Top 6 Uses for Coir Erosion Control Products

Coir coconut fiber is recognized by The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations as the thickest and most resistant of all commercial natural fibers. Recognized for its low decomposition rate (which leads to long product life spans) and high strength, coir fibers and coir erosion control products are considered the most environmentally-friendly choice for restoration and landscaping projects.

Typical coir erosion control products, like coir wattles and logs, consist coir twine netting and are filled with coir mattress.

With any project, the first question that should be asked before choosing products is: What problem needs to be solved? From wattles to silt checks, there are many coir erosion control products that provide a wide range of restoration solutions.

Here are the top six best uses for coir erosion control products:

1. Restoring an environmentally sensitive area.
The title of “environmentally sensitive” has been used to define landscape elements (such as riverbanks, wetlands, wildlife habitat areas, and steep slopes) that are vital to biological diversity, water, soil, or other natural resources. These areas require stabilization and soil amendment in a way that encourages future erosion control through plant seedlings. For this, an erosion control blanket, also known as an erosion control mat, would be a viable option. Once installed, a coir blanket requires little maintenance and ample opportunity for plant seedlings to take root and defend against erosion. 

2. Adding consistent, stable height to any shoreline.
Working to develop height on slopes, hills, banks, inlets, and soil lifts can be a challenge without the right products to ensure the amount of strength and stability required. The rectangular shape and layered design of coir erosion control blocks makes them a perfect long-lasting choice for any shoreline, slope, or riverbank. Available in both 12- and 16-inch block heights, the coir blocks can be easily connected at each end to meet the needs of any length erosion control project. Coir blocks biodegrade over 2-5 years and improve seed germination. This allows the site to grow and protect itself as time passes.

3. Filtering sediment while also reducing water flow.
When looking to keep sediment out of streams, channels, drainage ditches, and other areas that could be affected by site runoff, it’s important to control more than just what runs through the water. A check dam can generally be described as a small erosion control barrier made of any material from rocks to coir fiber, and serves the primary purpose of reducing the velocity of flowing water. An environmentally-friendly check dam constructed with coir is called a silt check, which includes a coir wattle and coir mat. Entirely biodegradable, silt checks are installed once and require no removal. The bottom matting that is added provides support for both upstream to prevent undercutting, and downstream to retain silt.

4. Protecting drains from construction site runoff.
When construction sites get to work, they may not realize how much runoff can flow into unchecked local storm drains or curb inlets and damage our ecosystem. For these types of projects, an erosion control coir wattle is the best line of defense. Designed similarly to a log, coir wattles are less dense and smaller in diameter, making it easy to place them in front of drains. Their ability to retain sediment, silt, and sand, while still allowing water to drain through, is a huge benefit. In fact, an entire drainage system can be designed with coconut coir wattles, as they allow for faster filtration in areas with high flows, and prevent pooling or flooding around drains. 

5. Managing weeds and supporting vegetation growth in landscaping.
Keeping harmful weeds away from otherwise beautiful landscaping is a full-time job, but it can be made easier with right products. Coir weed mats are needle-punctured pads of thick mattress coir, designed to suppress weeds while also encouraging new growth. Easily customizable, coir weed mats can be cut to suit any need. Once placed around trees and plants, they will biodegrade and provide mulch for further growth.  Coconut coir is considered by many to be an ideal grow medium, due to its ability to not just retain water exceptionally, but also still promote good drainage and aeration. Not only that, but it is also optimal for growth because it is closer than the traditional peat moss to a neutral pH. 

6. Bank stabilization and support.
Some of the worst erosion has occurred to rivers, wetlands, and streams due to steep slopes and exposure to strong waves and currents. The products chosen to restore the area should add to the health of the environment and encourage future growth to strengthen the banks. Coir logs, a strong and flexible coir erosion control solution, are designed as a natural control area for restoration projects. Coir logs are densely-packed with mattress coir for strength and durability, with a typical lifespan of two to five years. This gives planted seeds plenty of time to deeply root themselves as the logs biodegrade and stabilize the bank. Their structural design also allows them to hold their own against strong breaking waves that would otherwise continue to erode.

A Coir Product to Fit Every Erosion Control Project

As with many product lines, the family of coir erosion control products can often serve similar purposes depending on the size and scope of the project. While they all share the same goal of filtering harmful sediment and reversing the effects of erosion, there is a perfect choice for every need.

The skilled team at GEI Works is ready to help assess restoration project needs and suggest the best course of action. Contact us today online or by phone at (772) 646-0597 for more information, or to receive a quote.

Fighting Fires with Portable Water Tanks

Controlling a fire is of the utmost importance when firefighters first arrive on scene. Portable water tanks are an affordable and practical solution to making sure that water is readily available for fire fighting efforts.

Fighting Fires
Fire engines typically carry about 500 gallons of water in the truck to a fire.  This allows firefighters to start fighting the fire upon arrival.  Meanwhile, others can set up access to the local water supply. For most fires, firefighters will attach fire hoses to a nearby fire hydrant to draw from local water mains. Once the hoses are attached to the hydrant, water is pumped to the truck where it is pressurized to supply water for multiple fire hoses. In addition to allowing for quick attachment, modern fire hydrants access water underground and below the freeze line, ensuring the water doesn’t freeze in cold temperatures when needed.

Problems with Fire Hydrants
Unfortunately, fire hydrants aren’t always reliable as an emergency source of water.  For starters, fire hydrants accesses public water mains, the same source used by local residents for daily tasks, such as drinking, bathing, irrigation, and garden watering. With so many people drawing water from one source, the hydrant’s available water pressure can impacted. As a result, firefighters may have to find a hydrant much further away, wasting valuable time.

After arriving on the scene, there are several reasons why a fire hydrant may not produce water. It may not have been properly maintained, a water pipe may be broken, or a below-ground valve may be closed. The access to the hydrant may also be blocked by parked or first responder vehicles. Any of these situations will force the need to hook up to a different hydrant or an alternative water supply. 

Fire fighters may also find that there isn’t a fire hydrant located in the area. While many rural fire companies are equipped to haul a larger quantity of water to handle a fire, there are situations, such as wildfires, where urban fire companies are called in for support. When this occurs, the trucks may lack the necessary amount of water to extinguish or control the fire.

The Water Tender
As one solution, the fire engine may be accompanied by a water tender. Also known as a tanker, the water tender is a truck specifically designed to carry large amounts of water. With the ability to draw from a variety of sources, such as swimming pools, ponds, creeks, rivers, and lakes, these trucks can carry between 2,000 and 4,000 gallons of water.

The decision of when to deploy a water tender usually depends on the location of the fire. If the fire is located near a fire hydrant, a water tender may not be called unless the water supply begins to run low. For rural areas where a fire hydrant may not be available, the water tender may accompany the fire engine to the scene.

Portable Water Tanks
When a water tender is called into action, it will usually carry a portable water tank with it. These tanks have a capacity between 1,000 and 2,500 gallons. When the water tender discharges water into a portable tank, it can do so at a rate of about 1,000 gallons per minute, allowing for a quick switch from hydrant to tank or to quickly begin the fight if a hydrant is not available. Once the portable tank is filled with water, the process is similar to using a fire hydrant. The water is drawn into the fire engine where it is pressurized and sent through the fire hoses to extinguish the flames.

There are two types of portable tanks that are typically used for additional water availability.
  1. The most common type of portable tank for fire fighting usage is a frame tank, which is flexible and supported by an aluminum frame. All of these tanks are both easy and quick to set up, since time is critical in fire fighting.
  2. A self-supporting tank, such as an onion tank , has the ability to support the water inside the tank itself. A high-sided foldout tank is a bucket built specifically to be transported by a helicopter, often used for wildfires. 
With these tanks on hand, firefighters are assured they have enough water to put out the fire, saving property and lives.

GEI Works manufactures a wide selection of standard and custom portable water tanks. Known for quality and durability, we supply water tanks throughout the nation, and worldwide.  

For more information:

Wildfire Part Three...

The Impacts to Water from Wildfire

Wildfires cause devastating heat, fire, and burning destruction. After the wildfire’s ash settles and the rain pours, mudslides quickly erode the burned land, carrying a swath of debris and muddy sludge downhill. As runoff pours downhill, it enters into waterways such as streams and lakes, degrading the water quality. This impact to water is the focus of part three in our wildfire series.

We will discuss where our water supply comes from, how wildfire affects it, what contaminates it, and water pollution solutions for preventing and treating it. We will demonstrate how the Thomas Fire in southern California has affected the water supply in the county of Ventura, and how they are responding. Part one, which focuses on water storage preparation, is here. Part Two, which focuses on erosion control, is here.

The Importance of Clean Water
Clear and clean water is one of the most basic of human necessities. We need it to drink and replenish our bodies. We need it to irrigate crops to grow food. Aquatic life needs it to breathe, and to swim freely and see clearly. Clean water matters and enables us to function and flourish.

Where Does Our Water Supply Come From?
The majority of our water sources originate from forested land. Since forests provide so much of our water supply, it’s important to protect the forests’ watersheds .

According to the U.S. Geological Survey:

  • 50% of southwestern U.S. water supply comes from forests
  • 80% of freshwater in the U.S. begins in forest lands
  • 3,400 public drinking water systems are in national forest watersheds
Over 70 million acres have burned in the U.S. in the past 10 years, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Unhealthy forests can negatively affect our water quality, so there is reason to have concern, particularly after big wildfires. Generally, the water quality is better coming from a forest area than elsewhere, but after a mega wildfire, such as the Thomas Fire, that natural water supply can be severely affected and contaminated.

Contaminants in Runoff from Wildfire

Contaminants from post-wildfire runoff harm aquatic life in ecosystems, killing fish and plants. They also compromise water quality in water district municipalities, causing boil water alerts and a diversion of water sources which leads to unsafe low water pressure. The severity of the wildfire determines the degree to which the water quality degrades. It is based on several factors: post-wildfire precipitation, watershed topography and ecology of the local region.

Some of the common contaminants found in water runoff are elevated heavy metals (including iron, lead, nickel, and zinc), phosphorous and nitrates, pesticides, remnants from flame retardant, and chemicals. Ash and debris can also contaminate water bodies. The debris accumulates and travels in stormwater runoff to new locations. It can also be blown by the wind into water sources. The communities surrounding the Thomas Fire burn area understand this contamination all too well.

The Thomas Wildfire’s Effect on Water Quality

On January 9th, torrential rains fell in Ventura County, close to the southern California Thomas Fire burn area. The recent fires burned at such high temperatures through the upper watershed that it left behind a significant amount of ash and debris. The muddy runoff gathered debris as it rolled downhill and into the water ways. It overwhelmed the Matilija Dam, which flows into the main tributary of the Ventura River. This caused the Casitas Municipal Water District to stop pumping water from the river to prevent potential water quality impacts to their Lake Casitas reservoir.

While this prevented contamination, it also decreased the available water supply. The water pressure and supply had already been lower from power outages and from firefighters drawing water to fight the Thomas wildfire. This pollution only made the problem worse.

The Matilija Dam Webcam on January 9th.
             Severe turbidity entering the water supply.              

A normal day for the Matilija Dam

The Casitas Municipal Water District has plans to use water pollution prevention products to help. The products will clean up and filter the ash and debris, allowing the water district to begin pumping again from formerly polluted waterways, such as the Ventura River. According to Ron Merckling, a spokesperson for the water district, turbidity curtains will block sediment from flowing downriver and drop it to the surface. They are being placed on Santa Ana and Coyote Creeks and near an intake structure for Castaic Dam. Booms that are up to 20 feet wide will skim the surface and will block floating material such as wood and brush. 

Ventura County is just one of the many communities facing these challenges. Neighboring communities such as Montecito have also had water breaks, power outages, and disruptions to their water supply. Fixes for these water quality issues can take weeks or even months. Fortunately, there are many options for minimizing the effects to water quality.

Solutions for Improving or Maintaining Water Quality after a Wildfire 
There are several solutions to minimize your contribution to contaminated stormwater runoff. These products can be used either before or after a rain event. Contact us and we can help you decide the right solutions for your property.

Erosion Control to Minimize Impact to Water Quality

The first solution is to prevent the sediment, debris and contaminants from entering the waterways. Soil erosion control products ( slow and filter the spread of the runoff before it enters water bodies.
  • Straw Wattles can help prevent toxic urban runoff from entering water streams. They are placed perpendicular to the flow of the water. 
  • Straw or coir mats replace the hardened, burned earth with an absorbent ground cover. 
  • Silt fences collect sediment and slow the speed of water.
Protecting Stormwater Drains and Other BMPs

Another solution is to use stormwater best management practices (BMPs), such as drain guards and ditch checks. These filter or stop the flow of water.

Water Pollution Prevention: Turbidity Curtains and Debris Booms

Another effective preventative solution for water-side property owners, associations and municipalities is the use of turbidity barriers. Turbidity curtains and booms are used as a last resort, once the turbidity and sediment has already entered the waterways. They float in the water, containing and slowing the settle of the sediment as it passes through the water.

We have many variations of turbidity curtains and booms depending on needs and situation.
  • Turbidity Curtains slow the spread of sediment so it has time to settle to the bottom. Several types are available depending on water conditions.
  • Debris Booms collect floating branches and trash debris.
  • Staked Silt Barriers can be placed in shallow water (30” deep or less) to collect sediment and redirect the flow of water.

An Investment for the Future
The government is also finding ways to help. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced recently on January 17th that it’s investing almost $32 million this year to mitigate wildfire risk, improve water quality, and restore healthy forest ecosystems. It will include supporting important watersheds, and reconnecting ecosystems that are vital reservoirs of biodiversity. The U.S. Forest Service is an agency of the USDA.

The Future of Wildfire

Wildfires are a complicated and dangerous phenomenon. They can swiftly burn thousands of acres leaving behind charred earth and destroying communities, properties and lives. They can lead to massive mudslides and flooding, steep erosion of hillsides, and polluted runoff. They can affect the water supply and contaminate public and private water sources. 

Understanding the process of wildfires can help us in the future. Using preventative measures before, during, and after the wildfire can help control and mitigate its effects. Working together as a community, we can become more knowledgeable and better prepared for the future of wildfire.

If you have questions about any of the wildfire solutions we discussed, please contact us at 772-646-0597 or visit us at GEI Works.

Retain the Rain: 5 Advantages of Rainwater Harvesting

Water is a precious natural resource that’s used in a variety of ways in our daily lives. According to the United States Geological Survey, the average person uses about 80 to 100 gallons of water each day for regular tasks such as bathing, drinking, and waste disposal.  Some governments chose to limit the flow of water per minute. Rainwater harvesting, where legal, allows others to contribute to the solution by lessening their  dependence on the local municipal water supply.

What is Rainwater Harvesting?
Rainwater harvesting is the process of collecting rainwater from the surface on which it falls and storing it for later use. Usually, the rainwater is collected from the roofs of buildings and stored in tanks. The gutters on a building directs  rainfall to the tanks where it can be stored and later used for a variety of purposes, such as landscaping, wildlife and livestock watering,   household  use, and fire protection.

Why Rainwater Harvesting?
While three-quarters of the planet is made up of water, not all of that water is suitable for use. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the planet’s five oceans make up 70 percent of the Earth’s surface and 97 percent of its water. Of the remaining three
percent, less than one percent is fresh water while two to three percent is frozen in glaciers and ice caps. Between the lack of fresh water, and human consumption, there is a shortage of usable water available in many areas. Rainwater is free from most pollutants making it a free source of usable water, which is why rainwater harvesting is so important.

While rainfall is mostly clean water, it can pick up bacteria from the catchment, such as gutters, as well as the tank. Water held in many storage tanks can accumulate coliform, a bacteria that is frequently found in streams, lakes, ponds, and water tanks. Because it may host bacteria, much of it is not potable (safe for drinking or cooking) as-is. To use the water as a source for consumption, such as drinking or cooking, tanks with coatings and liners approved by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA) should be used, and should have a way to filter the water.

Advantages of Rainwater Harvesting

Reduce Water Bills
Even if the water is not filtered and it remains non-potable, you can use rainwater to wash cars, windows, and water lawns. Using recycled water for these tasks can result in reducing your water usage by 40 percent, saving money on water bills. When watering a yard or garden with recycled water, savings up to two gallons per can when using a watering can, five gallons per minute when using a hose, and 264 gallons per hour when using a sprinkler can be had. When washing objects, savings of about four gallons using a bucket and 142 gallons per hour when using a hose are typical.

Store Water for Times of High Demand or Low Supply
There are several reasons that a rural water supply can be affected, including drought or more drain on the water table than can be naturally supported. Collecting rainwater and storing it in a tank will helps ensure that water is on hand when needed for residential or commercial use. 

Reduce Flooding
Heavy rain can cause significant flooding in low-lying areas, or  areas without proper drainage installed. If a building lacks the proper slope to direct water away from it, the water can collect in courtyards or patios, creating  flooding which can be damaging. Rather than the expensive project of a creating a slope, this problem can be solved by having the gutters direct the water to a water storage tank for re=use.

Improve Plant & Garden Growth
Most of the water used for plants reduces their ability to grow with the inclusion of salts, minerals, chlorination, and other man-made contaminants. Rainwater is free of most pollutants when it falls and is still relatively clean when in proper storage. Irrigating plants with this naturally produced water may improve their ability to grow.

Be Environmentally Friendly
Most rainwater harvesting systems are friendly to the environment because they don’t require the need for fuel-based machines. Roofs make for excellent catchment systems and the roof’s gutters can carry water to the storage tank. Since rainwater is already relatively clean, it can immediately be used for certain tasks, such as irrigation and watering gardens, without the need of filtration.

What’s the Solution?

If you have a roof and gutters, you already have most of the necessary components for an effective rainwater harvesting system. All you need now is somewhere to store the water. A popular choice for storing rainwater is a corrugated steel tank. As the rainwater runs off the roof, it flows through the gutter-based drainage system toward the structure. It then enters the tank, made of rust-resistant galvanized steel, where it enters the tank for proper storage. The overflow pipe ensures a safe exit for any overflow water once the tank is full. These tanks are often preferred to other sources due to ease of maintenance, life-expectancy, and its toughness as it can stand in winds of 165 miles per hour and through winter storms. Their structural stability allows them to hold a wide range of sizes, ranging from 600 gallons to 95,000 gallons of capacity. 

There are also other options for rainwater storage, such as pillow tanks, fiberglass tanks, and poly tanks. Corrugated steel tanks have the advantage of durability and lasting longer the other rainwater storage solutions. 

From drinking and bathing to irrigation, water is an essential part of our every day lives. Rainwater harvesting is a way to increase the amount of water to be used in potable and non-potable ways.

If you’re thinking of reaping the benefits of rainwater harvesting, a corrugated steel tank will allow you to safely store your collected rainwater for future use. For more information about acquiring corrugated steel tanks, call us at 772-646-0597 or email us at to get a quote today.

Brake Your Trailer the Right Way...

Deciding Between Electric Brakes and Surge Brakes for Your Water Trailer

There are two types of braking systems that are commonly included with water trailers; electric brakes and surge brakes. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages, with the main difference being that electric brakes are activated through an electronic connection to the towing vehicle and surge brakes are activated mechanically. While you may have heard of these systems, do you know what the differences are? Or how to decide between the two options? Let’s look a little deeper into these two braking systems.

What are Electric Brakes?

The electric braking system is managed through a controller mounted in the tow vehicle, usually located underneath the dashboard so the driver can easily reach it by hand or foot if needed. The system works through the vehicle and trailer’s wiring. Taking 12 volts DC from the towing vehicle’s electrical system, the electricity is sent back to the trailer to activate the brakes.

There are two ways that electrical braking can be activated. The first is simply by stepping on the brake pedal of the towing vehicle. As the brakes are applied, the wiring activates the brakes on the trailer, causing the vehicle and trailer to stop simultaneously. The second way is through the manual activation lever or button, present with all brake controls. This allows the driver to manually send power from the towing vehicle’s electrical system to the trailer behind.

How do Electric Brakes Work?

A key component of the electric braking system is a magnet that is attached to the backing plate of the brake assembly. When the towing vehicle brakes, it sends electricity to the trailer’s braking system causing the magnet to become magnetized and attract to the drum face. This action causes the actuating arm to move through friction and pushes the brake shoe against the drum to cause the wheel to stop spinning.

What are Surge Brakes?

While electric brakes can be immediately applied by the driver of a towing vehicle, surge brakes are applied through a series of mechanisms and the use of centrifugal force. The neck of the trailer is two separate pieces. The front piece contains the hitch attachment, while the back half contains the braking mechanism. When the towing vehicle applies its brakes, the resulting motion causes the front half of the neck to slide into the back half. It then causes a rod to push into the master cylinder. This action forces fluid to the drum or disc brakes and stops the trailer. A wheel cylinder, located inside the brake, expands with the surge of fluid, pushing the brake shoe against the drum or squeezing the disc which stops the wheels. When the towing vehicle moves forward, the neck of the trailer extends, separating the rod and master cylinder and releasing the brakes.

Emergency Breakaway Systems

For the safety of fellow motorists, federal law requires that the braking systems of trailers must automatically activate should the trailer detach from the towing vehicle. In electric brakes, this is done through a battery-operated activator which energizes the electromagnets on the wheels and stops them from spinning. Surge braking systems include a mechanical cable or chain that is connected to the towing vehicle and activates the master cylinder, causing the trailer to slow and stop.

Which Braking System Should You Choose?

The braking system you choose depends on what factors are more important to you. Surge brakes are popular because the system is completely within the trailer, while electric braking systems require the installation of a controller inside the towing vehicle. However, electric brakes are often preferred for increased safety. With surge brakes, the towing vehicle must first brake before the trailer can causing a split second delay and requiring a longer distance needed to safely stop. Electric brakes allow the trailer to brake with the towing vehicle, making driving downhill and quick stops much safer, especially when towing larger capacity water tanks.

There are two different types of brakes that can come with water trailers; electric brakes or surge brakes. These types of brakes each have their own advantages and disadvantages, with the right choice depending on your preferences. Knowing which brake system is right for you can assist you in making your water trailer decision.

Questions? We can help!  Call Us at 772-646-0597 or email us at to get a quote today!

Our Water Trailer Experts can help you choose the right option:

 Electrical Brake Systems                                                             

 Surge Brake Systems


Wildfires: Part Two...

What Happens After the Wildfire

In Part One of the wildfire series, we discussed the current and ongoing situation with wildfires—how the “new normal” is affecting the way fire-risk areas prepare for future wildfires. One important part of that preparation is water storage products, which includes water trailers, pillow tanks, frame tanks, onion tanks, and rainwater corrugated tanks. A link to Part One can be found here.

In Part Two, we will discuss the recent catastrophic mudslides in southern California, what caused these mudslides, and what can be done to minimize them in the future. We will also talk about erosion control products and the role they play in both prevention and revitalization in wildfire-damaged regions.

When the Rain Falls and the Land Slides

On the early morning of January 9th, just over a month after the Thomas Wildfire in southern California first raged burning a record-breaking 281,000 acres, a pounding rain began in Santa Barbara and Ventura Counties. The storm poured rain with such intensity that it dropped almost an inch of rain in 15 minutes—4 times the amount of rain needed to trigger debris flow. The rain in the area very rarely falls this fast and this heavy. Within 24 hours, a devastating 5 inches of rain would accumulate in the region.

Rain would be a blessing during a fire or in the middle of a drought. But right after a wildfire has just destroyed an area’s forests and vegetation, rain is a disaster.  Hardened earth in a fire-ravaged area does not absorb water the way it normally would. So instead when the rain fell, it slid effortlessly down the mountains , hills and slopes like a theme-park water slide. On its way down, it took with it fallen and burned debris, sludgy sediment, loosened rocks, continuing and building velocity until reaching the southern California cities of Montecito and Carpinteria. 

Once there, it pummeled the small communities with mud and debris, surprising the residents with its sudden force and destruction. “It looked like a World War I battlefield,” said Bill Brown, the Santa Barbara County sheriff. “It was literally a carpet of mud and debris everywhere with huge boulders, rocks, downed trees, power lines, wrecked cars—lots of obstacles and challenges for rescue personnel to get to homes, let alone get people out of them.”

By the time the mudslides were over 20 people had died, hundreds more rescued and over 100 homes were destroyed. 

While the mudslides are over for now, unfortunately, the flooding risk in the fire-ravaged Thomas Fire area is just beginning. According to FEMA, flooding can be a problem for up to five years following a wildfire, until natural vegetation has time to take root again and regrow.

What Can You Do?

So what can be done in the meantime to prevent further mudslides if you are in a flood-risk region near a fire-devastated area?

Control of the soil is a crucial first step in prevention of mudslides after a wildfire.

To determine this on a broader scale, a U.S. Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) assessment team evaluates the watershed conditions in forests burned by wildfire. Because time is precious, the assessments often begin even before the wildfire is completely contained. The BAER team produces a post-fire report describing immediate emergency measures to reduce flooding risks and debris flow threats arising from the wildfire’s destruction. The first short-term goal is fire erosion control protection

Erosion Control: The First Step after a Wildfire

Why erosion control first? Healthy soil and vegetation absorb, filter, and slow down water as it runs over land. This helps to prevent flooding. But when the soil goes through a devastating event, such as a wildfire, it alters its makeup causing soil erosion.

What exactly is the effect of fire on soil? As the wildfire passes, the forest floor goes through a process. The fire produces gases that penetrate the soil, and as it cools, it condenses and forms a waxy coating. The dense soil then no longer absorbs the water, it repels it. This condition is called hydrophobicity, and is what made the mudslides possible.

Because the soil and vegetation have been damaged, erosion control products can step in as either a temporary or more long-term measure. They act as a protective cover and slow the speed of runoff water so it has time to settle. There are several soil erosion control options depending on your circumstances. Straw erosion control products are especially useful after wildfire damage.

Call us and we can help you decide which of these erosion control products to use on your property.

Erosion Control Mats and Blankets

Erosion control mats or blankets protect and cover burned areas and stabilize the region. On ground surfaces with hydrophobic impermeable soil, the mats absorb passing water like a sponge and help keep the soil in place.

The erosion control mats run up and down the slope vertically, in conjunction with the flow of water. They create conditions for vegetation to regrow, by lowering the soil temperature and improving moisture retention.

Erosion control mats are one of the most useful forms of erosion control. A report states that, “treatments that provide immediate ground cover are the most effective in reducing post-fire runoff and erosion rates.” 

Straw Wattles/Coir Logs

When you need to slow down the velocity of water runoff, strategically-placed coir logs or straw wattles can help. When water slows, it carries less sediment and travels less far. Anchoring them perpendicular to the flow of water can minimize the risk of mudslides. These wattles or logs are also permeable, so can filter sediments as the water passes through.

These wattles and logs are made up of organic fibers, bound into a tightly rolled containment mesh. They are available in a range of useful sizes.

Used over a broader area, where runoff is more spread out, Silt Fences reduce the slope length and trap sliding sediment. Silt Fences are made of permeable geotextile fabric with woven wire. They catch debris and silt as it travels down a slope, filtering the water as it passes through. Multiple silt fences can be used for areas where greater coverage is needed.

Steps Toward a Safer Future

The mudslides that affected southern California were tragic and a perfect storm of events—combining the largest wildfire in California’s history with unusually heavy rains. Erosion Control products can mitigate potential flooding in the future, saving the forest and the communities below.

Join us for the third and final installment on our wildfire series. In the next post we will discuss how wildfires negatively affect water quality in communities and how it can be treated and prevented. We will demonstrate several methods of filtration and proper best management practices.

License to Drive: Taking Your Water Trailer Out on the Road

When operating a vehicle towing a water trailer, a common question is whether you need a commercial driver’s license. The answer to that question depends on factors such as the size of the vehicle, the size of the trailer, and what the trailer will be used for. We’ll take you through some of these requirements and why an 800 gallon water trailer might be the right size for your needs.

The Commercial Motor Vehicle Act of 1986
Driving certain vehicles requires the acquisition of a commercial driver’s license to prove you’re capable of handling the size. Prior to 1986, states set regulations for driving commercial vehicles themselves. This created a problem when those vehicles crossed state lines, where there were potentially different regulations. To solve this issue, Congress enacted the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986 which set federal standards regarding these commercial vehicles.

What is a Commercial Vehicle?
The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) defines a commercial motor vehicle as a vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property, if that vehicle and any towed is greater than 26,000 pounds. It also applies if the vehicle is towing more than 10,000 pounds. Additionally, if the vehicle weighs less than 26,000 pounds but can carry 16 people or more, including the driver, it is considered a commercial vehicle and requires the acquisition of a commercial driver’s license. There may be additional requirements for what constitutes a commercial motor vehicle, such as having more than two axles, so check with your individual state’s DOT if you have any questions.

How Do You Know the Weight of Your Vehicle?
The United States DOT classifies all vehicles by their gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR), and ranks them from class one to class eight by weight. They’ve done this for safety regulation, commercial designation, and registration purposes. Most residential vehicles are classified between class one and class three, meaning they weigh 14,000 pounds or less. While these vehicles typically are not considered commercial vehicles, they can be if they tow enough weight. Vehicle classifications as defined by the United States Department of Transportation are as follows:

Class 1 – 6,000 lbs. or less (minivan, cargo van, SUV, pickup truck)
Class 2 – 6,001 lbs. to 10,000 lbs. (minivan, cargo van, full-size pickup, step van)
Class 3 – 10,001 lbs. to 14,000 lbs. (walk-in, box truck, city delivery, heavy-duty pickup)
Class 4 – 14,001 lbs. to 16,000 lbs. (large walk-in, box truck, city delivery)
Class 5 – 16,001 lbs. to 19,500 lbs. (bucket truck, large walk-in, city delivery)
Class 6 – 19,501 lbs. to 26,000 lbs. (beverage truck, single-axle, school bus, rack truck)
Class 7 – 26,001 lbs. to 33,000 lbs. (refuse, furniture, city transit bus, truck tractor)
Class 8 – 33,001 lbs. or more (cement truck, truck tractor, dump truck, sleeper cab)

In addition to the DOT classifications, most vehicles feature a sticker on the inside door that will tell you the GVWR.

When Would You Need a Commercial Driver’s License?
If you’re just hauling the water trailer around your job site or private farm, you won’t need a commercial driver’s license. However, if you use public roads to reach your destination, you’ll want to be prepared. While you may not take your trailer on public roads now, you may need to in the future. In that instance, you’ll want the highest capacity water trailer available that falls under the 10,000-pound amount.

The Express 800 Gallon Water Trailer
If you’re looking for a water trailer that’s large enough to handle all your watering needs but small enough to come in under the commercial vehicle limit, the Express 800 gallon water trailer may be the perfect size. Weighing in at 9,000 pounds when full, it’s the highest capacity tank fitting within federal guidelines for using a non-commercial license, and has just two axles, keeping it under the commercial vehicle definition by many states, which often includes three axles. With additional driving features like surge brakes, DOT-approved trailer lights, and diamond-tread fenders, it’s a water trailer fit for the road.

Depending on the size of a water trailer and how it’s used, a commercial driver’s license may be required to haul it on public roads. Knowing the weight of your vehicle and the trailer being towed will help you determine whether or not this special licensing is necessary. 

If you’re looking for a trailer that’s large enough to haul the amount of water needed but allows you to transport on the roads without a commercial license, the Express 800 gallon water trailer may be right for you.   

GEI Works Water-Hauling Experts are standing by to answer your questions!  Call us at 772-646-0597 or email us at for more information – or better yet – get a Quote Today!

Wildfires: The Current Burn and the Future of Fire

This is the first part in a series on modern wildfires.

We will cover the staggering and destructive wildfires in California that last year burned 1.3 million acres and close to 10,000 structures, most recently the Thomas Fire, which is the largest wildfire in California history.

We will also discuss the future of wildfires—how they have been rapidly expanding in size over the past decade from many combined factors, including droughts, changing climate,  population increases, and limited federal and state resources.

Lastly, we will describe several water storage product solutions you can use to prepare for the era of megafires in what is increasingly being called, “the new normal.”

The Current Situation

California recently experienced its biggest wildfire in history, the Thomas fire, which spread to more than 280,000 acres in southern California, burning thousands of trees and over 1,060 structures. Igniting on December 4th, 2017, the strong Santa Ana winds caused it to rapidly spread.  It has taken over a month just to contain the fire. Earlier this year, in October, northern California experienced its costliest and most destructive wildfires in history, adding up to over $9.4 billion in insured losses.  And this fire season will not be an isolated incident according to experts and California lawmakers.

California’s Governor, Jerry Brown said that fire activity will likely happen on a regular basis for decades now. “This is kind of the new normal,” he said. “With climate change, some scientists are saying that southern California is literally burning up. We’re facing a new reality in this state where fires threaten people’s lives, their property, their neighborhoods, and of course billions and billions of dollars. We have to have the resources to combat the fires and we have to also invest in managing vegetation and forests…in a place that’s getting hotter.”

Therefore, the future of wildfire control has no clear solution in sight, other than to prevent where possible and prepare where unavoidable. In recent years, a perfect storm of these factors has led to much bigger mega wildfires that cover greater acreage (many over 100,000 acres), affecting more people and at greater cost and cleanup. And the U.S. Forest Service has limited resources to prevent it.

So, what exactly has caused the rise in these megafires?

  • Outdated firefighting policies regarding fire suppression
  • Increasing population in fire-prone areas
  • Climate change, which is raising temperatures and creating unpredictable weather patterns (hotter weather and drier topography in California)
  • The increase in the number of mega wildfires has depleted the U.S. Forest Service's budget and resources for fire prevention measures. It is estimated that over 52 percent of its current budget is spent on fire suppression, up from just 16 percent of its budget a decade ago. That means it's using more of its budget to fight fires, rather than prevent them or minimize them.

Firefighters use the Wildfire Behavior Triangle to estimate the potential severity of fires—they evaluate fuels, weather and topography. For example, during extended periods of drought, nature produces increased amounts of dried foliage and deadwood that act as tinder for potential fires.  Weather predictions such as seasonal rain patterns are considered.  The last part of the equation is a rating of the area’s topography, such as water sources, wind patterns, manmade structures, and natural physical barriers.

Wildfires are not isolated to California. Wildfires also affect many other western states especially during the fall, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, and Colorado. It also affects Florida in the spring.

According to the U.S. Forest Service, the number of fires each year in the U.S. has not necessarily increased, it’s the number of total acres burned during each fire as well as rising costs. The statistics back this up. Before 1999, only 1 year had seen over 6 million acres burned. Since 2000, in 10 out of the last 17 years over 6 million acres have burned, including 2015 in which over 10 million acres burned. Before 2000, the average firefighting costs per year were less than $500 million. Since 2000, the average yearly costs over the past 17 years is over $1 billion, and 2017 exceeded over $2.4 billion, the highest on record.

Before the Next Fire, Be Firewise and Prepare with Water Storage

Preparation can make a difference. With wildfires being the “new normal” and the U.S. Forest Service resources stretched past capacity, homeowners, businesses, farmers and local government are taking their own measures. They are learning to prepare for wildfires, the way some states prepare for a hurricane.

Since firefighting resources are limited during a wildfire, providing your own source of water could help to save your property. “Above ground water tanks and water sources that are accessible by emergency vehicles can help provide firefighters with water. Make sure signs or other markings indicate any water sources firefighters can use,” said Nick Williams, a fire resource forester and fuels mitigation program manager with the Wyoming State Forestry Division.

We offer several water storage product options you can use to prepare your home, business, neighborhood, or city. Pillow tanks can store water for long periods of time to provide fast access to large volumes of water in emergency situations. Frame tanks and onion tanks lie flat for storage and can be quickly set up in emergencies, so are often used by firefighting agencies where fire hydrants are not available or functioning. Our DOT Approved Water Trailers store large amounts of water and can be hitched to a truck for transporting where needed. The attached spray bar and fire-hose provides a way to douse down a wide area.

Corrugated water tanks and rainwater bladder tanks are also a good option. These tanks can be used to collect rainwater. That rainwater can be saved and used in case of drought to water vegetation or it can be used to spray down homes and properties that are vulnerable to an impending and quickly spreading wildfire. Firefighters can also use this water to help fight flames around your property. The California Rainwater Capture Act of 2012 makes it legal to collect rainwater. Some areas especially encourage it, such as San Diego which incentivizes with 50 cents per gallon rebates for rainwater collection.

Preparation is especially important for rural areas, which do not have the nearby fire trucks and more abundant fire hydrants that urban areas have. Scott Jamar, a rural resident of the Santa Cruz Mountains, has a 5,000 gallon water tank, 150-foot fire hose, and propane powered pump for his property. His goal is to use the tank to water down his home, deck and yard during an approaching wildfire. “I don’t take it for granted that firefighters will quickly get here,” he said, “I take it for granted that they’re not going to be here. We can’t rely on infrastructure, so let’s try to be a little more self-sufficient and do what we can.” Once firefighters are able to reach his property, any remaining water can be used by the firefighters to douse the flames. 

This is just one example of taking preventative action as wildfires become an increasing threat. Preparing with water storage products can make a difference, one that can help you as well as aid firefighters.

Please join us for the next post in the series. We will go over what happens after a wildfire has ended-- leaving behind charred, hardened earth—and how this affects soil erosion, water quality and flooding. We will explain several erosion control procedures and products that can help you successfully mitigate the ongoing aftereffects of wildfires.

Water Storage Products

We offer many water storage solutions, and can talk you through any questions you may have. Whether you need it for your business, residence, or local city, these products can ensure you have extra protection from droughts and fires.

Mars Collapsible Water Pillow Tanks

Mars Pillow Tanks and Rainwater Tanks are great for long term water storage. Since they are enclosed, they can store water large amounts of water in an outdoor environment.  Also if they need to be transported empty, they are lightweight and can fold flat.

The Centaur Frame Tank and Hydrostar Onion Tank can be stored flat, are easily transportable, and can be quickly set up and filled. They are often used by firefighters in remote areas.

Argo Water Fire Fighting Trailers can store 500-1600 gallons of water. It is transportable and built with hoses, nozzles, valves and a spray bar for spraying down large areas. 

The Mars Corrugated Water Tank is a permanent, bulk water storage option. It can help meet demand where water is not freely available on an ongoing basis for firefighting use. 


Ongoing list of current active wildfires in the United States:

Annual Federal Firefighting Suppression Costs (1985-2016):

The Rising Cost of Wildfire Operations: Effects on the U.S. Forest Service’s Non-Fire Work

Emergency Preparation for Potential Wildfire

Capturing Rainwater in CA—California Rainwater Capture Act of 2012

Rural Resident Preparing for Wildfires

Talking Trash, in the Oceans That Is!

“The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch“ sounds like a Charles Schultz story that would’ve featured Linus, Snoopy and the gang. The reality, however, is a sad but true story about the ever-expanding floating islands of garbage in our oceans. After watching news coverage like BBC’s recent article “Sea of Plastic”, we can better visualize the problem, and see that it is indeed real.

Scientists and officials debate about the location, depth, breadth, and even the appropriateness of the name for these floating trash islands. But, the debate seems scholarly and the problem so very distant from our day-to-day lives. One can’t help but wonder if it all really matters. Even if it does, can we do anything that will have a real impact?

In reality, the problem of trash islands in the oceans is growing at a significant rate.  These “garbage patches” have accumulated in mass in certain areas of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans. Not only are they here to stay, these islands of floating trash are growing.  The largest of these is known as “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” It stretches intermittently across the Pacific from California to Japan, and is estimated to contain somewhere between 200,000 and 500,000 tons of garbage. About half of the trash is reported to be plastic bottles. The rest consists mostly of packaging.

The impact is more than to just sea turtles who mistake the floating grocery bags for jellyfish. The floating plastics eventually break down into tiny particles called microplastics that are ingested by aquatic life.  Think about that tuna sandwich you had for lunch. The tuna may have eaten the equivalent of a plastic bottle or two. Then you ate the tuna. The chemicals from the plastics also leach into the water and infuse broad ecosystems with toxins. Completing the cycle, the water from the ocean supplies moisture to the air we breathe and to the sky for rain.

While managing the problem isn’t simple, there are simple measures that we each can take to keep from continuing to contribute to its growth:

1) Minimize Your Use of Plastics
While not easy in today’s fast-paced world, even simple measures at home can make a tremendous difference.  For example, instead of using disposable water bottles, convert to using a refillable bottle. (Remember, it’s estimated that disposable water bottles make up half the trash in these floating garbage patches in the ocean.) 

2) Manage Your Trash
The EPA estimates that 80% of marine debris originates as land-based trash. Every stream, river and lake eventually empties into the ocean. That means that the candy wrapper flitting around the parking lot is likely going to end up in the stormwater system. The same for the overflowing trash bins we see every day in public outdoor places.  What can you do? Pick up your loose trash and make sure it’s contained appropriately. If you see overflowing trash bins, notify the responsible parties. By letting them know that you care, you’re helping them make it a priority. 

3) Encourage use of Curb Filters for Storm Drains 
Keep an eye out for unguarded storm drains in your cities and neighborhoods.  Storm drains typically empty directly into the waterways (streams, rivers, etc.) without any filter in place. Storm drains can be equipped with inexpensive guards or filters (such as GEI Works’ Curb Inlet Guard) to capture free floating trash and prevent it from entering the water systems. 

Note: Curb guards need to be periodically emptied.  If you see a curb guard that is full, please help by alerting your local stormwater authority.  

4) Suggest Trash Boom for Potential Capture Areas
If you live near a body of water that is prone to accumulate trash, encourage your local stormwater management authorities to implement a debris management system.  GEI Works manufactures custom solutions such as trash boom for these types of projects.  

With your help as good stewards of the world’s most precious resource (water), we can all look forward to a brighter and healthier tomorrow!

Additional Reading:

NOAA (National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration)

EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

National Geographic