Posts Tagged ‘technology’

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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MMWD new website

Sneak peek: MMWD’s new website

We’re counting down to the launch of our new website! The site has been completely redesigned to better meet the needs of our customers. In addition to a new look and feel, the site has improved functionality, is more mobile-friendly, has an instant language translation feature, and is compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Navigation is improved through easy-to-use “mega menus,” more intuitive organization, and a new search feature. You’ll also find a News Flash feature, a searchable events calendar, and a searchable board Agenda Center to help you keep up with the latest district news, happenings, and issues. A “Notify Me” button allows you to sign up for email or text message alerts on topics of interest. We plan to add additional functionality in the future.

The district developed the website with CivicPlus, a website provider that specializes in working with local governments and municipalities to create websites that enhance citizen engagement. Our URL, marinwater.org, stays the same so that you can still find us easily.

We’ll be going live within the next day or so. Stay tuned!

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QWELThe Marin Municipal Water District is co-sponsoring a FREE Spanish-language Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper (QWEL) 21-hour certification course beginning October 9. The three-week, seven-session course includes instruction in proper plant selection for the local climate, irrigation system design and maintenance, and irrigation system programming and operation. Graduates will receive a certificate of completion with the QWEL designation, which has been approved by the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Spanish QWEL 2012 Class Schedule:
Week 1: Tuesday, October 9 and Thursday, October 11, 6-9 pm; Saturday, October 13, 9 am-12 pm
Week 2: Tuesday, October 16, 6-9 pm
Week 3: Tuesday, October 23 and Thursday, October 25, 6-9 pm; Saturday, October 27, 9 am-12 pm

All classes will be held at Pickleweed Community Center, 50 Canal Street in San Rafael. For more information and to register, call (877) 689-7721 or visit www.qweltraining.com. For a printable flier in Spanish and English, click here.

The course is sponsored by Marin Municipal Water District and Sonoma County Water Agency.

QWEL was developed in 2007 through a partnership of landscape contractors, educators and North Bay water agencies with the goal of reducing landscape water demand. It is one of the first irrigation auditor certification programs in the nation to carry the U.S. EPA’s WaterSense label.

MMWD customers who are interested in hiring a Qualified Water Efficient Landscaper can find lists of local graduates at the QWEL website.

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by Keith Bancroft

My grandfather was a bit of a procrastinator. He would say things like, “If you wait long enough, things will take care of themselves” and “Why do today what you can do tomorrow?”

If he were around today, I’d tell him that, eventually, tomorrow becomes today, today becomes yesterday, and before you know it you’re turning the calendar from July to August and you’ve missed Smart Irrigation Month! But, even if you have a tendency to procrastinate, you still have the opportunity to celebrate this annual month-long event which focuses on increasing awareness of water-use efficiency. And what better way to celebrate than by getting 20 percent off a WaterSense labeled smart irrigation controller from The Urban Farmer Store in Mill Valley!

WaterSenseStudies show that a smart irrigation controller can reduce irrigation water use by 25 percent on average, which means you can save water, reduce your water bill and have happier plants. You will probably want to have a professional install and fine tune your controller, but once it’s up and running it’s simple and convenient.

And as my grandfather would say, “You can lead a horse to water but you can’t get him to set the irrigation controller, what with his poor dexterity on account of his lack of fingers and such.”  So forget about any of your equine acquaintances, quit your procrastinating, print out a 20-percent-off coupon from our website, and visit The Urban Farmer Store in Mill Valley today, because it’s never too late to celebrate Smart Irrigation Month.

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by Charlene Burgi

There are some things in life we are more passionate about than others. Topping my list are family, friends, plants, animals and new irrigation technology that saves water. Seriously! Those who know me may say the first four items are a given—but new irrigation technology? Really? To that, I say yes!

The irrigation industry has surpassed everyone’s expectations by how much they have improved the efficiency of irrigation systems during the past twelve years. Their advances can be seen at the annual Irrigation Association trade shows, which display innovative products that save time, money and most important—water. Every year there are new and improved water-saving devices. For example, this past year one manufacturer came out with a product that includes a sensor that is inserted into the lawn. The sensor reads the moisture and sends a message to the controller to tell it to water if the soil moisture is too low. Moisture-sensing irrigation systems may not be new; however, this device works off of the existing controller instead of requiring a whole new irrigation system.

I have a real affinity for smart controllers. Twelve years ago very few people in the industry had heard of them. Studies were done by many, including yours truly, and the general consensus found smart controllers save an average of 25 percent of the water typically used for irrigation. That water savings equates to dollar savings! For that matter, it also equates to saving your plants’ health by ensuring they don’t get too much or too little irrigation water.

Since the first smart controllers were tested, the manufacturers have continued to improve their performance and add new features. Now you have the option of managing your controller from your PC or having signals sent via cell phone from a server. There are devices that can be added to the smart system that will postpone irrigation if it is too windy (since wind can cause the spray to drift away from the targeted area). The controller can be preset automatically to omit watering if you always have a party on the 4th of July, or shut down if there is a break in the line. The features are too numerous to list. I must admit, I am a certified card-carrying nut about these smart controllers.

Given this information, have you considered installing a smart controller to operate your irrigation system? It takes the guesswork out of how long your irrigation must run to sustain your plants for optimum health. The smart controller is programmed with custom settings for each irrigated area of your garden. It wants to know the soil type, the sun exposure, the type of sprinkler used, what type of plants are being watered, and if the area is on a slope. This information is programmed for each hydrozone/valve in your garden! The controller then reads the weather conditions before watering, makes necessary adjustments based on the evapotranspiration since the garden was last irrigated, and then applies the perfect amount of water to sustain the plants.

I’ve heard a rumor that, in celebration of Smart Irrigation Month, MMWD will be teaming up with The Urban Farmer Store and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WaterSense program to offer discount coupons for WaterSense-labeled smart irrigation controllers. The WaterSense label means a product has been independently certified to meet rigorous water efficiency and performance standards. This might be the perfect opportunity to invest in a smart controller if you don’t have one. I may make a believer of you, too! Stay tuned for more details next week.

Special Event at Book Passage July 26 to Launch New History Book on MMWD and Mt. Tam

Local author and MMWD Director Jack Gibson will present a new book, Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District, at a special event on Thursday, July 26, 7:00 p.m. at Book Passage in Corte Madera. The pictorial history (from the mid 1800s through today) tells the story of the formation of the MMWD in 1912 and includes about 200 archival images. The book, written to commemorate MMWD’s 100th anniversary, also explains the founders’ commitment to the preservation of Mt. Tamalpais and how that idea was central to their vision for the new district. Please join us for what is sure to be a fun and fascinating event!

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Believe it or not, we see this culprit at work every day during the winter in Marin, wasting water and running up water bills. Don’t let this happen to you!

(If you are having trouble viewing the video, click here to watch it on our YouTube channel.)

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by Keith Bancroft

Based on a recent survey of people within a 30-foot radius of my desk at work, most people associate October with dressing up in costumes and gluttonous consumption of candy. However, from my observations, this seems to be what they associate every other month of the year with as well. Oh, there are the odd few who know October as “Rhubarb Month,” “Feral Hog Month,” “Squirrel Awareness and Appreciation Month” or, my personal favorite, “National Sarcastic Awareness Month.” But did you know that, in addition to all these wonderful reasons to celebrate in October, it’s also National Kitchen and Bath Month?

As a partner in the U.S. EPA’s WaterSense program, and in honor of National Kitchen and Bath Month, MMWD wants to remind everyone to look for WaterSense labeled faucets, showerheads and toilets when purchasing new plumbing fixtures. WaterSense labeled fixtures are independently certified to use at least 20 percent less water than standard models while delivering the same rinse, spray or flushing power consumers expect. Over the last five years, American households have saved 125 billion gallons of water and more than $2 billion in utility bills by using WaterSense labeled plumbing products. For more information on WaterSense products, please visit the WaterSense website at www.epa.gov/watersense.

And for more information on “Squirrel Awareness and Appreciation Month,” visit www.thesquirrelloversclub.com/history.php.

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The Value of Water

by Charlene Burgi

All too often, we fail to acknowledge how technology makes our lives easier. For example, I have always pretty much taken water for granted. If I turn on the faucet, I expect to get the water I need. This concept holds true for bathing, turning on the irrigation system, flushing toilets, washing clothes or any other task requiring water. A flick of the wrist is all it takes. I have always lived where potable water was delivered to our home . . . until recently. Since moving to the ranch it has struck me that this life-supporting commodity delivered to our home has more value than I acknowledged . . . even as a conservation specialist.

Country living has reduced the dependability of our water service to a party of one instead of a whole water district. Luckily, I have the good fortune of being married to a man MacGyver would envy when it comes to fixing anything. For example, the other day Jack said he wanted to change the location of the pressure tank at the well to give us more water pressure at the house. I had fair warning and considered what I planned to do that day that required water. I filled enough containers to sustain me for the time he thought it would take to do the job, and all went well (no pun intended).

However, the week before, we drove up from Marin to hear a crackling sound just before we lost electrical power. It was night, the generator backup was buried in the shop, and I madly ran around gathering candles for light. But without electricity, we didn’t have water when I turned on the faucet. Luckily, I had learned to stash about 10 gallons of this precious liquid after finding myself in trouble last winter. The frozen ground broke the main line coming into the house, and my knight in shining armor couldn’t make it up to the ranch for four days. Neighboring ranchers soon learned of my dilemma and brought gallons of water to me. Boy, did I learn to conserve during that time. I realized I must plan for emergency outages!

I have been humbled by these experiences. While I have dumped water from gallon jugs to flush a toilet, it could have been worse. Our forefathers (or mothers) would hand pump water from wells or streams and carry the water back to the house. Water had to be boiled to purify it. My back aches thinking of what it would be like washing clothes in a wood tub instead of pouring a bit of soap and fabric softener into the front loader. Until recently, I rarely gave a thought to the fine engineers and field workers at MMWD and NMWD who make certain that water is there for us 24/7. I guarantee there is nothing more disturbing than to flick my wrist now and have nothing come out of the faucet. Got water?

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by Bob Fairchild

In 2009, while planning for a major computer system upgrade to take advantage of improved technology, MMWD faced several obstacles. The biggest initial obstacle was that our server room did not have the cooling or electrical capacity to house the additional servers that would be needed for the transition. The type of upgrade we were doing required us to keep the existing system running while we built the new system in parallel on new servers. Fortunately, a relatively new technology called virtualization had emerged that provides the ability to run many servers on one physical machine. Virtualization is basically software that allows us to get a bigger bang for our hardware buck by having servers share costly CPUs and memory in a very efficient manner. So, instead of adding costly cooling and power to our server room, we decided that the only way for us to complete our upgrade was to add virtualization to the project and ultimately reduce our cooling and power needs.

In July of 2010 we successfully completed our planned system upgrade thanks in large part to our talented staff and virtualization technology. Since the initial upgrade project, we have continued to virtualize other servers within our data center. To date, we have virtualized about 80 percent of our servers and have plans to virtualize a few more. While we have added many virtual servers, our physical server count has dropped dramatically. This has saved thousands of dollars in hardware investments and will continue to save money in the future. Additionally, the energy load for our server room has dropped by 45 percent. We estimate the energy savings alone to be over $20,000 per year because of server virtualization. Of course, this reduced energy use has the added bonus of helping the district achieve its strategic goal of reducing its carbon footprint.

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by Keith Bancroft

GreenPlumbers USA is now offering all five of its training workshops online.  This will allow those interested in completing the 32-hour accreditation program to avoid the hassle of travel and to work on their own time, at their own pace. The program is certified by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and is composed of the following five workshops:

GreenPlumbers is an innovative national training and accreditation program that assists plumbers in understanding their role in the environment and public health. The organization’s goal is to train and deploy thousands of plumbers to promote the benefits of water conservation and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. The focus is on changing consumer and plumbing behavior through the use of energy efficiency and water-saving technologies.

Please visit the GreenPlumbers website for more information.

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