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Posts Tagged ‘rebates’

by Dan Carney, Water Conservation Manager

Small grass area for children's play yard

Children’s play yard (photo and design by Michelle Derviss)

If you are looking for an ideal landscape area to have a picnic, play games with your kids, or rough and tumble with the family dog, a lawn may be a good choice.

When properly cared for, lawns have many environmental benefits: They clean and cool the air, filter storm water, produce oxygen, and require much less water than you might think—lawns are commonly overwatered by as much as five-times! As a rule of thumb, unless it’s the middle of summer and the lawn is in full sun all day long, a healthy lawn only needs to be watered one day per week if it’s not raining. If it needs more, chances are your lawn needs some help.

Common environmental problems with lawns occur when people overwater, use chemical pesticides and fertilizers, do not compost clippings, mow too often, and have a larger lawn than they actually use. This article focuses on the essential things you need to know in order to successfully grow healthy lawn grass in an environmentally responsible, Marin-friendly manner.

But first, ask yourself this question: Do you really need a traditional lawn at all? If your answer is no, then please consider planting a no-mow meadow of native grasses, low-water groundcover, or other drought-adapted plants. Even when perfectly maintained, lawns require more water than any other landscape plant and are best reserved for landscape areas where they will be actively used rather than just a pretty green surface to look at. If you have a lawn area you want to convert into a low-water using garden, check out this video to learn how to sheet mulch. Then, browse our conservation coupons to find discounts on mulch and other supplies from local retailers.

If you still choose to have a lawn on your property, here are the basics of Marin-friendly lawn care:

  • Incorporate a generous amount of organic compost into the soil (1-2 cubic yards per 100 square feet).
  • Select a drought-tolerant grass species.
  • Apply enough organic fertilizer to maintain plant health but not to stimulate fast growth.
  • Irrigate with a high-efficiency irrigation system, and adjust watering times frequently to match seasonal plant demand. Never water between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., the time when 97% of evapotranspiration occurs.
  • Mow infrequently, use a manual or electric mower, leave the grass blades 2-4 inches tall, and compost the clippings.
  • Use graywater, rainwater, or recycled water whenever it is available.

By following these basic steps, you will be training your lawn grass to develop a deep and extensive root system—the key to growing a drought-tolerant lawn with the most environmental benefits and the fewest problems. MMWD offers a number of free services to help you make your landscape Marin-friendly. Visit our Conservation page today to schedule a free water use survey through our Conservation Assistance Program (CAP), sign up for a Marin Master Gardener Garden Walk, and take advantage of great rebate offers for smart irrigation controllers. And, be sure to sign up for MMWD’s Weekly Watering Schedule to get updated watering information for your climate zone delivered to your email box each week.

 

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This is the first in a series of posts by MMWD’s interns, summer helpers, and watershed aides about their experiences at the district.

by Philip Shea, Information Technology Intern

As a lifelong Marin resident, growing up in close proximity to the MMWD watershed has always provided me with ample access to abundant habitat away from freeways, cars, and traffic. I learned to mountain bike at a very early age. I’ve hiked miles upon miles of access roads surrounding just about every community and township in the central Marin areas.

Throughout all of this time, I had never considered MMWD as a potential workplace until seeing a job posting for a summer intern. Being here now has brought me back to doing the work I love after earning my Associates degree at College of Marin last May. As an Information Technology intern, I’m assisting anyone at the district using computers (meaning everyone at the district).

I came here in June, a few months after voluntary water-use reductions were requested by our Governor Jerry Brown and MMWD’s Board of Directors. With the education provided by our knowledgeable Water Conservation Department here at the district, I’ve learned that with planning and a little modification of my daily routine, using 25% less water throughout my day really isn’t too difficult and makes me feel like I’m making an important difference.

I’m not a homeowner (yet). But, if I were, I would absolutely take advantage of the education and rebates the district is offering to residents who want to use less water. Even in the lobby of the district offices here, I’ve seen free supplies for testing for toilet leaks, changing showerheads, and learning better water practices, as well as 20% off coupons to Fairfax Lumber & Hardware for outdoor irrigation supplies.

With all of the resources offered, it seems to me we could go above and beyond the 25% voluntary reduction requested by the board, which benefits not only your household, but all of Marin.

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by Christina Mountanos

It’s both remarkable and worrisome that the local forecast is still filled to the brim with sunshine. With 2013 earning the title of driest year in MMWD’s recorded history, and no end in sight, everyone I know is at least a little on-edge. Veterans of the 1976-77 drought have been busy tightening their belts, and our phones have been abuzz with customers expressing their concerns. One thing’s for sure, the time for everyone to do their part is now! Where can you begin? If you’re on a limited budget, a new homeowner, or just don’t know where to start, the following list can help! Check out some of the most popular, and effective, ways to save:

1. Check for leaks and repair them immediately. One in three of our customers have leaks and don’t even realize it. Don’t become part of the statistic! Check your home for leaky toilets and dripping fixtures. Many repairs are simple, inexpensive, and can reduce your indoor water usage by nearly 15 percent. Need some guidance? Read our fun, informative instructions on “How to Be a Leak Detective” to get started.

2. Turn off your automatic sprinkler system and water plants only as needed. Switching your irrigation timer to the “off” position is an easy, no-cost way to save water. Rest assured that despite the dry weather conditions, plants need about 80 percent less water this time of year than they do in the summer months. Keep an eye on your garden and only water periodically, if plants are showing signs of stress. Once spring rolls around, let us help you decide when it’s right to turn things back on. Sign up for our online Weekly Watering Schedule and receive weekly e-mails with guidelines on how much to water.

3. Check your water pressure and install pressure-compensating faucet aerators and showerheads. High water pressure in your home can cause faucets and showerheads to use more water, so it’s important to know what you have. Sixty pounds per square inches is just right for most homes, but check with a plumber to be sure. Also consider installing pressure-compensating showerheads and faucet aerators. Installing a two-gallon-per-minute showerhead can save up to 2,900 gallons annually. Putting in new aerators on your bathroom and kitchen faucets can save 700 gallons more.

4. Check your water meter. Take charge of your water usage by learning to read your meter and doing some simple math. It’s just as easy as reading the odometer in your car and only takes a few minutes. Taking weekly readings will help you spot any unusual usage, catch leaks, and avoid surprises on your bill. Use the handy form we have available online to record your readings or download a smart-phone application to store it for you!

5. Participate in MMWD’s free conservation programs. Very few things in this world are free. Fortunately, one thing you can still get is a water use survey with one of our conservation specialists. Let us help you identify ways to save water in your home (indoors and out) and provide you with complimentary showerheads and aerators (as needed, of course). Call our Conservation Assistance Program hotline at (415) 945-1523 to set up an appointment.

6. Install high-efficiency WaterSense-labeled toilets. Toilets are responsible for nearly 30 percent of our indoor water usage. That’s why, time-and-time-again, replacing old, inefficient models tops the list of ways to save. Purchase a new high-efficiency toilet (HET) and save 20-60 percent per flush, for a significant reduction of 13,000 gallons annually. Consider dual-flush to further your savings, check map-testing.com to get your hands on cold, hard facts about performance, and go to our website for rebate information on qualifying models so you can get paid to save! Toilets save water year-round, and you’ll find them in price ranges made for everyone.

7. Install a high-efficiency clothes washer. Second only to toilets are the workhorses we call clothes washers. You can put your old 30-40 gallon clunker to shame by purchasing a new high-efficiency model that uses 18 gallons or less. Take advantage of our current rebate program to save water, energy, and money.

8. Install a WaterSense-labeled smart irrigation controller. Purchase a new “smart” controller and never forget to reduce your watering schedule again! The EPA estimates these controllers—which take their cues from real-time weather conditions—can save the average family 8,800 gallons annually. Schedule a pre-inspection with one of our conservation specialists, then take advantage of MMWD’s rebate for $20 per active station. Smart controllers are made by a variety of manufacturers and, like toilets, are available in a range of prices.

9. Add compost and mulch. Amend, amend, amend your soil. Gets your hands on some organic compost, or make your own! The benefits are overwhelming. Feeding your soil with compost nourishes plants, helps with aeration, resolves compaction issues, prevents runoff, and helps retain moisture. Since plants residing in amended soils fare better in drought conditions, twice a year spread two to four inches of compost over the top or your soil, then dig it into the top six to 12 inches. Follow-up with two to four inches of mulch and get ready to help make whatever moisture we receive this rainy season last!

10. Make your garden water-smart. Upgrade your irrigation system by converting some of your spray systems to drip irrigation. Or, improve the efficiency of your current sprinklers by changing them to high-efficiency rotor-type nozzles. Rotors can fit into existing spray bodies and use one-third less water. By putting out water in small, finger-like streams, they water slowly, more evenly, and reduce water loss due to evaporation and runoff. While you’re at it, consider removing some of your turf grass. A small-sized area of turf, with a spray system operating at ten gallons per minute, can easily use 100 gallons per day, 300 per week, and 15,600 annually! Replacing your lawn with native, low-water use plants is a great way to conserve water and save money. Check out the links on our “Water-Wise Plants” page to find some gorgeous inspirations.

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by Craig Lauridsen

As you probably already know, 2013 was a dry year. With a total of 10.68 inches for the calendar year, 2013 set a new record low for rainfall in Marin. The previous low was 19 inches back in 1929. So a logical question would be: If the rain is not watering my plants, how much do I need to irrigate? MMWD’s website currently states:

Please turn off your irrigation system for the season. If dry weather continues, check newly planted, container and high-water-use plants for stress and water if needed. Note that, even without rain, most plants require little water this time of year.

I would like to add a personal touch to this statement. My backyard has a small, 500-square-foot patch of 90/10 tall fescue. We get a lot of use out of this lawn: I have a black lab that loves to play fetch, and my 14-month-old toddler is quickly learning that it’s less painful to fall on grass than on the patio. Even though grass is among the highest water-use plants, usually our rains provide all the winter irrigation a lawn needs. This year, though, I started to get concerned when one dry day followed the next. However, as a water conservation specialist, my training and experience told me it’s not that low rainfall equals thirsty plants but that low evapotranspiration (ET) equals plants that aren’t very thirsty. ET is the loss of water to the atmosphere by the combined processes of evaporation (from soil and plant surfaces) and transpiration (from plant tissues). It is a good indicator of how much water your lawn, garden, and trees need to stay healthy—and in winter it tends to be pretty low.

The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) pulls data from over 120 automated weather stations throughout California and has been around for over 30 years. MMWD uses CIMIS data from the weather stations within our service area to create the Weekly Watering Schedule. CIMIS uses many variables to help users determine how much to water:

  • precipitation
  • solar radiation
  • vapor pressure
  • air temperature
  • relative humidity
  • dew point
  • wind speed
  • soil temperature
Craig's lawn

Even with almost no irrigation this winter, Craig’s lawn is still healthy and happy.

According to 2013 data from the Marin weather stations—and despite less than two inches of rain during December—plants needed about 80 percent less irrigation in December than during the average summer month. This information allowed me to comfortably decide to water my lawn only one day in the month of December.

I also have several other plants (lavender, rosemary, heavenly bamboo, breath of heaven, lantana, various grasses, etc.) that received zero irrigation in the month of December, all of which are doing just fine. I also have rosemary in a pot on my front porch that gets plenty of afternoon sun and starts to brown if I don’t water it one to two days per week in the summer; however, it was completely happy with only one watering in December. My brother used a few sprigs of this plant to prepare his famous garlic rosemary mashed potatoes that received lots of positive attention during our Christmas dinner.

Different species of plants handle dry and/or freezing conditions differently, so it’s important to learn about your own plants. But my earlier point still stands and is worth repeating: It’s not that low rainfall equals thirsty plants but that low evapotranspiration (ET) equals plants that aren’t very thirsty.

Another thing you can do to help manage your landscape water use is to replace your standard irrigation controller with a smart irrigation controller. MMWD is offering rebates for smart controllers, toilets, and clothes washers. Visit the rebate section of our website for more information.

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by Charlene Burgi

The saying “Timing is everything” couldn’t hold truer than at this moment regarding water conservation. Incoming news from Marin is giving us time to plan.

A few days before Christmas an email came to my inbox stating that the MMWD Board of Directors passed a resolution calling on customers to conserve water due to the record-breaking low rainfall we have experienced in the past year.

To further drive this point home, Wendy, a dear friend from the Water Conservation Department, shared Christmas with us. Upon her arrival, she showed us the Marin IJ, which carried a front page story about the extremely dry conditions.

The article reported statistics that shocked me. I read that less than 11 inches of rain fell in Marin in 2013. That is eight fewer inches than the recorded low from 1929—less on a calendar year basis than the debilitating drought we remember so well in the ‘70s!

This news gave me pause for thought. We have time to cinch our belts now and check our conservation practices at home as well as at work. Good times often make us more lax in our practices and habits—conserving water is no exception! Perhaps it is time to reassess our daily routine.

There is time right now to check for dripping faucets that may have been placed on a back burner. Repair them with proper washers or replace the culprit if it is beyond repair. Did a water survey reveal a leaking toilet that needs a flapper replacement? Did that chore get put off until the proverbial tomorrow? Has the irrigation controller been upgraded to a smart controller, or is it still programmed by the “by guess, by golly” method? Is the soil amended so irrigation water soaks into the root zone, or does the heavy clay cause the water to run off? Are the planting beds heavily mulched to inhibit evaporation? Drip systems need to be checked for missing emitters, spray heads require visual analysis to determine if the spray is targeting the intended area and didn’t vibrate into the street or sidewalk.

Smart irrigation controllers

MMWD is offering rebates on smart irrigation controllers and more. Visit marinwater.org/rebates for details. (Photo by Richard Wheeler)

The water district can help you with your conservation efforts in several ways. If you have never had a water survey, call to have one of MMWD’s specialists visit your home, check for leaks and offer suggestions for how to conserve. While there, the specialist can talk to you about rebate programs that could save you money toward the purchase of a new high-efficiency toilet (or two), washing machine and smart controller.

Timing is everything. The water we save right now means that much more water in our reservoirs for that much longer. New ideas, new habits and renewed practices put into action now also will give time for a seamless transition if the dry weather persists and we must move from voluntary to mandatory use reduction.

And what better time to start or renew good practices! We are always thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Let conservation be at the top of your list.

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by Robin McKillop

shopping for a high-efficiency clothes washer

Shopping for a high-efficiency clothes washer (photo by Richard Wheeler)

Buy a qualifying high-efficiency clothes washer and get $50 from MMWD, plus another $50 from PG&E. You’ll enjoy a total savings of $100 immediately—and water and energy savings over the life of your washer. Models that qualify for these rebates are the most efficient washers on the market today. They use at least 60 percent less water and 50 percent less energy than washers that simply meet federal standards. Some models use as little as 12 gallons of water per load of laundry. At this rate the savings can really pile up!

For information about MMWD’s clothes washer rebate program visit marinwater.org/rebates.

For information about PG&E’s clothes washer rebate, click here (then scroll down for rebate information).

The MMWD and PG&E rebate programs are administered independently. Please check with PG&E for complete information about their rebate program.

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by Dan Carney

Water has a knack for quietly leaking 24-hours-a-day out of even the smallest cracks and crevices. In fact, it’s so good at finding ways to hide that one-third of all properties in Marin have water leaks. MMWD staff perform thousands of free Conservation Assistance Program (CAP) surveys at homes and businesses every year and discover leaking toilets, sprinkler lines and valves that sometimes account for 25 percent or more of the water used at the site—that’s a lot of wasted water and money!

MMWD Rebates: Get Paid to SaveIf you think it’s time for a free CAP survey to check for leaks, give us a call on the CAP hotline at 945-1523 and we’ll be glad to set up an appointment and meet with you at your property. As an extra bonus, MMWD has rebate dollars available for customers to replace leaky old toilets, water-guzzling clothes washers and out-of-control irrigation controllers. Visit the rebate website at marinwater.org/rebates or give conservation staff a call at 945-1527. Rebate dollars are limited, so get yours today!

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