Ep. 122: Gray Water for Green Vineyards w/ Dr. Peter Gleick & Miguel García, PhD

Historic droughts followed by colossal atmospheric rivers? There’s a term for that: weather whiplash. As wine regions experience the highest highs and lowest lows back-to-back, vineyards are looking for ways to adapt. Our guests on Ep. 122 discuss the future of water use in winegrowing, from gray water to dry farming. Our aqua-experts are Dr. Peter Gleick, a leading water and climate scientist and the co-founder of the Pacific Institute; and Miguel García, PhD., the Sustainable Agriculture Program Manager at the Napa County Resource Conservation District.

Martín Reyes, MW 0:02
Every time I go to a restaurant, it never fails. The server comes in says, hey, you know, would you like still or sparkling water? And I say, whether you serve me still water or sparkling water, it’s still water.

Dr. Peter Gleick 0:16
I hope you give them an extra tip, too.

Martín Reyes, MW 0:20
You know I do and as a matter of fact servers, the job may not be for everybody, but at least, hey, you know, it puts food on the table.

Katherine Cole 0:37
On that note: Hello, and welcome to The Four Top. It’s a roundtable discussion of today’s hot button topics in the wine world. I am your host, Katherine Cole.

Martín Reyes, MW 0:45
And I am your host Martín Reyes, Master of Wine. On this episode of The Four Top we are going to talk about water. Water, is probably one of the most essential elements for quality winemaking. And this is an important topic, Katherine, especially because when we think about climate change, many of the other subjects you know greenhouse gas measuring and electricity. We talked about that and energy usage up or down. Those can be sometimes conceptual as opposed to like tangible. And water is one of the most tangible pillars of sustainability, as far as a topic goes where you can see it, you can feel it, your life can be threatened by it, your crops can be damaged by it. It is that one really tangible evidence that things are changing.

Katherine Cole 1:35
Hail in springtime. That’s death!

Martín Reyes, MW 1:37
Hail, frost can often change, especially in the old world, a fantastic vintage that was ripening just right, all the way up until maybe August. And then in Bordeaux, poof you get a deluge and you’re just toast.

Katherine Cole 1:47
Speaking of the old world when I first started writing about wine it seemed to me that much of Europe was dry farmed, and every year I feel like I’ve read another article about another region allowing irrigation. And there’s been this move away from dry farming. And I remember early in my career, I wrote about a dry farming group in the Willamette Valley called the deep roots coalition. D.R.C., kind of cute. And it really pissed people off because people get really emotional about water. It’s a very personal kind of emotional issue for farmers, I’ve found. There’s just a lot going on with this subject.

Martín Reyes, MW 2:25
Absolutely. The reasons why the old world is looking at dry farming is trying to protect vineyards that in the past either received enough rain, or sometimes the heat and the sun shines a bit too much. So there’s dispensations in certain regions that would have never before allowed irrigation so we can talk about I mean, this subject can go on forever.

Katherine Cole 2:45
Yeah, let’s introduce our guests. I’m delighted to introduce Dr. Peter Gleick, co-founder and Senior Fellow of the Pacific Institute. He is one of the world’s leading experts on freshwater resources, and a hydro climatologist focused on climate change, water in conflict, and the human right to water. He’s a MacArthur Fellow, member of the US National Academy of Sciences, winner of the 2018 Carl Sagan prize for science popularization, and he also is the author of the new book, The Three Ages of Water: Prehistoric Past, Imperiled Present, and a Hope for the Future. I really look forward to hearing about this book, and I love that the word hope is in the title.

Martín Reyes, MW 3:23
Yes, Peter, welcome to the podcast.

Dr. Peter Gleick 3:25
Thank you. I’m delighted to be here. Looking forward to the conversation.

Martín Reyes, MW 3:28
And we’re also joined by an on the ground expert, Dr. Miguel Garcia. We have two PhDs in the house. Dr. Garcia assist farmers to implement sustainable farming practices at the Napa County Resource Conservation District. He’s also a certified crop advisor. He provides on-farm technical assistance and planning related to soil health, carbon sequestration, erosion control, and water management. He also designs bilingual education programs aimed at providing local growers and farm workers with valuable information on topics related to sustainable agriculture. Dr. Miguel Garcia, welcome.

Dr. Miguel García 4:04
Thank you so much for the invitation. Very happy to be here.

Katherine Cole 4:07
I can’t wait to get started on this conversation. Peter, let’s start with a big water picture. Historic drought and chronic overuse over the past two decades or more has greatly depleted the Colorado River and other water sources leaving California in particular, in a perpetual water emergency and yet California wine country and much of the rest of the state was inundated with rain this past January and February. And I’m wondering, where does that leave winegrowers, and has the water debt been repaid?

Well, that’s an enormous question, ff course. Water is a big issue as Martín said at the beginning, basically no water, no food, no water, no wine, no water, no anything. Water is so critical to the all of the things that we care about. And we worry in the Western U.S. and in California, about both too little water and too much water and we’ve sort of had a bad experience in the last several decades, frankly. We’ve been struck in California, and as you mentioned in the introduction in the Colorado River, with what seems like perpetual, long term, extensive drought. But we’re also now experiencing very extreme wet years. Right now, January, February, March seemed to have been very wet in California, extraordinarily wet. And the reality is, this is a, in my opinion, a symptom of climate change. I’m a climate scientist, in part by training. And what we’ve been told for decades now is that we ought to expect more extremes of climate as we change the climate. And that’s what we’re seeing with water, more drought and more flooding. No, we haven’t repaid the debt, in a sense. It’s wonderful to see a wet year after several years of severe drought. it’s wonderful to see lots of snow up in the mountains, which hopefully will melt slowly, not too fast, over the dry part of the year that’s coming in the summer. But we’re dealing with long term drought, the reservoirs were empty at the beginning of the year, our groundwater is overdrafted, which is a problem for agriculture. I would say it’s too soon to say that the drought is over. And it may never be over. We can’t assume that one good year is going to solve our problems.

Martín Reyes, MW 6:20
I’ve heard it’s also a function of you’ve termed the “whiplash weather,’ variabilities between, you know, extreme drought and then flooding, so it’s part of the answer that it comes too soon, too much and a portion of it runs off into the ocean or, or something like that. Is that what happens, too?

Dr. Peter Gleick 6:37
Yeah, that’s right. You know, climate change, what climate change is really doing is it’s affecting our day to day weather, and producing what we call weather whiplash. That is more extremes, both more wet and more dry extremes. It’s been a long time since California has had an average rainfall year and average water year, we don’t seem to get an average water year anymore. You know, we had five years of severe drought from 2012 to 2016. And then we had the wettest year on record in 2017. And then we had three more years of drought. And now we’re having another really wet year. It’s, it’s hard to manage extremes. California does a pretty good job. You know, we build reservoirs to store water in wet years, so we can use it in dry years. But it’s hard to manage these extremes. And that’s part of the challenge for farmers. It’s part of the challenge for winemaking. Frankly, it’s part of the challenge for every aspect of our water system.

Martín Reyes, MW 7:30
That whiplash sounds like wet lash.

Dr. Peter Gleick 7:33
Sometimes it’s dry lash, so.

Martín Reyes, MW 7:35
Dry lash, right.

Katherine Cole 7:37
Miguel, those rainstorms. I’m wondering what you were seeing out in the vineyards and the farms? What was happening with that water? Was it going in into the ground? Or was it running off? How did it affect the vines?

Dr. Miguel García 7:48
Yeah, we’re seeing a little bit of everything. But before I answer that, I want to make a comment by what Peter was saying that we don’t have a normal water year anymore. We don’t have an average water year. So for me, assisting farmers directly, I need to prepare them for everything, I need to prepare them for a wet year, and I need to prepare them for a dry year. So that concept of not having an average water year anymore, it’s always in my head. That’s always what I’m trying to communicate to the farmers. And that’s why it’s driving a lot of the conversations. And when we think about drought, people tend to think, “Oh, we’re gonna go several years with no water.” But the reality is that we’re going to have wet years. So when talking to the farmers, it’s important to communicate that we need to prepare for either extremes. We’re preparing for climate change, and for extreme weather events. So right now, I mean, Napa has received a good amount of rain so far. I’ve been driving around, my boots are muddy right now just coming out from, from a vineyard. And you see a lot of ponding right now, the soils are getting saturated. It is a question of whether those soils could have in the future, perhaps, be able to retain more water through the implementation of sustainable farming practices. But for, for this year for what it is, there’s a lot of ponding around around Napa. And that is a concern in different aspects because that removes oxygen from the soil. And that affects some of the nutrient cycling. We, I hope that we keep getting more rain. And what is happening now is that that rain is no longer infiltrating, that is running off. So that is becoming more of an erosion issue. And then we try to manage where that water goes, in the creeks and rivers that received that water. But, definitely a lot of ponding throughout the valley and more rain to come. So let’s see how things go.

Katherine Cole 9:40
So I actually have a question for Miguel. I know that very little of of California’s wine is dry farmed. It’s almost all irrigated, but there is a little bit of dry farmed wine. Does the replenishment of the soil moisture with these storms…Presumably that’s a good thing for dry farming, because you if you’re not irrigating, you want your soil moisture to be pretty high, presumably, as long as possible. But I don’t know whether…is not the case here.

Dr. Miguel García 10:11
The the thing that allows dry farming is it’s not only where you’re farming, but how you’re farming. So you cannot, and Martín, please correct me if I misspeak on anything, because I’m not a vineyard expert, but from the soil aspect, you, you have to prepare the side you have the farm in a specific way to allow for that infiltration to go in. But in a lot of cases, you’re also farming close to the water table. So if you are in an area where the high water table, it rains, you’re gonna get that water table to rise. But also, the management of the soil is different in a dry farm operation than and irrigated vineyards. So they already have in mind that they want to increase infiltration and retention of water. So they are already doing things that other folks might not be doing, or things that we might be labeling as sustainable farming practices, because they know that they need to treat that water, but soils have a capacity. So if it keeps raining, the soils will get to their capacity, they will they will get saturated, and then the water will start running off. But what what helps the dry farming operation is is that water table replenishment. So if we are able to maintain a high water table throughout the year, relatively high water table, that would allow for the vines to receive the way that they need. These plants, these, these vines tend to have much deeper root systems because they are trained that way. So the vineyard managers make sure that those get developed to a point that they’re tapping into that groundwater table. So it’s a matter of the management and also the planning. So these folks are planning from the moment they plant the vines. They’re planning for water infiltration and water retention for the future.

Dr. Peter Gleick 11:56
Got it. Thanks.

Martín Reyes, MW 11:58
Miguel, listening to you talking specifically concretely about viticulture, and Peter, of course, you’ve got this 10,000 foot perspective, we want to underscore the fact that for the listeners, it’s been a common refrain now for the past few years, at least in our neck of the woods of California, climate change is here. It’s not in the future anymore. It’s now: fires, drought, we’re in it. It’s it’s shifted and listening to both of you, what strikes me is that there’s an active resetting. Miguel, in particular, you’re resetting the training, the advice. The new normal, if you want to use that term, is wild extremes. Whether you’re dry farming, or whether you’re irrigating, which is the majority, as Peter mentioned, what you were taught 10-20 years ago, is essentially irrelevant. And what is new, what is that what is the future is completely different.

Katherine Cole 12:51
Think about it more broadly: everything that we’ve done, everything that we’ve built, has been predicated in the past on an assumption about the climate, about how hot it gets and how cold it gets and how much rain we get and how much snow we get based on the historical understanding of climate, on the assumption that climate wasn’t changing. Right? What, what’s really happening now is that all of those assumptions are out the window, that the climate of the past is not the climate, as you say, of the present. It’s not the climate of the future. And our systems and our infrastructure and our management, designed for those old climates are no longer completely helpful to us, and sometimes not helpful to us at all. I mean, frankly, if we understood a long time ago that the sea level was rising, for example, we wouldn’t have built our coasts the way we built them. But those coastal properties now are vulnerable to changes that weren’t anticipated and are going to be incredibly devastating. Our agricultural system was designed for a climate that we no longer have, and we’re going to have to adapt to those changes.

Can I interject a stupid question, Peter? T

Dr. Peter Gleick 14:06
There’s no such thing.

Katherine Cole 14:07
Why don’t we just desalinate ocean water and irrigate crops with it?

No, that’s not a stupid question. That’s a great question. So 97% of the water on the planet is saltwater in the oceans. The freshwater that’s available to us is actually a tiny fraction of the total water on the planet. And we know how to take salt out of out of ocean water. It’s not magic anymore. We have the technology: desalination. The challenge is it’s very, very expensive. And right now we do desalinate quite a bit of water in certain places at certain times, but only for very, very high valued uses. Industrial uses, municipal uses, drinking water, which is a high valued use of water. It’s far, far too expensive for irrigation at the moment. Another challenge, of course, is that a lot of our irrigation demand is nowhere near the coast. It’s inland. It’s in Napa Valley, or it’s in the Central Valley of California. And so not only would we have to spend a lot of money desalinating seawater, we’d have to spend even more money moving that expensive desalinated water to our farms, to where they are, to where their demand is. And so I actually believe there’s more and more desalination in our future, but not for agriculture.

Dr. Miguel García 15:23
And not to go too much on a on a tangent here, but another implication of climate change in salt intrusion. So, Napa at the south end of Napa, we are already seeing salt intrusion to the point where people were relying on wells, are drawing water from wells right now, because they’ve been drawing water for so long. Now, it’s been pushing the brackish water into those wells. So a lot of wells are coming out of production, even here in Napa. So desalination, it’s not only in the minds of people for, for the uses coming out of the ocean, but also, what are we going to do if the only source of water for a farmer is a well, that has brackish water. So that also it’s in the mind of folks thinking, here in Napa, for the south end, which has been affected by that issue. But going back to the idea of, of climate change in how it is here and how it is real: I cannot have a conversation with farmers about irrigation management, about soil health, about any of those aspects without bringing into the conversation, climate change. It has to happen otherwise, nothing that we mentioned, is relevant. So I always bring it up to the table as our as a topic of conversation when I’m talking to farmers and farm workers. And the way that I frame it is that in a lot of senses, farmers are victims of whatever climate change is bringing to them. And I mean they have to roll with the punches, but at the same time, farming is a great contributor to greenhouse gases. So when we have this conversation, it’s about how can you adapt to what nature is throwing at you, and try to plan for the best and the worst years, but at the same time, what can you do to mitigate those greenhouse gases so that you’re not contributing any further to climate change? So to me, it goes, it goes both ways.

Dr. Peter Gleick 17:08
I’m glad you’re having those conversations, they’re are really important.

Dr. Miguel García 17:11
And, and people received pretty well. I work different places around California, and every now and then you might find somebody that is not too sure about climate change being real and, for me, working with farmers…I’m a soil and water scientist by training, but there’s a lot of psychology involved as well, where I’ve trained myself and through experience on how to communicate effectively with farmers, which is, it’s important to be able to communicate with everybody. So sometimes, if folks are not too open about climate change, as a topic of conversation, they will be open to talk about what happened this year. What happened last year. So okay, let’s talk about last year was really dry. What did you do, then? What can you do if that happens again. This year was really wet, what are you doing now? What can you do to change it? And then little by little, maybe warm, warm them up to the idea of maybe, maybe climate change is real, you’re seeing all of these changes? The reality is that I deal with hundreds, hundreds of people throughout the year. And I need to be mindful of their backgrounds and where they come from, and always be obviously respectful and understanding.

Martín Reyes, MW 18:12
Bringing it back to how does grape growing and viticulture play into this? There’s some some facts and figures. I think, Katherine, you did some research here and you got some resources from Anna Brittain, who is the executive director of an NAPA green.

Katherine Cole 18:26
Yeah, do you want to help me read off some of these factoids, Martín? Yeah, the first one is 80% of California’s water goes to agriculture, but only 3% of that goes to wine, thankfully.

Dr. Miguel García 18:36
And is that for growing or for winemaking as well? Is it all combined?

Katherine Cole 18:40
I am not sure about that 3%. But we’ll give you some numbers, splitting up the vineyard and winery.

Martín Reyes, MW 18:47
These figures can swing wildly, because there’s significant variation from different regions, Napa versus Central Coast versus Santa Barbara versus Temecula. Within the vineyard and how they practice but also their own moisture, annual rainfall and so forth, and then how they’re growing their grapes. But on average, if you’re taking a look at one region, say Napa, just for wine making, so production, the target efficiency is between three to six gallons of water used in the winery, not not in the field, but in the winery per gallon of wine. But it’s, it’s our understanding that it’s more common to see much higher numbers, you know, 10, 15 gallons of water use in the winery per gallon of wine. And there’s more if there’s landscape irrigation. Now, there’s a shocking point, right, Katherine? This is the shocker.

Katherine Cole 19:39
The vineyard! Oh, my, goodness. So Napa Green has set its target irrigation efficiency for vineyards at less than 108,000 gallons per acre. So if you do the math, assuming a 310 yield, that’s about 240 gallons of water per gallon of wine. And that’s the target for Napa Green.

Martín Reyes, MW 20:01
In the vineyard?

Katherine Cole 20:02
Yeah, it makes me want to cry.

Dr. Peter Gleick 20:04
I would just point out that this is not unusual.

Martín Reyes, MW 20:06
No, not at all, as a matter of fact, it’s pretty good.

Dr. Peter Gleick 20:09
There’s always water required in processing of food, processing of agriculture. But always the dominant water demand is growing the crop, whatever the crop is. And you know, there’s, it takes water in the plant that’s making tomato sauce to clean the…clean the cans and to process the tomatoes, but the vast majority of the water goes to growing the tomatoes. The same, of course is true. There’s water required in winemaking in the process of cleaning the barrels, and in the process of actually just making the wine and in the landscaping itself. But the dominant demand for water is growing in the grapes. That’s not unusual. And it’s important to try and figure out how to reduce those footprints what we call water footprints, both in the field and in the processing. But keep that in mind that the relative numbers are quite, quite different.

Martín Reyes, MW 21:00
Peter, I’m glad you brought that up. Because as significant and breathtaking as the volume is for growing grapes, it’s among the crops that has the lower water needs out there compared to other crops.

Dr. Miguel García 21:13
And I think the public is beginning to acknowledge that. If you look at the Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, they’ve done a lot of studies with a show what people would pay for sustainably grown wines. And I use that as a motivation. You know, that’s what, that’s what keeps me busy. And I wish I would be out of a job. And this wouldn’t be a problem. But precisely because agriculture uses so much water, that’s, that’s the field that I wanted to go in and try to make the greatest impact. But also as consumers, people can realize that if they tried to shop for more sustainably grown wines, that that would motivate the vineyard managers and the winemakers moving to more sustainable farming practices and better irrigation water management. We have many programs here, but one of the things that we do is we go and evaluate irrigation systems. And the numbers that you’re given obviously averages. But I can tell you from experience that there, there’s a large number of farmers that are here in Napa that could decrease their usage significantly, if they would evaluate the performance of the irrigation systems. And if they would make sure that irrigation systems are working properly. So Napa Green, and the Napa RDC, we’re constantly working with farmers to help them achieve that goal. I feel like sometimes that becomes part of the lower priority on the list like, “oh, the irrigation system was installed 10 years ago, it should be functioning still fine,” when in reality it’ one of those things just like you check the oxygen in your fermentation or anything that you’re doing checking progress throughout, as you’re making the wine, I suggest that video managers should also keep an eye on their water usage throughout the season and not assume that the irrigation system is performing properly. So I see as a huge potential for water conservation, just looking at making sure that the infrastructure that delivers water is maintained and that it is working properly.

Katherine Cole 23:01
Yeah. So you know, there’s actually a big picture issue here. The conversation we’re having about wine is a conversation that, frankly, we’re having statewide about agriculture and urban water use. Farmers always say: “Why are you picking on farmers when you’re growing lawns, and you have inefficient washing machines and toilets in the cities? You could use your water much more efficiently.” And the cities are saying: “Look, 80% of the water is used by agriculture, you’re growing low valued crops in some places, why aren’t you, agriculture, using water more efficiently.” And my perspective is, all of us could be doing better, all of us could be using water more efficiently. There are plenty of still inefficient washing machines and toilets and dishwashers, in old homes in California that could be replaced with more efficient water using appliances and cut urban water use. We could certainly get rid of lawns in California and the western US and save a huge amount of urban water that goes to unproductive landscaping and still have beautiful gardens. And it’s also true that agriculture could do more with the water they’re already using, we could grow more food with less water. And Miguel’s point about working with farmers to improve their irrigation systems is true for every crop in California. Our irrigation systems could be more efficient. The kinds of crops we grow could be a little bit different and cut water use. That’s all good news, if you think about it. There are a lot of things that we could do in California to do what we want with less water. And that would reduce pressure on drought years, it would reduce pressure on overstressed ecosystems. It’s not just a wine question. This is a this is the kinds of things we’re talking about are relevant for every aspect of California society.

Martín Reyes, MW 24:51
Peter, I realized we tease the idea that you’re going to tell us about the three ages of water. Can you tell us that very briefly?

Katherine Cole 24:58
Sure. So I have a book, a new book called The Three Ages of Water: Prehistoric Past, Imperiled Present, and a Hope for the Future. And really, it’s a book about the history of humanity written in water, with the idea that the first stage was prehistoric times when literally, the evolution of humanity out of Africa was fundamentally affected by how much water and what the climate was, at the time. The success of Homosapiens and the very first water infrastructure, the first dams and the first water laws, the first war over water, the first manipulation of the hydrologic cycle was the First Age of Water. The Second Age of Water is really our age. It’s the age of scientific discovery and the development of smart water systems and the first water treatment systems that permited humanity to escape the devastating effects of water-related diseases. But the Second Age of water is also the water crisis that we’ve been talking about. Water contamination, overwhelmed…overuse of water, violent conflicts over water, the water crisis and water poverty that we see around the world where not everybody has access to safe water and sanitation, that much of us take take for granted. And the Third Age of Water really is the future. And I present in the book a positive vision for solving our water problems. I believe we can solve our water problems with some of the issues that we’ve been talking about, some of the technologies that we’ve been talking about, the idea that we can move to a sustainable future. And that’s the three ages of water from the past, through the present up until what I hope and think could be a positive future.

I love that. And on that positive note, maybe we can finish up this conversation talking about some of the cool things we’ve been seeing implemented in vineyards and wineries. Miguel, you’re out there every day. What are some what are some cool things that growers are doing to save water, use water more efficiently?

Dr. Miguel García 26:57
I can’t answer that question without emphasizing that you can’t manage water without managing soil. If your soil is not healthy, your soil cannot infiltrate water efficiently and retain water efficiently, nothing is going to matter. So it is very important to emphasize that the first step is to make sure that you’re taking care of your soil. If you take care of your soil, the soil will take care of you. So with that note, some of the things that people are doing now are moving into more sustainable farming practices: reducing tillage, incorporation of cover crops, maintaining cover crops for longer periods of time, incorporating compost, biochar, which is another hot topic right now, also.

Katherine Cole 27:34
Can you quickly tell us about biochar? Because I’ve been, I’ve been hearing a lot about it and I want to hear more.

Dr. Miguel García 27:39
So for all intents and purposes, biochar is charcoal. So once you put it into the ground, we call it biochar because it’s serving now a biological function. So biochar has been produced naturally by forest fires for millennia. And we found that it’s a very resistant material. So it’s pure carbon essentially, has a lot of pore spaces that allow soil microbes to use them as homes, and soil fungus likes to live in it as well. And it essentially increases the surface area of the soil where microbes can live. So this increases their ability to filter and retain water and to retain nutrients, but for all intents and purposes it’s just charcoal. In Napa, Napa Green, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers, and the Napa RCD, we have been teaching farmers how to produce biochar out of dead vines that they pull out of the vineyards with very simple methods. There’s a lot of research going on around biochar, the Napa RCD helped establish one experimental trial with Treasury Wine Estates that is ongoing right now. So we’re bringing the research here to Napa, there’s only one other research being done in, in vineyards somewhere else. So there’s still a lot of research being done and figuring out what is the impact on yield, what is the impact on wine quality, but what we know is that it’s promising to help increase water retention in soils and also nutrient retention and nutrient cycling and enhance biological activity. So it seems to be promising a lot. The research is still out there. So we’re still keeping an eye and seeing how things go.

Katherine Cole 29:09
Well, you know, one other thing we want to talk about is gray water. And there are kind of two ways we’re seeing gray water in wineries and vineyards, we’re seeing some vineyards that are actually rerouting municipal recycled wastewater and using it in their vineyards. And actually, I should back up and say gray water is basically water that’s being reused, wastewater. And then the other thing we’re seeing is just wineries internally, just recycling their own wastewater and using it for irrigation. Miguel, have you have you seen that out in the vineyards?

Dr. Miguel García 29:40
I’m not an expert on the topic, I have seen it and the only thought on this is when you think about water it’s not only the quantity, but the quality. Remember we are distributing in vineyards, we’re distributing the water through drip irrigation systems. So these are systems that even dissolved bicarbonates or iron, or manganese dissolved in the water could clog the emitters. So where I have seen it work is where people take good care to make sure that they are removing by whatever method they can find, a way to remove any of the suspended solids so that none of that is going to be clogging the emitter. So that’s one thing. The other thing is to consider what is in the water. So I don’t know what goes behind the scenes on the winemaking side of things. So I don’t know what’s what’s being dissolved in that water. So in a lot of the cases, you have to be mindful of what’s been introduced into the vineyard, whether it’s nutrients, whether it is cleaning products. Where I have seen greywater work the best is when people are using what we call biofilters. So these are these containers with different media, I think they use sawdust. Don’t quote me on this, because I don’t know all the details, but also earthworms are involved. Where the water gets a chance to have a sort of treatment before is being used into the vineyard. I have also seen people try to just put that water into a reservoir and then pump it from the reservoir. And it has not been too successful. I’ve seen too many dissolved solids going into the lines. And that is creating more problems in the distribution side of things then, then benefits.

Katherine Cole 31:10
Definitely Google the biofilters with the earthworms, because they’re pretty cool.

Dr. Miguel García 31:15
They are.

Martín Reyes, MW 31:17
Part of the reason why I want to make sure we define these terms grey water and black water and so forth is because there’s some misconceptions. There’s been headlines that say, oh, you know, wineries now using toilet water for irrigating their vineyards, that’s not what’s happening. These are different terms, gray water, and what is black water, and so forth.

Katherine Cole 31:35
So gray water, typically, in the water world, refers to water that you’re using in your home or your business and you reuse it, you you reuse it immediately, somehow, on landscaping, perhaps with some additional filtering, and so on. What I think we’re really most interested in is highly treated wastewater. Nobody’s using toilet water, no one’s reusing toilet water. Wastewater at water treatment plants can be treated to an incredibly high standard. We’ve done that for a long time. And typically we throw that water away, we collect our wastewater, we treat it to a high standard in a wastewater treatment plant, and we dump it in the ocean and we throw we throw it away. More and more, we’re now treating that water to a very high standard, and we’re finding ways to reuse it. Depending on, as Miguel has suggested, the quality of that water. Some of that water, treated to a really high standard, could actually even be used for potable use. It typically isn’t, it’s typically put in groundwater and then treated again or put it in a reservoir and treated again for reuse. But some of it could be used for potable reuse. More typically, it’s used for recharging groundwater, or it’s used for outdoor landscaping or it’s used for industrial purposes. So what we’re talking about really is highly treated wastewater that’s reused, it’s a it’s an asset, not a liability, now. We ought to treat it as a new source of supply and put it to use in the appropriate place. Local gray water, gray water in my home my home, or gray water from a vineyard perhaps, that’s a smaller volume and we have to be careful about how we use it.

Dr. Miguel García 33:18
And recycled water is being used in Napa by some farmers, especially last couple years when it was really dry, they had no option. So we do have some pipes that go directly from the treatment plant directly into vineyards. And I personally think, and this applies to any agriculture in California or even anywhere else in the world, we’re going to have to utilize as many sources of water as we can. Recycled water should be part of the portfolio, gray water should be part of the portfolio. For me, advising farmers, the only thing that I can say is whatever water you’re using, make sure you’re checking what’s in it and make sure that it’s, it’s appropriate for your operation. Not only for for the health of the plants, but also for your type of distribution system. But me in order to keep farming how…and keep feeding the world and getting the world drunk, we’re going to need to use all kinds of water. And we need to get very creative because groundwater is not going to keep us going at least here in Napa. We need to get creative.

Dr. Peter Gleick 34:21
I think the best way to think about this is we have to figure out how to use the water we have as efficiently as possible with the best irrigation systems and soil moisture monitoring as possible. And we have to think about new sources of supply. We have to think about rainwater harvesting, we have to think about reusing highly high quality treated wastewater, all of those things are going to be part of a more sustainable water future.

Martín Reyes, MW 34:43
Peter, you’ve been on record as giving us a snapshot of our of our future, not just with water, but in terms of the overall concept of climate change. You’ve got three versions and I’m hoping that you could tell us what those three versions are.

Dr. Peter Gleick 34:56
Climate change is real. It’s happening. It’s not something we can any longer avoid, we’ve delayed too long. And we only have three options. We have to mitigate climate change. That is reduced greenhouse gas emissions and slow the rate of climate change in the future. We have to adapt to those climate changes. And we can now no longer avoid, we have to both mitigate and we have to adapt. And whatever’s left I’m afraid is suffering, there’s mitigation, there’s adaptation, and they’re suffering, and we’re going to suffer some consequences of those climate changes that we have failed to mitigate, and that we’re not able to adapt to. And the question ultimately, is: What’s going to be the balance among those three options?

Katherine Cole 35:38
While the suffering will be less if we have a glass of wine in hand, right?

Dr. Miguel García 35:43
You won’t to have that wine if we can’t grow the grapes.

Katherine Cole 35:46
Yeah, exactly.

Dr. Miguel García 35:47
The issue with water in farming and agricultural in California, it’s a moving target. So we cannot let our guard down. As Peter said, we got to use our water more efficiently and also get creative on finding new water sources. The reality is that it’s a moving target. So we have to keep going and keep educating ourselves. And for me, keep educating farmers about it as well. Making sure that people realize that we are in it together, where everything is interconnected. And we need to work together and realize that anything that we do has either positive or negative impact and hope that humanity comes together as a whole. And it comes together and find these solutions that Peter has been mentioning as well. Because I don’t want to suffer, I want to keep drinking wine, I want to keep drinking beer. Anything that nature gives us, I want to keep enjoying all of that. And I want my son to be able to enjoy that. And I want future generations to enjoy that. So I like to think I’m doing my part. And I appreciate you guys for bringing this topic to the table. Because it’s a very important topic. It’s hard to talk about everything in in one hour. But I encourage people to reach out to whoever the professionals are in your area. Ask questions. We nerds we like to talk about what we do. You ask us questions, we’re going to talk about it. So don’t be afraid to ask.

Katherine Cole 37:05
Oh, thank you, Miguel, I’m going to be calling you tomorrow with all my water questions. Well, on that note, I think it’s time for our figurative dessert course in which each of us shares a little something fun, something sweet, figuratively sweet, we’ve been enjoying this week. Peter, what is your dessert for us?

Dr. Peter Gleick 37:21
First of all, it’s been a pleasure to talk to you again, as Miguel said, we could talk about this much, much longer than the little bit of time we’ve had here. You know, I love to drink wine, I think like so many of your listeners do. And I feel blessed that I’m living in a in a state that produces such really incredible professional wines from so many different outlets. But I also am delighted to say that I have a neighbor, literally a few houses away in the urban area I live in who makes wine in his basement. And he he makes unbelievably great quality wine. You know, I love to drink the wine from the vineyards that I’m a wine club member of and that I love to visit but but the fact that just a friend of mine can make this wonderful beverage in his basement, incredibly high quality with relatively low water, water commitment, other than buying the grapes. It’s really, uh, it’s a wonderful thing.

Katherine Cole 38:20
Hurray for homemakers. I

Dr. Peter Gleick 38:22

Katherine Cole 38:23
How about you Miguel?

Dr. Miguel García 38:24
Well, I love cheese. And I grew up in a small little town in Chihuahua, Mexico. And we are blessed with a Mennonite community that established themselves there in the 30s and they produce the most amazing cheese.

Martín Reyes, MW 38:42

Dr. Miguel García 38:43
So people call it Mennonite cheese, Chihuahua cheese. So I got to go to Mexico last month and I bought myself a couple kilos. It’s all gone, between quesadillas, chile rellenos, eating cheese just with cheese and more cheese, and some wine, too. So that to me is the flavor of home every time I eat the cheese. Because I don’t get to taste it often unless I go and visit. You cannot buy it around here at least I haven’t been able to find it.

Martín Reyes, MW 39:15
Miguel, yo no sabía que somos chihuahuenses, tú y yo. Queso menonita. I am very familiar with that, too. Something to learn about you today.

Dr. Miguel García 39:23
¿Lo has comido recientemente?

Martín Reyes, MW 39:25
No, recientemente, no. Hace como año. This is fantastic.

Dr. Miguel García 39:29
Next time, next time… I didn’t know that and every time I bring some I like to share with family and friends and everybody I share with really likes it, but I did not know Martín that you like the cheese so next time I go I’ll make sure to bring you a big piece.

Martín Reyes, MW 39:44
Thank you! Both my parents are from Chihuahua so I love it.

Dr. Miguel García 39:47
Yeah, this cheese melts incredibly well. So we’re making quesadillas or anything. In soups, too. My home used to cook soups with it and it’s very rich and fatty and these people make it, the Mennonite community make it the same way that they used to make it. And with a little bit of modernization but they still make it very in a very artisanal way. It’s one of the many things that I’m proud of from my town. We also grow apples, we’re the largest apple growing region in Mexico. So between apples and cheese that’s, to me, that’s heaven.

Katherine Cole 40:17
Making me hungry.

Martín Reyes, MW 40:20
Excellent. Well, it’s time for my dessert course. Recently, a friend of mine introduced me to this group called out Pomplamoose. And they do really innovative covers of popular songs and sometimes mashups. It’s like better than both, both original versions and it’s just such a catchy tune, you just want to make more food. Maybe throw in some queso menonita into your, into your, you know, chile rellenos and cook away with that music. So Pomplamoose is my dessert course for this episode.

Katherine Cole 40:55
Medleys! Always love a good medley. Thinking about water, I, as I was preparing for this episode, I found myself on the earthobservatory.nasa.gov website, where you can see some really cool satellite photos of Earth. And you can see water. And I found myself looking at Lake Shasta because my kids both row crew. And I know that sounds fancy, but they they row in a really kind of gritty city, kind of, it’s like a dirt lot where they have their boats. And it’s just been so great. I think it’s pretty much saved my kids during the pandemic, they just get out on the river every day and row and they really appreciate water. So every year for spring break, they go to Lake Shasta and row. And last year, my older daughter went and she sent me photos and it was really dry. And it was really sad. And she said there wasn’t much space, there wasn’t much water to row on. And so I was just looking at satellite photos, nasa.gov satellite photos of Lake Shasta. And it looks so beautiful. It’s it’s looking much fuller, much less Brown, much more blue. So yeah, if you have a favorite body of water that you’d like to check out from the sky, go to earthobservatory.nasa.gov.

Martín Reyes, MW 42:08
Next time I look up in the sky and I see those satellites, I’m like, what-are those satellites doing up there? Now I no.

Dr. Peter Gleick 42:14
That’s a wonderful website.

Katherine Cole 42:15
I also was going to mention that one great way to solve the water crisis is to talk to every teenage girl about how long they spend in the shower. But that’s another conversation.

Martín Reyes, MW 42:25
Ah, yeah, yeah.

Katherine Cole 42:27
My 18 year old, oh my goodness. On that note, thank you guests.

Martín Reyes, MW 42:31
Yes, thank you.

Katherine Cole 42:32
You can read about our guest Dr. Peter Gleick at the Pacific Institute website at pacinst.org and at gleick.com. That’s gleick.com. And his new book, The Three Ages of Water will be published June 13th, so pre-order your copy now.

Martín Reyes, MW 42:49
And you can read about Dr. Miguel Garcia’s work at the Napa County Resource Conservation District website at naparcd.org. And hey, check out our new website for Napa RISE. It is risegreen.org. And I’m also at winewise.biz.

Katherine Cole 43:10
And you can find me at katherinecole.com. But don’t go there, go to thefourtop.org where you can find our social media handles and let us know what you thought of the episode and please support The Four Top by leaving us a rating on your favorite podcast app such as Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

Martín Reyes, MW 43:27
Signing out from the rainy and slightly windy, wet weather here in Benicia, California. Thanks so much for listening everyone.

Katherine Cole 43:34
And signing out from my home right on the Willamette River where I can watch my kids row. Thanks for listening everyone and goodbye.

Kielen King 43:42
This has been The Four Top podcast. Katherine Cole is our executive producer, Nick Tole is our producer, and I’m Kielen King, sound supervisor. We are also assisted by audio editor Michelle Richards, Media and Design Manager Ruby Welkovich, and Sales Director Kristin Castagna. Please visit our website the fourtop.org to learn more about us, listen to back episodes, and purchase books written by our amazing panelists. If you have not already subscribed to The Four Top on iTunes or Spotify, please do so, and please leave us a rating. Every rating feeds the algorithm and helps new listeners find The Four Top. Stay safe out there, and thanks for listening.