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Posts Tagged ‘conservation’

Standard Time

by Charlene Burgi

Euonymus alatus

Euonymus alatus

A friend noted that it is time to turn our clocks back an hour before retiring this Saturday night. The message shouldn’t have been a surprise, nor was it a trick or treat! Fall is here. The evenings are much cooler, and the leaves of the trees and shrubs are showing their true colors of oranges, reds, and yellows. It seems like it was just yesterday that the Euonymus alatus in the backyard was green, yet it lost its chlorophyll overnight and is now displaying an amazing shade of scarlet red. The recent winds picked up the golden leaves of the Cladrastis kentukea (yellowwood tree) and sprinkled them around the garden. Flocks of robins have also returned to visit before moving further south.

Turning back the clocks signifies shorter daylight hours and more indoor time for making breads and homemade soups from the bounty of our gardens. However, the annual ritual also forced my thoughts back to the list of things that first need attention outdoors. Jack has already been busy rigging up the horse and donkey water troughs to thermostatic heaters. Hoses are already drained and detached from outdoor water sources, and emergency generators and lighting are ready to go as needed. Tools are sharpened for the task of pruning this winter.

But what about the garden details? Gladiola and dahlia corms as well as begonia tubers need to be lifted from the soil and stored in a dry environment until spring. The greenhouse could do with a major clean-up before we add winter crops. Lingering summer veggies are waiting to be pulled and added to the compost pile. And the compost pile could be covered with an old carpet to retain the heat. Mountains of stored manure still lie in wait to be spread out on the future garden area set up for next year. Leaves around the roses and fruit trees require raking to eliminate any fungus-carrying pathogen. The well-rotted compost could be utilized in the cold frames, not to mention that the controllers need to be reset along with the balance of clocks in the house.

Insulated pipe

Insulated pipe

We had our first freeze in Lassen this past week. It reminded me that exposed outdoor water pipes also need to be wrapped with pipe insulation for potential freezing temperatures in Marin. How well do I remember trying to leave for work in the wee hours and attempting to use the garden hose to wash off the frozen dew from my windshield, only to find the water in the hose frozen! Instead of water, the hose would spew out cylinders of ice!

The fall preparations can also include some fun planting. Garlic can go into the ground now, along with spring-blooming bulbs. Raspberry canes can also get established. And this is the perfect time to check out trees at the nursery to see their display of fall color and choose one to tuck into that perfect spot in the garden. As long as you are visiting the nursery, check out various varieties of holly to add the color of berries to the winter garden.

Who would have thought that the mere mention of turning the hour hand back would create such a long “honey-do” list!

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Sonoma Marin Saving Water Partnership logoThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency this month recognized the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership as a WaterSense Partner of the Year for its commitment to promoting water efficiency. The three water districts and six cities that purchase water from the Sonoma County Water Agency (SCWA), including MMWD, are members of the Sonoma-Marin Saving Water Partnership. SCWA is the partnership program manager.

The partnership was honored for several 2013 conservation programs, including the 20-Gallon Challenge, which featured incentive prizes such as high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, rainwater catchment and graywater systems, and custom water-wise landscape design in exchange for a pledge to save 20 gallons per person per day.

Learn more about the Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership and its programs here.

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Up to $50 Each, Up to $250 for All Five

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveGet paid to save with five new rebates from MMWD! For a limited time, we’re offering our residential customers rebates up to $50 each for the following products:

  • Pool covers
  • Hot water recirculating systems
  • Organic mulch
  • Laundry-to-landscape system components
  • Rain barrels

Pick and choose the product categories that make sense for your home, and purchase one or more for a total rebate of up to $250 for all five.

Purchases must be made on or after October 25, 2014, to qualify. Single-family and duplex residential customers are eligible. Rebates are offered on a first-come, first-served basis while funding lasts, so don’t wait!

For complete details and to download an application form, visit our website.

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by Charlene Burgi

Let’s face it—I love all kinds of deals. When repurposing became the rage, I was already there. Bay-Friendly gardening principles encourage us to recycle, and I am at the forefront cheering on other followers. Pinterest.org has my full attention for other ideas on repurposing. Turning an old pallet into a planter for growing lettuce is exciting news. Bent, galvanized nails are saved to place around the base of hydrangeas to get them to turn blue. And a broken clay pot makes for great drainage material for plants that don’t like their roots sitting in water.

Future henhouse?

Future henhouse?

At times, Jack has to put his foot down to this quirk of mine. For example, I wanted to convert an old antiquated camping trailer into a henhouse. Visually, the vintage RV would be adorable—in my eyes. The trailer would be insulated and with plenty of room for chickens to move about. Plus it would be impossible for predators to enter. Additionally, no lumber would be needed to construct a new henhouse.

My guess is thriftiness is in my DNA. My mother was great at making ends meet. She could stretch a dollar to the maximum and wouldn’t hesitate to walk a mile to get the best price for an onion. Perhaps growing up during the Great Depression gave Mom a sense of saving and making the most of a situation. I will never forget her thinking she could save money by replacing the worn ticking on our feather pillows. I came home from school to a house filled with feathers floating into every nook and cranny. Years later we would still come across an escaped down feather from that money-saving adventure. Despite the mess made, years later it gave us all a chuckle when we considered the hours she spent repurposing those feathers.

Mom also saved water before it came into vogue. In need of a new washing machine, she was disappointed to learn that sud-saver washing machines were no longer available. Her answer to that problem was to insert a plug into the laundry room sink and bucket water back into the washing machine—especially during the 1970s drought. She proudly shared her water-saving ideas with the Marin Independent Journal during that time, making the front page and collecting the grand prize for the best submitted ideas.

She would also take advantage of rebates that came along over the years from the Marin Municipal Water District. She replaced her high-water-using toilets with new HETs, placed bark around her garden, and exchanged her sprinkler nozzles for MPR spray nozzles, knowing those rebates would save water as well as reduce the dollar figure on her water bill.

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveMom has since passed on, but her values are well embedded in this brain. When I heard of MMWD’s newest rebate program, which starts this Saturday, October 25, I wondered how she might take advantage of the savings. She didn’t have a pool for the pool cover, but knowing her, a laundry-to-landscape system would be a great substitute for the loss of her sud-saver washing machine. Rain barrels would also be a consideration since she would always place containers under her downspout to collect rainwater. Organic mulch was refreshed in her garden every year. Yes, Mom would take advantage of these deals. How about you?

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Ten months after the governor, and then MMWD, asked for reductions in water use, MMWD customers continue to respond well. Average consumption for mid-October 2014 was approximately 25% lower than it was last year. The total water savings achieved since the beginning of the year have helped to keep our reservoirs at close to normal levels.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of October 19, reservoir storage is 49,579 acre-feet,* or 62% of capacity. The average for this date is 52,290 acre-feet, or 66% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this year to date (July 1-October 19) is 1.12 inches. Average for the same period is 2.33 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of October 13-19 averaged 21.98 million gallons per day, compared to 27.86 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of September 2014 MMWD released 160 million gallons, or 490 acre-feet, into Lagunitas and Walker creeks in west Marin for habitat enhancement.

Water use and reservoir figures are updated weekly and can be found on our Water Watch page.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons

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MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveThe Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) is launching five new rebates to promote water conservation starting this Saturday, October 25, 2014.

We’ll be offering rebates up to $50 each for pool covers, hot water recirculating systems, organic mulch, laundry-to-landscape graywater system components, and rain barrels. Customers will be able to pick and choose the product categories that make sense for their homes, and purchase one or more for a total rebate of up to $250 for all five.

The rebates will be offered for a limited time on a first-come, first-served basis while funding lasts. Purchases must be made on or after October 25 to qualify. Single-family and duplex residential customers are eligible.

The products include:

  • Pool covers: A pool cover is a highly effective water and energy conservation device. Regularly using a pool cover reduces water loss due to evaporation by up to 95%. A pool cover also can shrink energy bills by preventing heat loss.
  • Hot water recirculating systems: No more watching water go down the drain while waiting for the shower to warm up! Hot water recirculating systems use a pump and bypass valve to recirculate water back to the hot water heater until it reaches the desired temperature.
  • Organic mulch: Organic, plant-based mulches such as bark, straw, or compost help retain soil moisture, suppress the growth of water-hogging weeds, and add nutrients to the soil as they decompose.
  • Laundry-to-landscape system components: Reusing water from a clothes washer for landscape irrigation is one of the simplest, least expensive ways to “go gray.” Basic laundry-to-landscape graywater systems don’t require permits or alteration to existing plumbing.
  • Rain barrels: Just 1 inch of rain on a 1,000-square-foot roof produces about 600 gallons of runoff. Rain barrels can be a great way to harvest some of this rain water to supplement irrigation needs.

For complete details on qualifying products and how to participate, visit marinwater.org/rebates after October 25, or watch for more information in your November/December water bill.

In addition to the new rebates, we will continue to offer rebates on high-efficiency toilets, high-efficiency clothes washers, and smart irrigation controllers. Visit marinwater.org/rebates to learn more.

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Heat Wave

by Charlene Burgi

The air temperatures in Marin have been pushing close to and into the 90s for more than a week now. The urge to increase our irrigation times seems natural to compensate for the heat, yet the Weekly Watering Schedule is saying to water less now than was suggested at the beginning of May. At that time, the evapotranspiration (ET) was 1.57 inches with a 106% Watering Index, compared to 0.97 inch with a 66% Watering Index this week.

You might ask why plants need more water in cooler spring than when the temperatures soar in early fall. The truth is air temperature only plays a small role in determining how much water our plants need.

CIMIS weather station

CIMIS weather station

But first, some background on how we determine the Weekly Watering Schedule: The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) is a network of weather stations throughout California. Our CIMIS weather station is located near Point San Pedro Road in San Rafael and collects data points throughout the day that determine plant irrigation needs. Besides recording air temperature, our CIMIS station has instruments that measure soil temperature, hours of solar radiation, wind speed and direction, humidity level, and rainfall. We use all the collected data to calculate how much water is evaporating from the soil and transpiring from plants. Those results are transposed into inches. This tells us how many inches of lost water we need to replace with irrigation to maintain the optimal health for our gardens.

The question still remains why we irrigated more in late spring/early summer than we are now in the heat of fall. By examining the data collected by CIMIS, you will find that solar radiation is the key difference. Daylight hours play a critical role in a plant’s growing conditions and cycle of growth. In short: Even with the warm autumn weather we’ve been having, shorter days mean your plants don’t need as much water this time of year. (Without further investigation, I suspect daylight hours play a role in our animals’ cycle of winter survival as well; I notice the horses’ and donkeys’ sleek coats are beginning to come in heavier right now, despite the continuing warm weather.)

If you are following the suggested irrigation runtimes but find that some of your plants are wilting during the fall heat spells, check the soil moisture level. Oft times, the soil has adequate water available to the plant, but the plant cannot draw the water up to the leaf fast enough (usually found in very large leaf plants). In this situation the plant will droop but recover by the following morning.

If you are uncertain how much water your plant is receiving, you can experiment by placing an empty low can (such as a tuna can) near your plant before you irrigate. After the station is complete, measure the amount of water in the can and multiply that times the number of days you irrigate in that area each week. Check that number with the given ET loss per week to see if you are replacing what the plant loses. For example, if the can collected 0.25 inch and you irrigated three times a week, you are replacing 0.75 inch. Last week the ET was 0.91 inch, so if you only applied 0.75 inch last week you are not applying enough water to sustain the health of the plant.

To really do this test correctly, it would be best to distribute several cans throughout the area being irrigated and total the number of inches in the cans and divide that number of inches by the number of cans you have placed out. That test is known as distribution uniformity and is getting into a whole different topic for next week’s blog!

Have a great weekend, and stay hydrated if you are working outdoors.

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