course help to curtail greenhouse gas emissions. This model also is predicated upon the activation of under-utilized space, potentially preventing the need for (as many) new parking structures.

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Philadelphia’s Green Stormwater Infrastructure


Many older cities face increasing stormwater management issues. Today’s video was put together by the Philadephia Water Department’s Office of Watersheds and gives a pretty good overview of an integrated approach.

The city is trying to address combined sewer overflows through a combination of traditional infrastructure and “green” infrastructure as the city is continuously rebuilt and repaired over time. The main goal is to prevent so much water from running off all of the impervious surfaces in the first place. More information on the approach is here.

Bay Watch

photo credit: Wing

The following are a few stories of interest tracking the latest developments in water quality for the San Francisco Bay region.

The S.F. Chronicle reports that a loophole in the laws protecting California’s coastal waters is finally being closed: sewage discharge from ships is now prohibited less than 3 miles from shore. The Chron reports that while many sea-going vessels have been voluntarily following this protocol for years, some even waiting until further off-shore, the new legislation will formalize the practice and help to address water quality issues along state beaches. Read the full story here.

Oakland’s splendid Lake Merritt is in for an overhaul. The 140 acre “lake” is actually a brackish tidal slough that is connected to the San Francisco Bay via a narrow channel. However for many years its waters have stagnated with inadequate connectivity to the Bay due to the deterioration of the channel. All that is about to change as the $115 million that was allocated to improve Lake Merritt  in 2002 as part of  Bond Measure DD to improve the lake finally hits the ground. The improvements to the lake will be chiefly through improving the connections between the bay and the lake, and the removal of a portion of 12th Street at the southern end of the lake. Read a thorough account of the project at Quest, here.

BCDC (the Bay Conservation and Development Commission) released it’s draft Subtidal Habitat Goals Project report this summer. The project represents a ” comprehensive and long-term management vision for research, restoration and management of the subtidal habitats of the San Francisco Bay”. Read the draft report here.

The Hidden Costs of California’s Water Supply


The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) released a report in 2004 titled “Energy Down the Drain: The Hidden Costs of California’s Water Supply.” Especially in the western part of the United States, there is a tight connection between water and energy resources, as energy is needed to reliably treat and distribute water.

Because energy and water decision-making is often siloed, water planners are not generally taking into consideration the energy-related consequences of their planning.

The full report is available here as a pdf.

The authors carefully quantified the link between water and energy for three specific case studies – San Diego County’s future supply, the Westlands Water District, and the Columbia River basin (in the the Pacific Northwest). According to the report, the Westlands Water District is one of the largest agricultural users of water in the western United States.

The overarching message of the report is that decision makers should integrate energy issues in to water planning and decision-making. It also suggests a methodology for incorporating energy impacts into water planning.

The report contains numerous interesting tidbits:

  • “The more than 60,000 water systems and 15,000 wastewater systems in the United States are among the country’s largest energy consumers, using 75 billion kWh/year nationally – 3 percent of annual U.S. electricity consumption.”
  • “According to the Association of California Water Agencies, water agencies account for 7 percent of California’s energy consumption and 5 percent of the summer peak demand.”
  • “Ninety percent of all electricity used on farms is devoted to pumping groundwater for irrigation.”
  • “End use of water – especially energy intensive uses like washing clothes and taking showers – consumes more energy than any other part of the urban water conveyance and treatment cycle.”
  • “When water is diverted for irrigation before it reaches a dam, an enormous amount of energy – the foregone energy production – is lost.”

Assorted Links

In Cleveland, Ohio, recycling bins with microchips will prompt inspections and potential fines if not used properly.

General Electric thinks it can cut home energy use by 70% in pilot projects with the DOE Building America Program.

Ride-sharing programs consider how to use mobile devices to expand to new audiences.

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Why is DOE Regulating Showerheads?


Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Why does the Department of Energy care what kind of showerhead you have? Well, unless you shower exclusively in cold water, the more water you use, the more energy is needed to heat that water.

The Energy Policy and Conservation Act of 1975 (EPCA) states that a showerhead manufactured after January 1, 1994, can deliver no more than 2.5 gallons per minute at a flowing water pressure of 80 pounds per square inch. However, the term “showerhead” was interpreted by manufacturers to be a device sending water over a bather. Each device was considered to count separately and  separately needed to meet the standard.

The draft interpretive rule published by the DOE clarifies that “a showerhead is any plumbing fitting that is designed to direct water onto a bather regardless of the shape, size, placement, or number of sprays or openings that it may have.”  All nozzles would need to jointly meet the 2.5 gallon per minute standard. This primarily will affect high-end showerheads that deliver much more than 2.5 gallons per minute.

The entire draft interpretive rule can be found on the DOE website here.

At this point, the DOE is planning enforcement actions only against the manufacturers of the offending showerheads. Some of the products that manufacturers have stopped selling as a result of letters from DOE include the “Shower Rose” from Grupo Helvex, which delivered 12 gallons a minute. The Plumbing-Heating-Cooling Contractors – National Association (PHCC-NA) is up in arms over the new interpretation of the definition and is trying to spin the new definition as having a negative impact on water conservation (though no reason is given in this article).

An article at goes into more detail about reactions from plumbing manufacturers, the water conservation community, and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB).

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For readers in the East Bay, East Bay Municipal Utility District offers self-survey kits to help check flow rates and find leaks and free low-flow showerheads (2.0 gallons per minute).

Readers in San Francisco can schedule a free water use evaluation and free low-flow showerheads through the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

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Cap and Trade


This post is part of our definitions series on “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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photo credit: David Iliff, Wikimedia Commons

Cap and Trade (C&T) is also known as “pollution credits” or “emissions trading”. The basic premise of C&T is to provide a means for reaching mandatory pollution reduction targets in an incremental (and thus cost-saving) fashion. In a cap and trade system model, a regulatory entity (typically a governmental body) will assign a limit to the amount of pollution that certain high-impact industries can emit. High polluters can then essentially raise the ceiling on their allowable limits by engaging in a specialized market activity, i.e., buying shares or credits from those others who operate below their allowable limits. The regulatory limits are the “cap” and the market activity is the “trade”.

C&T activity is thus designed to reward those industries and companies that are aggressively exceeding their environmental performance goals, while charging a premium to those who do not stay within their assignations (because they have to purchase credits to make up for their overage). The idea is that purchasing pollution credits will literally buy time for polluters to clean up their act, and indeed a C&T program may include “caps” that step down over time to meet tighter standards.

While C&T is not limited to “greenhouse gas emissions” or carbon dioxide, the specialized trading done around these types of pollutants is one common example, and is referred to as a carbon market. Global carbon markets have taken off hugely among European and other nations that have signed the Kyoto Protocol (adopted in 1997, in force as of 2005) pledging targeted reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

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What exactly does “sustainability” mean? How about “green”, “eco” or “environmentally friendly”? The truth is that these terms are just vague enough to mean many different things to many different people. With the staggering array of “green” products, ‘lifestyles’ and concepts being promoted by marketers and environmentalists alike (as well as the necessary coining of new terms to match new ideas) our definition series aims to make sense of the rising tide of “eco-lingo” and technical terms.

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Assorted Links

An op-ed has some interesting math lessons for locavores.

Sanford, Maine implemented a trash-metering system and residents reduced trash thrown away by 50%.

The folks at Walk Score have released Transit Score, which ranks how well-served a location is by transit.

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City Rankings – Energy, Walkability, and Transit


This Friday’s links highlight a few examples of city rankings…

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has released a list of 22 American cities named “2010 Smarter Cities” for their investment in green power, energy efficiency measures and conservation – Oakland, San Francisco, Berkeley, and Santa Cruz are the Northern California cities that made the list and have profiles on the NRDC website.

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Walk Score has ranked 2,508 neighborhoods in the largest 40 U.S. cities to help you find walkable neighborhoods – San Francisco is ranked #1!

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The 2006 American Community Survey measured the percentage of commuters who take public transit, as opposed to walking, driving, riding a bicycle, or other ways of getting to work. In the top 50 are the Bay Area cities of San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Richmond, and Concord.

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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