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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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As founder and executive director of Cool the Earth, Carleen Cullen knows it is important to “walk the walk” at home. She and her family have solar panels on their rooftop, drive an electric vehicle that is 100% powered by the sun, and had reduced their indoor water use. In fact, their water use was below average in every month—except for summertime. Carleen described their summer water bill as “our guilty secret.”

Cullen yard

The Cullen family’s new yard

But not anymore. Carleen and her family recognized that the culprit behind their high summer water use was what was going on outdoors. Keeping their yard and garden green was making their household less green. As part of a yard renovation, they got rid of their lawn and installed artificial grass (made partly from recycled product), replaced high-water-use plants with California native drought-tolerant ones, and abandoned their old irrigation system in favor of a new drip system. Carleen also asked her kids to stop washing the car with the hose and switched to a waterless car wash method.

When Carleen opened their most recent water bill, she found for the first time that they were below average in the summer. Her family’s consumption went from 25,000 gallons last year to just under 15,000 gallons for the same period this year. By saving water they are saving energy, and as an added bonus they are saving money, too—their “guilty secret” summer bill plunged from $367 to just $100!

 

Are you an MMWD customer with a conservation success story to share? Tell us in the comments below, or email us and we may share your story on our blog.

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atrium watered with graywaterThe 50 or so plants in Maya M.’s beautiful atrium have never tasted pure drinking water. Instead, she keeps them happy and hydrated with buckets of lightly used water.

Though people often associate graywater with laundry-to-landscape or more elaborate, professionally installed systems, getting started with graywater can be as simple as buying a few good buckets. Graywater collected in a shower or bathroom sink bucket works well for toilet flushing and is fine for watering landscape plants and fruit trees. (Just be sure to choose a biodegradable soap, make sure graywater infiltrates into the soil and doesn’t pool or run off, and avoid letting graywater come into contact with any plant parts you plan to eat.)

In addition to being a proud member of the “bucket brigade,” Maya also is a big advocate of “stop the disposal” containers; since running the disposal uses a lot of water and energy, diverting fruit and vegetable trimmings to a handy juice container, lidded bowl, or basket and then to the compost pile is a simple way to save.

Maya learned the value of water growing up in the Netherlands during the war. When the bomb sirens sounded, the water and gas companies would at times turn off the utilities. Her job was to fill the bathtub so her family would have water during and after the air raids.

She still views water as most precious. She hand waters her garden to ensure plants get just what they need and is a proponent of saying goodbye to unwanted lawns. “To be green we have to love beige and let our lawns go dormant,” she says.

As her experience shows, being green also means loving gray.

Are you an MMWD customer with a conservation success story to share? Tell us in the comments below, or email us and we may share your story on our blog.

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MMWD’s water production for the period February-June 2014 was 15% lower than production for the same period in 2013. Many thanks are due to district customers for quickly heeding the MMWD Board of Directors’ January 21 call for voluntary reductions in water use. The board took that action just days after Governor Jerry Brown requested statewide voluntary reductions in water use.

The 2013-14 rainfall year ended on June 30 with a total of 33.4 inches, which is approximately 64% of the long-term annual average. By contrast, total reservoir storage at the end of the 2013-14 rainfall year was 90% of average. The near-normal storage levels are due to unusually high rainfall in February, customer conservation efforts, and higher Russian River water deliveries.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of July 22, reservoir storage is 57,524 acre-feet,* or 72.3% of capacity. The average for this date is 63,144 acre-feet, or 79.36% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this year to date (July 1-July 22) is 0.03 inches. Average for the same period is 0.04 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of June 14-20 averaged 28.29 million gallons per day, compared to 31.38 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Supply Source: Last week we averaged 20.76 million gallons per day from our reservoirs and 7.53 million gallons per day from the Russian River.

Creek Releases: During the month of June 2014 MMWD released 200 million gallons, or a total of 614 acre-feet, into Lagunitas and Walker creeks in west Marin.

Water use and reservoir figures can be found on the Water Watch page of our website.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons

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Having lived through three Marin County droughts, MMWD customer Anne Layzer has become an expert at saving water—even while maintaining a 2,000-square-foot vegetable garden and several smaller flower beds. Her favorite advice for conserving water in the garden? Compost.

Many people think of composting as a way to nourish plants and reduce waste by recycling plant and vegetable trimmings back into the garden. But adding compost to your garden also saves water by building healthier, more sponge-like soil that better absorbs and holds onto moisture. Plants growing in amended soil fare better in drought conditions. And of course by composting kitchen scraps rather than sending them down the garbage disposal, you’ll also save the water and energy needed to operate the disposal unit.

Compost piles

Anne’s backyard composting operation

You can start composting on a small scale and work your way up to an elaborate composting operation like Anne’s, which she describes as a central feature of her garden and household recycling program. Her backyard piles have a diverse diet that includes food scraps, leaves, shredded paper, and grape skins from a wine-making neighbor. Even weeds aren’t unwelcome in her garden—they’re more fodder for the pile.

Anne jokes that she doesn’t know whether she has a compost pile because she has a garden or a garden because she has a compost pile. As her daughter says, “Neither: They are one.”

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Mayor Gary Phillips of San Rafael

Mayor Gary Phillips accepted the award on behalf of the City of San Rafael. See more photos from the recognition event.

At the May 20 Board of Directors meeting, MMWD launched a new conservation recognition program, “Water-Saving Heroes,” to acknowledge customers who are significantly reducing their water use and inspiring others to do the same. When the board requested a 25% voluntary water use reduction in January, these customers immediately rose to the challenge.

We’re looking for more water-saving heroes to recognize at future board meetings. If you know a water-saving hero—or if you are one—let us know!

Congratulations to the following customers who were recognized on May 20:

RESIDENTIAL CUSTOMERS

Nancy and Mike Duran, San Rafael

  • For the February to April time period, the Duran family reduced their water use from 12,716 gallons in 2013 to 6,732 this year—almost a 50% reduction!
  • Accomplished these savings by cutting back on unnecessary water use and capturing rainwater for their garden
  • Inspired others by tweeting about their success

LOCAL GOVERNMENT

Mayor Gary Phillips, City of San Rafael
To conserve water during the drought, the City of San Rafael:

  • Eliminated or reduced to a bare minimum irrigation of turf areas in city parks and sports fields and in most landscaped areas
  • Installed high-efficiency faucets, showerheads, and toilets to replace inefficient models in city facilities
  • Minimized washing of city fleet vehicles
  • Posted conservation signs above kitchen and bathroom sinks, and reminded city employees to minimize shower times and run only full dishwasher loads at city facilities

Chief Jason Weber, Marin County Fire Department
Marin County Fire took these steps to conserve water:

  • During training exercises, flowed water at bare minimum amounts and only when absolutely necessary
  • Minimized washing of fire trucks, while still keeping equipment clean and shiny through daily wiping down with chamois cloths
  • Deferred fire hydrant and hose testing where possible, and conducted required tests so as to limit water loss
  • Asked all fire personnel to reduce water use 25% by minimizing shower times, washing only full loads of clothes and dishes, watering landscaping only as needed, and repairing leaks at fire facilities

BUSINESSES

Michael Cronin, Operations Manager, EO Products, San Rafael

  • For their new facility in San Rafael, EO Products converted the water cooling system for their manufacturing process from an open system to a closed system, allowing the company to recirculate the water and save thousands of gallons.
  • Also installed faucet aerators and upgraded all their toilets to high-efficiency models

Lynn Langford, CEO, Lean Green Solutions

  • Created “Neighbor 2 Neighbor” drought event for Ross Valley residents at the Marin Art & Garden Center
  • Helped found the Marin Edible Garden and coordinate the Ross Valley Garden Tour, including partnering with MMWD to provide water-wise gardening information to tour participants

SCHOOLS

Mike Grant, Facilities Director, Marin County Office of Education

  • Arranged for MMWD Conservation Manager Dan Carney to give a presentation for all Marin County Schools’ maintenance directors to help strengthen conservation efforts in our schools

Ted Stoeckley, Science Specialist, Larkspur-Corte Madera School District

  • Contacted MMWD to request 500 of our conservation “cling sticks” to distribute to his students in 19 classrooms at Neil Cummins Elementary and Hall Middle School, who in turn took the conservation message home to their families

Parents Marnie Glickman and Sommer Au-Yeung, Science Teacher Pete Hudson, and Students of the Lower Elementary Class, Marin Montessori School, Corte Madera

  • Collaborated on developing a program at Marin Montessori School to teach students about our water system and about the drought
  • Coordinated a water conservation presentation and led students through a brainstorming session on conserving water
  • Students took home aerators, toilet leak test tablets, a sticker, and conservation information in a bucket—perfect for capturing and reusing shower warm-up water.
  • Parents reported that all the kids came home excited and made their parents test the toilet, install the aerator, and put the sticker on the fridge.

 

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by Charlene Burgi

Agastache after a long winter

Agastache after a long winter

This week many of us will remember and celebrate one of two ancient holidays: Passover and Easter. There are many processes found in gardening that remind me of both of these holidays and their origins. Who would guess life and beauty would be realized from the bondage of harsh living conditions, as many plants don’t begin to bloom until they are root bound? Or that it would take scarifying certain hard-coated waxy seeds to create new life? How about seeds or bulbs lying in a bed of cold, dark soil that bring the miracle of flowers, or the protection that is offered to our plants when we cover their roots with mulch?

When we garden, we have faith that the steps we take will reward us with a bounty of fruits, vegetables, or masses of colorful flowers. Sometimes our faith waivers. This winter when the temperatures in Lassen County dropped to 21 below zero, I feared the newly planted Santa Rosa plum tree would not live through that freezing snow. Imagine the joy I experienced this spring when the tree not only survived, but produced an abundance of flowers and potential fruit yet to come!

Despite our best intentions we sometimes make mistakes, but find plants are forgiving of our errors. A great example of this occurred just this past week. I was too busy to check on the greenhouse for three days in a row and too busy to notice that outdoor temperatures were rising. By the time I went into the greenhouse, I found the trapped interior heat had caused many of the potted plants to wither. Fortunately the wilted vegetables that I had planted in the ground sprung right back up with a good soaking!

Gardeners’ faith is affirmed as they experience the fruits of their labors. We recognize our decisions will bring future rewards or we wouldn’t find ourselves tilling the soil, weeding, feeding, mulching, planting, pruning, mowing, and hoeing when we could be finding other activities to entertain ourselves. Some call our drive passion or love. The rewards are too rich to walk away from the garden.

The jewels from our gardens are also enjoyed by those with whom we share our bounty—whether it be tomatoes, bouquets of flowers, or creative ideas. For example, this week a few of our readers shared some great ideas about their seed-planting strategies and the staking of tree roses. Frank suggested an idea to avoid struggling with wet toilet paper when making seed strips as I described in last week’s blog. He creates a paste of flour and water, then uses a toothpick to transport the paste onto a seed and the seed onto dry toilet paper. After allowing the paste to dry, he plants the seeded toilet paper strip at the proper depth.

In the past Nancy struggled with commercial seed starters that failed to support the weight of her bottle gourd seedlings. She happened onto large biodegradable drinking cups that are sturdy enough for starting the seedlings indoors before moving them outside. Transplant shock is eliminated since she plants the entire cup, knowing the cup will break down in the soil.

Emerging peonies

Emerging peonies

Scott suggested staking tall plants by triangulating three tall concrete form stakes and connecting the stakes together using copper fittings and copper pipe—a very classy construction that I might use for the peonies that spring is resurrecting from their winter dormancy right now.

Now is a time of new beginnings in the garden. Enjoy the blessings this season brings and have a very special weekend.

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