Living With Russ

With apologies to Ed Begley, Jr.

This page is intended to memorialize some of Russ' more absurd endeavors...

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For instance...

Friday, July 25, 2008...

Well, some background first:
The denizens of Russ' cul-de-sac include a neighbor (to remain nameless) who inexplicably refuses to acknowledge even to himself that the guy who sold him his house "pimped" up the lawns so that they would look green and healthy barely long enough to secure a buyer. The turf sits atop the scrawniest layer of topsoil (if any), beneath which is the famously inhospitable Mira Mesa construction fill dirt and rubble.
Therefore, in order for his lawn to survive in any way, he has to over-water it. I mean, REALLY over-water it. The water runs down our street, down the side of the block, and then down the opposite side of the block (around 200+ feet) to a storm drain that appears to empty into a nearby canyon. This used to happen 3 or 4 times a day. It now only happens once a day, so he has reduced his wastage to only 60 or 70 gallons per day. (Clearly, San Diego's water billing rates are way too low, and fixed costs are too high.) Some of us have tried to explain the situation to this fellow, but he remains adamant that it isn't a problem -- or at least, that it isn't HIS problem. (At some point, I suspect our governor or our mayor will probably force him to change his mind.)

RANT WARNING: How do we get people to change their behavior? Tap their wallets!
In San Diego, we pay $2.35 per hundred cubic feet (HCF) of water. That's how our bills read. What's an HCF? Google "100 cubic feet in gallons" and you'll find that it's 748 gallons. So, we're paying just over 3 tenths of a penny per gallon. At that rate, my neighbor is throwing away only $6 a month in water (assuming 70 gallons runoff per day, 6 days a week).

I pay around $100 for water and sewer every 2 months. Less than $20 of that is for the water I use! This needs to change. We should decide what an "average" family of 4 needs for household purposes, and charge that at the current bargain rate. Everything over that amount should cost, say, a penny a gallon. Probably more. Lawns just don't belong in Southern California, and they never have. Charge appropriately for water, and people will respond.

Agricultural and commercial users should probably be charged somewhere in between the current bargain rate and the incentive rate.

Mayor Sanders and the City Council ought to put aside partisan dogma, forget about these anemic and inadequate voluntary measures, and put market forces to work!

As it happens, our property has a little dip at the end of the driveway, so his runoff first forms a little pond there, before overflowing and moving on to the storm drain. I've decided to turn Denial River into lemonade.

Denial River
The mysterious source of Denial is rumored to be the house on the right

Oh, you know I mean metaphorical lemonade, right? ("When life gives you lemons,..." and all that).

So I've installed a new solar project. I bought a solar fountain kit from a place called (they have some nifty goodies). I'm now sucking the Denial into a 5 gallon bucket and refilling our depleted rain barrels from this neighbor's runoff! And I've reduced our watering schedule, taking water from the barrels to slake the thirst of our tomatoes, jalapenos, and fruit trees.

At this point, I've filled our rain barrels (around 90 gallons), and have filled my immediate neighbor's barrel. After that, I'm going to set up the fountain sprinkler head. Brigid suggests setting out some patio furniture, rubber duckies, etc., so neighbors can better enjoy our new "water feature"!

Actually, instead of the "water feature", I've continued to harvest the runoff: I've turned off our landscape irrigation, and am now putting Denial to work. Our neighbor's waste and loss is now our gain. The only problem is that there's too much runoff! Believe it or not, the water the Pharoah (get it? Denial? Pharoah?) throws away constitutes more than we can actually use. If you've got suggestions, email them to me!

Making metaphorical lemonade
15th gallon by 10:20AM!
Date reclaimed runoff comment
7/24/08 25 gal -
7/25/08 30 gal -
7/26/08 dry! -
7/27/08 18 gal ran the fountain for awhile
7/28/08 20 gal clouds slowed the pump
San Diego's mayor declares
WATER EMERGENCY if that matters!
7/29/08 15 gal clouds again -- Denial was full again
7/30/08 25 gal -
7/31/08 33 gal -
8/1/08 33 gal all rain barrels full (120+ gal)
8/2-9/08 ? away from Denial
8/10/08 0 gal Denial is only a trickle today. Has he learned?
8/11/08 14 gal Denial started late today, but it's still going strong. sigh
8/12/08 28 gal -
8/13/08 9 gal cloudy all day - plenty of runoff, but we can only pump while the sun shines!
8/14/08 44 gal -
8/15/08 50 gal WE HAVE A NEW RECORD!
8/17/08 9 gal -
8/18/08 23 gal note: significant reduction in Denial's flow -- and I'm now capturing 80% or better.
Cross your fingers that the master of Denial has learned to manage the flow!
8/19/08 31 gal sigh... Plenty of water, but I had errands to do...
8/20/08 39 gal -
8/21/08 43 gal -
8/22/08 25 gal ...but clouds got in my way
8/24/08 9 gal Ran the fountain for awhile
8/25/08 NOTHING! Interesting. I'm hopeful...
8/26-29/08 STILL nothing! Success!?

Clearly, there are at least 2, uh, quirky residents on this cul-de-sac.

Oh, and if you plan to recreate my little application, I suggest covering your submersible fountain pump in panty hose, and rubber-banding it to the wire and tube. This prevents clogging. Ask for some used panty hose, though. You don't want to hear, "You did WHAT with my good pantyhose?!!!"

Want to know more about this weird family? Visit That should cure you!