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Posts Tagged ‘reservoirs’

by Paul Scott, Volunteer Watershed Ambassador

Bon Tempe and Mt. Tamalpais

Bon Tempe Lake on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed

Earth Day is upon us! This is the time to ponder our relationship with our one and only planet. In this regard a major force for me has been Mt. Tamalpais, the “crown jewel” being MMWD’s watershed lands.

The Mt. Tamalpais Watershed consists of five reservoirs and primarily the north-facing slopes of the mountain that shed rainwater into them. These “lakes” have been here long enough that they are now a focal point for the diversity of flora and fauna found here. Camping, hunting, swimming, and boating are a no-no and cars have very limited access, so it’s an oasis of sorts for natural processes to occur with minimal human disruption. While the “purpose” of these lands is to provide clean drinking water, requiring wise ecological practices, we are also blessed with their biodiversity and many recreational opportunities.

The natural resources staff work out of Sky Oaks Watershed Headquarters located in the hills above Fairfax and in close proximity to three of the reservoirs. Their volunteer program offers abundant opportunity for young and old, all geared toward environmental education, wise resource management, and furthering community spirit. As a volunteer and near-daily visitor to the watershed lands myself, I see folks come to visit with smiles on their faces. Many of them are “regulars” who tell me they feel the same way I do about the area—it is a place of peace and sanctuary. I’m amazed how many come from other countries, but I’m most surprised when I meet local people who had no idea all this was here.

Come develop your relationship with your watershed—for Earth Day and any day. Experience a fine example of how humans can make use of natural resources in an intelligent and sympathetic manner for everything and everyone to share.

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by Charlene Burgi

Isn’t it wonderful! April showers continue to fill our reservoirs and replenish our groundwater. These rains work their way from the saturated earth into the creeks and drainages that comprise our watersheds. The runoff tumbles over anything in its path to reach the reservoirs that sustain all of us, our gardens, and a wealth of wildlife, too.

April is a great month! It is a time to see fruit trees blooming or watch the transformation from blossom to fruit beginning. Spring bulbs continue to dazzle us with their show of pastel colors, and the green signs of summer bulbs are slowly poking their way through the waterlogged mulch. Wildflowers are springing up all over the hills as if to say they, too, are celebrating the good earth.

What a time to celebrate this great planet. Spring is a rebirth after a long winter. Everything is anew! It is the time to appreciate our surroundings, a time to raise our awareness about how we can contribute to the health of our environment. We live in a beautiful place and we are often too busy to stop and observe the glory found right outside our doors.

It is not surprising that this is the month that we celebrate the Earth! Can I challenge you? What can you do to celebrate Earth Day? Is this the time that you can feed the soil with amendments? Start a compost pile? Farm red wiggly worms to turn kitchen scraps into amazing fertilizer? Can you find other means of killing unwanted weeds in the garden without resorting to harsh chemicals? Sheet mulch? How about planning a walk up to the reservoirs to view wildflowers or wildlife?

Earth Day Marin 2014For a more major celebration, drop in at the annual Earth Day Marin Festival this Sunday, April 6, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Redwood High School in Larkspur to see some amazing programs and international entertainment. Enjoy music, speakers, storytellers, puppet shows, authors, film screenings, organic food, and so much more. MMWD will have lots of information, hands-on activities, and giveaways to help you save water and learn more about where your water comes from. And be sure to join MMWD for a fun and inspiring “water rally” at 2 p.m. at the main stage. For complete details about the festival, check out the website: earthdaymarin.org. There is something for everyone!

Speaking of websites, I confess to holding out on the vegetable gardener reading this blog. It goes without saying that long, cold winter days in Lassen find hours of my retired life on the computer seeking out the newest coneflower, the latest method for eradicating gophers, or the tastiest tomato to grow this season. It was during such perusing that I discovered a website that costs nothing to join and contains oodles of information, planners, journals, and interactive design pages for your vegetable garden. The site provides a weekly “to-do” list so you’ll know exactly when to plant indoors, move seedlings outdoors, etc. You can find this treasured website at smartgardener.com. Try it and let me know what you think!

In closing, a friend sent an email with beautiful pictures accompanied by quotes. I couldn’t help but laugh at this quote as it tied in perfectly with this week’s blog: “Living on Earth is expensive, but it does include a free trip around the sun every year!” How can we beat that!

Have a great weekend and let me know your experience at the Earth Day Marin Festival!

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Phoenix Lake

Phoenix Lake

While the 2014 drought continues, MMWD is in far better condition than earlier this year, thanks to recent rains and reduced water consumption. This means mandatory water use reductions will not be required this year. However, the district’s request for a 25% voluntary reduction in water use is still in effect.

Rainfall in both February and March significantly improved MMWD’s reservoir levels and water consumption has been lower this year than last for each of the last eight weeks.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of March 26, reservoir storage is 61,782 acre-feet,* or 78% of capacity. The average for this date is 73,083 acre-feet, or 92% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to date (July 1-March 26) is 27.06 inches. Average for the same period is 45.48 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of March 17-23 averaged 18.2 million gallons per day, compared to 20.4 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of February 2014 MMWD released 367 million gallons, or a total of 1,126 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. See also our Drought Information page.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons

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by Charlene Burgi

The Winter Olympics and the Academy Awards are behind us now. The gold, silver, and bronze medals were doled out to the highest scoring athletes in their fields. And the Oscars were distributed to the best actors, actresses, and others in the movie industry for their work of excellence. After those events were over, celebrations occurred. Good works, no matter what type, deserve a celebration after the fact, considering the tension, dedication, passion, determination, and grit required to achieve those goals.

consumption levels graph

Thanks to your conservation efforts water usage this past week was down 24% over the same week last year. Keep up the good work!

Similarly, all of us who are working at water conservation stepped closer to the podium or stage when MMWD’s Board of Directors asked us to voluntarily save water. It amazes me that those of you conserving naturally on a daily basis and under normal circumstances dug even deeper to save more water during a critical time.

Those athletes and actors didn’t stop when their goal was in sight. Practice sessions, rehearsals, and continual striving were part of their daily lives. We, too, are still striving to reach our goal by conserving water. The goal is to ensure a comfortable supply of water in our reservoirs come April 1. Mother Nature is helping us with these late but heavy rainfalls. We can continue working toward keeping the water in the reservoirs, but take time also to applaud and reward ourselves for our efforts so far.

How might we reward ourselves? My daughter Lynette mentioned that she has an itch to get into the garden. Most of us who love nature share that itch after a long winter. But because we are still focused on conservation, we are resisting the temptation to buy or plant more plants that require irrigation. If you share this feeling, perhaps the treat for your conservation effort is to plant a few bulbs.

Neglected bulbs keep coming up

Neglected bulbs keep coming up

Bulbs require little, if any, care, but their rewards are great. Despite the extreme dryness we have experienced, the lack of rain didn’t stop the fall-planted daffodils from coming up with a show of color. Any person passing by a clump of freesias could still take pleasure in their intoxicating fragrance. The harbinger of spring known as crocus popped up to remind us of the goodness that comes from the earth when all else seemed threatened by a lack of water.

Daffodils after the rain

Daffodils after the rain

While it is too late for planting spring bulbs, summer blooming bulbs are available at your local nurseries right now. Lilies, gladiolas, and iris are just a few plants that provide lots of color with minimal care. As seen on this web video, it takes little effort on your part to succeed when planting bulbs. Your itch to plant something in the garden will be satisfied, and the awards for your achievements will be found blooming in the garden this summer. The biggest reason for celebration will be in the near future. It won’t come with the crossing of a finish line or the opening of a golden envelope, but from the knowledge that you did your best when asked to perform. The gold prize will be found in our reservoirs.

Keep up the great work.

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In this, the shortest month of the year, it didn’t take long for a concentrated series of heavy storms to significantly enhance our water supply picture. For four days starting February 6, the first “pineapple express” storm system of the year brought nearly 15 inches of rain to the district’s Lagunitas Creek watershed.

Phoenix, Lagunitas, and Bon Tempe reservoirs filled to capacity and runoff into the district’s other four reservoirs continued for a full week post-storm. Total reservoir storage increased more than 11,400 acre-feet,* or 27%, to 53,223 acre-feet by February 17. This is 67% of total storage capacity and 78% of normal storage. Current rains will bring these numbers even higher.

While MMWD’s water supply situation is vastly improved, the drought is still with us and certainly a serious issue in other parts of California. Governor Jerry Brown declared a statewide drought emergency in January and called for 20% voluntary cutbacks in water use by all Californians. The MMWD Board of Directors requested a 25% voluntary reduction.

This spring the board will reconsider water use restrictions based on April 1 storage. Given the improved reservoir levels, MWMD does not anticipate a need for mandatory restrictions. A voluntary reduction may still be needed for 2014, although the level could change. See our Drought 2014 Information page for more.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of February 26, reservoir storage is 53,590 acre-feet,* or 67% of capacity. The average for this date is 70,363 acre-feet, or 88% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to date (July 1-February 26) is 22.87 inches. Average for the same period is 39.06 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of February 17-23 averaged 14.6 million gallons per day, compared to 17.3 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of December 2013 MMWD released 439 million gallons, or a total of 1,346 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 our homepage.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons

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The weather in 2013 was remarkable in its consistency. Regardless of the season, it was just plain dry—winter, spring, summer and fall. In fact, 2013 set a new record low for rainfall. The Mt. Tamalpais Watershed received just 10.68 inches of rain last year, far lower than the prior record of 19 inches set in 1929 and significantly lower than the annual average of 52 inches.

Unfortunately, 2014 is bringing us more of the same so far. This January we received a barely measurable 0.01 inches of rain; average for the month is 10.86 inches.

Drought conditions now prevail in Marin and throughout the state. On January 17 Governor Brown called on all Californians to voluntarily reduce their water use by 20 percent. On January 21 the MMWD Board of Directors took that request a step further, asking customers to voluntarily reduce their water use by 25 percent.

Depending on total reservoir storage on April 1, that voluntary cutback will become mandatory. Unless a substantial amount of rainfall and runoff occurs between now and April 1, storage levels are projected to be below 40,000 acre-feet,* the level that triggers the mandatory rationing. Any mandatory rationing plan will be based on water consumption prior to 2014, so cutting back now will not result in any kind of penalty should mandatory rationing be enacted on April 1. See our Drought 2014 Information page for more.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of January 31, reservoir storage is 42,127 acre-feet,* or 53 percent of capacity. The average for this date is 65,130 acre-feet, or 82 percent of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to date (July 1-January 31) is 3.80 inches. Average for the same period is 29.87 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of January 20-26 averaged 21.1 million gallons per day, compared to 16.8 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of December 2013 MMWD released 439 million gallons, or a total of 1,346 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 our homepage.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

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At the December 17 meeting of the Marin Municipal Water District Board of Directors the board unanimously passed a resolution in response to the extreme dry weather conditions and their impact on MMWD’s water supply. MMWD is dependent on rainfall for 75 percent of water consumed annually; the remaining 25 percent is imported from the Russian River in Sonoma County.

This has been an exceptionally low rainfall year so far. The total amount of rain recorded at Lake Lagunitas from July 1, 2013 to December 15, 2013 is just 3.79 inches. Average rainfall for the same period is 14.23 inches. MMWD measures rainfall from July 1 to June 30.

On a calendar year basis, MMWD is on its way to setting a new record low for rainfall. Rainfall for 2013 to date totals 10.68 inches, far less than the annual average of 52 inches and even below the record low set in 1929 of 19 inches.

The MMWD board also is asking customers to conserve water this winter and is directing staff to take necessary steps to prepare for a dry year in 2014.

MMWD has already made several changes in the way the district operates to minimize the impact of the dry 2013 spring. The district also re-started its conservation rebate program this summer to encourage more conservation.

Depending on the reservoir storage levels on April 1, 2014 MMWD may need to call for targeted cutbacks. When April 1 storage is below 50,000 acre-feet,* the board may activate a voluntary program to achieve a 10-percent reduction in water use. When April 1 reservoir storage is below 40,000 acre-feet, the board may activate a mandatory program to achieve a 25-percent savings in overall water use.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of December 15, reservoir storage is 46,224 acre-feet, or 58 percent of capacity. The average for this date is 54,367 acre-feet, or 68 percent of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to date (July 1-December 15) is 3.79 inches. Average for the same period is 14.23 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week ending December 15 averaged 19.6 million gallons per day, compared to 16.0 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of November 2013 MMWD released 341 million gallons, or a total of 1,047 acre-feet, into Lagunitas and Walker creeks in west Marin. We are releasing more water this year than last to make up for the low creek flows resulting from the lack of rain. In November 2012 we released 299 million gallons, or 916 acre-feet. 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 our homepage.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

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Alpine Reservoir

Alpine Reservoir on October 24 by MMWD Ranger John McConneloug

October began without any rain and apparently the month will end that way, too. Let’s hope November brings rainy weather. While our reservoir levels are almost normal for this time of year, at 62 percent of capacity there is plenty of space to capture water. (See current photos of the reservoirs on our Facebook page)

In response to the record-dry spring of 2013 and to preserve our reservoir levels to the degree possible, we made the following changes to our normal water operations this year:

  • We carefully balanced the use of imported Russian River water with our reservoir water supply, importing more Russian River water than is typical in the summer months;
  • We used more water from Nicasio Reservoir in West Marin, allowing us to save more water in our reservoirs on Mt. Tamalpais;
  • We turned on our recycled water plant earlier in the spring than usual to reduce demand on our potable water supply.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels:  As of October 27, reservoir storage is 50,366 acre-feet,* or 63 percent of capacity. The average for this date is 51,728 acre-feet, or 65 percent of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to date (July 1-October 27) is 1.16 inches. Average for the same period is 3.12 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week ending October 27 averaged 26.5 million gallons per day, compared to 20.5 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Supply Source: Last week we averaged 21.1 million gallons per day from our reservoirs and 5.4 million gallons per day from the Russian River.

Creek Releases: During the month of September 2013 MMWD released 266 million gallons, or a total of 817 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 our homepage.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

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More than an inch of rain fell on the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed on September 21, just one day before the official start of fall. That single day of heavy rain brought this year’s total rainfall to 1.08 inches, which is above average. Let’s hope it’s the start of a trend, although typically we don’t receive significant rainfall until November.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of September 22, reservoir storage is 54,088 acre-feet,* or 68 percent of capacity. The average for this date is 55,036 acre-feet, or 69 percent of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this fiscal year to mid-September (July 1-September 22, 2013) is 1.08 inches. Average for the same period is 0.54 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week ending September 22 averaged 29.3 million gallons per day, compared to 29.7 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Supply Source: Last week we averaged 23.6 million gallons per day from our reservoirs and 5.7 million gallons per day from the Russian River.

Creek Releases: During the month of August 2013 MMWD released 266 million gallons, or a total of 817 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 our homepage.

*One acre-foot is 325,851 gallons.

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Some of you may remember the ad campaign from 1971 of the Native American actor tearing up by the side of the road as people threw trash out of their cars. Unfortunately, the problem of littering persists and not just on our roads; even the trails and reservoirs of Marin get littered with food wrappers, plastic beverage containers, tissue, fishing line and bagged pet waste. The tagline of the 1971 ad was “Get Involved Now. Pollution Hurts All of Us.”

Michael Miller

Retired accountant Michael Miller regularly cleans 50 to 60 miles of Marin trails and roads.

San Anselmo resident Michael Miller has taken this motto to heart. He’s been picking up litter all his life and took on the Mt. Tam Watershed and other sites in Marin in earnest after he retired in 2012. He spends about 20 hours a month cleaning the roads and parking lots along Sky Oaks Road and the Lake Lagunitas picnic area and an additional 20 hours a month on trails. He says the most littered natural area on the watershed is Natalie Coffin Greene Park in Ross and the roads around Phoenix Lake.

Michael also spends a lot of time cleaning litter from Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from the bottom of White’s Hill through Lagunitas because it’s also a heavily littered area and as a San Geronimo Valley resident for 25 years he still considers it a special place.

His work was recently featured in the West Marin Citizen in an interview by Larken Bradley, who saw Michael cleaning trash by the side of the road. When asked what sorts of reactions he gets, he said “Motorists, hikers, bicyclists, fishermen, MMWD folks and sheriff’s deputies who patrol MMWD land always say thank you. I appreciate those words a lot.”

We’d like to acknowledge Michael’s volunteer work as well. His efforts are greatly appreciated and we admire his fortitude and commitment to keeping the watershed litter free. Better still, it would be great if there was no litter for Michael to pick up, so we encourage all visitors to set a good example and be responsible for your own trash.

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