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Posts Tagged ‘rainfall’

by Charlene Burgi

Rumor has it that we are in for an El Niño winter. I am not certain what that means since every report comes up with various predictions that span from getting drenched to mild inclement weather to continued drought.

Predictions are something to approach with a discerning ear. The fall/winter season would be better met with preparedness. Preparedness comes with paying attention to the indicators that surround us and acting prior to an event.

For example, a friend reported attending the Ready Marin program. When the earthquake struck in the wee hours this past Sunday, she was prepared with flashlights and necessary tools at hand (if needed) to turn off gas and water supplies. Yet others reported they woke up in a half stupor and attempted to collect their thoughts as to where they would even find a flashlight.

This week the news reported a water main break in San Francisco. One gentleman was capturing this precious commodity by the bucketful before it disappeared into the cavernous storm drain. He was prepared with whatever collection method he could find and conserved as much as he could.

Conserving water is more than turning the faucet off while brushing your teeth and exchanging high-water-use for high-efficiency fixtures in the house. It is more than switching to a smart controller or adjusting your controller to reflect the current ET loss for the week. These steps are extremely important for saving the water in our reservoirs, but by being prepared and making the best use of the water sources at hand we can conserve even more.

Each winter we anticipate rainfall, but are we prepared to utilize the falling rain? If we live on any kind of slope, we can create multiple bioswales running across the length of the slope to slow down the runoff. A bioswale requires some trenching, compacting the lower edge of the bioswale for erosion, and backfilling with porous material, such as bark. Planting two of my favorite deep-rooted shrubs—Pacific ninebark (Physocarpus capitatus) and red osier dogwood (Cornus stolonifera)—will help penetrate the clay soils above the swale and move the water deeper than the trenched bioswale.

Aster novae-angliae

Aster novae-angliae

Another idea is to collect the water from the downspout into trenches to carry water to a rain garden or meadow at least 10 feet away from the house foundation. Choose plant material that will thrive on the abundant rainwater that will collect there in the winter. Use rain garden plants such as Aster novae-anglaie or Lobelia cardinalis that attract butterflies and bees and provide nectar in the summer months.

Try designing a dry creek bed to capture the precious liquid from our rains. Wind the bed through the garden to deliver water to your trees or shrubs along the way. Tuck native grasses and wildflowers along the edges or plant some color into the dry creek bed. This task requires preparing now for winter.

These suggestions will take more than a shovel and wheel barrow. It will take planning and a list of equipment as follows:

Flowers in dry creek bed

Dry creek bed color (photo courtesy of Marie Shepard)

    • Soil, sand, clay, organic mulch
    • Building materials and construction (if built)
    • Organic compost
    • Tools (tractor, rakes, shovels, gloves, etc.)
    • Vegetation (seeds, plants, trees)
    • Gravel, rocks (large and small)

Are you prepared for the task at hand or will you watch the precious wet stuff disappear into the local storm drain this winter?

It is Labor Day weekend. Why not take a ride to the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed and glean ideas for imitating nature in your own garden?

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MMWD reservoir levels are now 92% of average, which may be a surprise to many during this dry year. Our reservoir levels have actually held steady at this same ratio for several months now, thanks in part to customer conservation efforts and also to water system operational changes. The more water we can keep in the reservoirs now, the better off we are later.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of August 25, reservoir storage is 53,843 acre-feet,* or 68% of capacity. The average for this date is 58,648 acre-feet, or 74% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this year to date (July 1-August 25) is 0.04 inches. Average for the same period is 0.12 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of August18-25 averaged 27.32 million gallons per day, compared to 31.79 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Supply Source: Last week we averaged 20.03 million gallons per day from our reservoirs and 7.29 million gallons per day from the Russian River.

Creek Releases: During the month of July 2014 MMWD released 171 million gallons, or a total of 524 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’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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The rainfall year ends on June 30 and in all likelihood we will not receive much, if any, additional rain in the remaining few days. Total rainfall at Lake Lagunitas for the rainfall year ending June 30 will top out at around 33.40 inches, which is about 64% of the annual average. This marks the third consecutive year of below average rainfall, and the reservoir storage levels reflect those low numbers.

The current reservoir storage is the lowest it has been for this date since the early 1990s. If not for the ongoing conservation efforts of our customers, and the especially heavy rain in February, we would be in a far worse position than we are today.

The MMWD Board of Directors’ call for 25% voluntary rationing is still in place and current consumption figures show reduced water use. We appreciate everyone’s conservation efforts and we encourage customers to take advantage of the district’s many conservation programs and rebates. Get more information here.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of June 22, reservoir storage is 60,533 acre-feet,* or 76% of capacity. The average for this date is 67,290 acre-feet, or 85% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to date (July 1-June 22) is 33.40 inches. Average for the same period is 52.56 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of June 16-22 averaged 28.78 million gallons per day, compared to 32.27 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of May 2014, MMWD released 218 million gallons, or a total of 669 acre-feet, into Lagunitas and Walker creeks in west Marin. We release water throughout the year to maintain adequate flows for the fishery per our agreements with the State of California.

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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by Eric Ettlinger

Coho smolt

Coho smolt

Salmon in California have evolved to follow the seasonal rhythms of wet and dry periods as they migrate between their natal streams and the ocean, and then back again. The fall rains that swell Lagunitas Creek and herald the return of adult salmon to Marin County also encourage young coho salmon to begin their downstream journey to the ocean. In normal years, winter is the time when many of these young salmon migrate from headwater tributaries down to lower Lagunitas Creek, where they transform into silver smolts in preparation for the ocean phase of their life cycle. These smolts wait in the lower creek until April and May before entering the ocean, just in time to take advantage of the spring plankton bloom.

2013 and 2014 have not been normal years, however. Fall rains were infrequent and light, and January was the driest on record. The drought caused a significant delay in salmon spawning and resulted in a much smaller coho run than expected. The extended dry period did, ironically, seem to benefit the young salmon preparing to emigrate to the ocean. Many coho fry were unable to migrate downstream until the rain finally arrived in February, which meant that they weren’t packed together in lower Lagunitas Creek. The habitat in the lower creek can’t support very many young salmon through the winter, which appears to be one of the principal factors limiting the size of the entire coho salmon population. This year, salmon fry spent the winter spread throughout the watershed, and likely spent little time crowded in the lower watershed.

The result was the largest emigration of salmon smolts yet seen in Lagunitas Creek. Biologists with the Watershed Stewards Project, the Marin Municipal Water District, the National Park Service, and the Salmon Protection and Watershed Network counted coho smolts every day between late March and early June as they migrated past traps on Lagunitas, Olema, and San Geronimo Creeks. In typical years the lower watershed doesn’t appear to be able to support more than approximately 11,000 juvenile coho salmon through the winter. This year nearly 20,000 coho smolts emigrated to the ocean.

smolt chart

Click the image above to view full-size chart

What does this mean for the future of coho salmon in Marin County? In the short term, if food is abundant in the ocean we could see 2,000 adult coho return to Lagunitas Creek in 2015 (the most in more than half a century). On the other hand, this year’s smolts were fairly small and may not survive well. Over the longer term, while we can’t recreate this year and prevent coho from migrating to the lower watershed, we can provide more habitat there. A grant currently being considered by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife would fund the construction of five projects in lower Lagunitas Creek to expand side channels and floodplains for coho salmon winter habitat. Hopefully this grant will be funded and the projects will achieve their goals. As with the seasonal migrations of salmon, we’ll just have to wait and see.

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Record low rainfall in 2013 means the official “water year” designation for Lagunitas Creek in west Marin will be “dry” from April through October 2014 in accordance with MMWD’s water rights order from the State of California for the creek. This designation was made because there was less than 28 inches of rainfall at Kent Lake from October 1, 2013, through March 31, 2014. Average for that six-month period is 45.5 inches.

This year marks the first time a dry year has been in effect since the water rights order was issued in 1995. The in-stream flow requirements (water released from Kent Lake into Lagunitas Creek) applicable during “dry years” are slightly lower than the requirements for “normal years” and are designed to keep fish in good condition while preserving our water supply. The flow rate will be reconsidered in December 2014 depending on rainfall between now and then.

MMWD releases water from Kent Lake into Lagunitas Creek throughout the year to maintain adequate flows for fish.

MMWD has also reduced releases into Walker Creek from Soulajule Reservoir this spring.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of May 25, reservoir storage is 63,306 acre-feet,* or 80% of capacity. The average for this date is 70,259 acre-feet, or 88% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to date (July 1-May 25) is 33.40 inches. Average for the same period is 51.90 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of May 19-25 averaged 26.95 million gallons per day, compared to 30.69 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Supply source: Last week we averaged 18.04 million gallons per day from our reservoirs and 8.91 million gallons per day from the Russian River.

Creek Releases: During the month of April 2014 MMWD released 196 million gallons, or a total of 601 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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Although rainfall this year is just 66% of average, we received sufficient amounts of rain in February and March to raise reservoir levels to near-normal levels. And we even got a half inch of rain in late April as a bonus.

As we enter the irrigation season, MMWD’s water supply situation is much better than that of many parts of California. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, conditions throughout the state range from moderate to exceptional drought. These conditions are quite evident in the dramatic photos of reservoirs and the Sierra snow pack on the home page of the California drought information website.

MMWD’s request for a 25% voluntary reduction in water use is still in effect, although the Board of Directors will review this request at the end of May.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of April 27, reservoir storage is 65,213 acre-feet,* or 82% of capacity. The average for this date is 72,152 acre-feet, or 91% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to date (July 1-April 27) is 33.22 inches. Average for the same period is 50.20 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of April 21-27 averaged 20 million gallons per day, compared to 27 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of March 2014 MMWD released 303 million gallons, or a total of 930 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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