Elias Nacif grew up participating in Boy Scouts, where he developed a deep appreciation of nature. Since 2007 he has worked for Service by Medallion, a large janitorial and maintenance provider serving more than 200 clients and cleaning over 30 million square feet of real estate nightly. Elias rolled out Medallion’s Green Initiative to improve sustainability practices, both internally and externally. He created a water conservation checklist for clients that provides an inventory of potential water saving opportunities and a return on investment for each product, including toilet and urinal fixtures, stand-alone flushometers, water faucets and cleaning agents and equipment. A change-out to low-flow faucet aerators has been saving over one million gallons of water per year at some client sites. At Medallion, Elias introduced a Chemical Management System that consistently provides the correct dilution for cleaning products, decreasing water use, chemical exposure and plastic bottles in the waste stream. Medallion also switched to using microfiber cloths that require minimal chemical/water dilution, the Hygen Clean mop bucket system with an integrated water filter that generates cleaner water, and an exterior auto scrubber to replace power washing of debris that uses recycled water and uses only 270 gallons per day versus 1,050 gallons per day with standard equipment. The use of this technology is helping one client save over 125,000 gallons of fresh water per year.
Akhil Dua – Akhil is a 17 year-old student at American High School in Fremont. He has been active in Boy Scouts since second grade, and for his Eagle Scout project he mobilized his Troop #132 to partner with the City of Union City to convert a 12,000 square foot turf area to drought-tolerant trees. Utilizing Alameda County Water District’s Water-Efficient Landscape Rebate Program, the project received $2,200 to cover the entire cost of replacing the turf with 35 native trees along the Old Alameda Creek watershed at San Andreas Park. A drip irrigation line was installed to help establish the saplings. This project is estimated to save about 260,000 gallons of water per year for the City of Union City.
Laura Allen – Laura is a founding member of Greywater Action and has spent a decade exploring low-tech solutions to urban sustainable water issues. She is a co-editor of the anthology "Dam Nation: Dispatches from the Water Underground," focusing on strategies for water sustainability from small-scale eco-technologies to global grassroots political movements. She recently authored "The Water-Wise Home: How to Conserve and Reuse Water in Your Home and Landscape," forthcoming from Storey Press. She also was lead author of the "San Francisco Graywater Design Guidelines for Outdoor Irrigation," and was instrumental in the creation of the Santa Clara Valley Water District's greywater installation rebate program. Greywater Action has become the Bay Area's leading resource for installation of greywater, rain catchment and composting toilet systems, and has led efforts to remove institutional barriers to sustainable water use at the state level.
Arvind Kumar – Arvind has worked tirelessly to promote drought-tolerant California native plants throughout the Bay Area and the State. He served as President of the Santa Clara Valley Chapter of the California Native Plant Society for six years, and on the organization's State Board of Directors. Arvind was instrumental in the development and on-going success of the Going Native Garden Tour, which will celebrate its 11th anniversary in May. As part of the Tour, thousands of people visit showcase gardens featuring native plants. These gardens are exemplary models of how landscaping with natives can reduce water, chemical and pesticide use, improve wildlife habitat, and provide a unique aesthetic appeal. Attendees learn that water use can decrease by nearly 90% when traditional, high water use landscapes are replaced with native gardens. Arvind’s many activities include planting and maintaining a large native plant garden at San Jose’s Lake Cunningham Park, expanding the Gardening With Natives program to libraries throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties, and coordinating the Annual Wildflower Show at Mission College, native plant sales in Los Altos Hills, and native plant gardening symposia held at Foothill College in 2011 and 2012. His own garden is an inspiring model of a native, low-water and pesticide-free garden. Visitors marvel that so much beauty can be found in such a small space.
Frank Niccoli – Frank is a landscape contractor and educator. In 1979 he founded The Village Gardener, a landscape construction and maintenance company. He limits water waste in landscapes through comprehensive irrigation management and less water-intensive planting and maintenance techniques. The latter include non-chemical pest control methods and a focus on native plants. He has contributed to multiple professional landscaping associations, including the California Landscape Contractors Association, where a water management program (now being used by more than 600 landscape contractors) was developed under his leadership. Since 1996 Frank has developed curriculum and taught classes on sustainable landscape practices, residential irrigation, integrated pest management, California native plants and water management at Foothill College. He also chaired the Foster City Environmental Sustainability Task Force.
Ken and Sally Coverdell own and operate Blue Sky Designs, an award-winning landscaping firm, and Blue Sky Farms, a retail nursery and coffee shop in Half Moon Bay. They are dedicated to educating others about the importance of water conservation and native ecosystems, and practice what they preach both at home and at work. Features that demonstrate the Coverdells’ commitment to responsible water use include a 30,000-gallon cistern under the parking lot that collects rainwater for irrigation. A smart controller receives current evapo-transpiration data and then determines water needs for the nursery. Their water conservation efforts have steadily reduced their water consumption from 970,000 gallons in 2000 to 220,000 gallons in 2010.
Former Assemblyman John Laird sponsored state bills to reduce urban and agricultural water use, and to require high efficiency toilets in new developments.
Previous Lifetime Achievement Winners
Trish Mulvey has been a water champion for decades. Her activities span a broad range of water-related topics, including groundwater management, water reuse, water efficient landscapes and rainwater capture. Trish’s top concern is watershed health, and her work underscores the complex interconnections between water supply, healthy creeks, stable aquifers and robust wetlands. One of her earliest efforts was to organize the CLEAN South Bay Coalition, pulling together dozens of regional environmental groups and hundreds of citizen activists to support Communities for a Better Environment’s litigation naming a local wastewater treatment plant as polluting the South Bay by discharging heavy metals originating from Silicon Valley plating and manufacturing facilities. Ultimately, the suit was settled, leading to the creation of the Silicon Valley Pollution Prevention Center and a focus on cost-effective source control solutions. Trish is an avid supporter of recycled water, and helped secure $16 million for a pipeline project from the Palo Alto wastewater treatment plant to Mountain View. Recently, she has advocated for a Groundwater Management Plan for the San Francisquito Cone and has supported East Palo Alto’s Groundwater Management Plan.
Marty Laporte – Marty is the Associate Director of Utilities for Environmental Quality and Water Efficiency at Stanford University. She founded Stanford’s water conservation program in 2001, and under her leadership the University developed a Water Conservation, Reuse and Recycling Master Plan. The program facilitated the retrofit of over 13,000 bathroom fixtures, replaced inefficient lab equipment with water efficient models, installed water saving devices in large campus kitchens, installed water miser devices on steam sterilizers (autoclaves), and improved the efficiency of landscape irrigation throughout the campus. Marty started a pilot study program to test the effectiveness of new water-efficiency technology. Stanford was an early adopter of weather-based irrigation controllers and advanced metering infrastructure, commonly known as real-time metering, allowing daily or hourly water use data to help detect leaks. In response to the drought, monthly water report cards are now issued to each major group on campus, providing a check-in on water use and conservation status that helps identify where to focus efforts. Under Marty’s leadership, Stanford reduced its water use by 600,000 gallons per day, in spite of a growth of 2.5 million square feet of new campus facilities. After a 22-year career at Stanford, Marty will be retiring in March 2015.
Kathy Machado – Kathy began working at the Santa Clara Valley Water District in 1995 after an accomplished career in education. During her first year, District education programs reached more than 4,000 K-12 students and trained 290 teachers. Over the years the curriculum has evolved to provide hands-on lessons for each grade level that follow Common Core guidelines. This year, programs and field visits will reach 21,000 students and 1,000 teachers. Since 1995, Kathy and her staff of teachers and interns have taught 331,264 students and 18,700 teachers. For teachers, Kathy presents the Project WET 2.0 (Water Education for Teachers) curriculum, thereby expanding the reach of her innovative lessons that are easily replicated and effective at creating long-lasting behavioral changes. In addition to her official role with the Water District, Kathy has a double identity as the "Water Wizard," performing water magic shows that mesmerize and educate children about the preciousness of water and the need to conserve it.
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