Could fish waste be key in Calif. drought fight?

Posted at 4:18 PM, Jan 19, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-19 21:54:53-05

A San Diego-area nonprofit group believes fish waste may be the best cure for California's drought.

The local organization ECOLIFE Conservation uses grant funding to create sustainable vegetable gardens that rely on fish waste to fertilize plants.

The process is called aquaponics, and the Environmental Club at Patrick Henry High School is the first in San Diego County to start its own aquaponics garden.

"We can grow tomatoes. We can grow lettuce. We can grow cabbage," said Patrick Henry HS senior Sabrina Ortega. "Basically, anything that can go in a salad."

The process is very simple. Patrick Henry HS students have a large plastic pond full of albino catfish. A small pump pulls the water out of the tank and drops it into a clay rock garden, where the vegetables are planted. The plants feed off the fish waste.

"Poop, basically," said ECOLIFE Conservation spokeswoman Kaitlyn Cole. "The plants in turn clean the water for the fish."

The water collects at the bottom of a garden box and is returned to the fish tank.

Cole said the process conserves 90 percent of the water usually used to water vegetables.

"I 100 percent think that it could save California," she said.

Patrick Henry HS senior Olivia Young is teaching the technique to low-income families as a Girl Scouts project.

"I want them to be able to grow food for themselves," said Young.

Cole said individuals can also benefit from aquaponics and can buy their own system on