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Posts Tagged ‘water quality’

by Matthew Warner

This post is the ninth in a year-long series celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Endangered Species Act. Read the previous post here.

For decades San Francisco Bay’s marshlands were viewed as a waste of space, so they were drained and filled in for development. However, we’ve come to learn that our tidal marshlands serve a number of important functions: They help prevent flooding by their ability to adapt to the rise and fall of water. They help keep our waterways clean by filtering pollutants. And they provide critical habitat for a number of critters.

If you are ever in the neighborhood of Larkspur and have time to take a stroll by Corte Madera Creek, you just might hear or see a clapper … no, not the part of a bell or the sound-activated switch as seen on TV (“Clap on, clap off”), but the California clapper rail (Rallus longirostris obsoletus).

California clapper rail

California clapper rail (Photo by Don Roberson/Public Domain)

The California clapper rail is listed as an endangered species. One reason their numbers are in sharp decline is the loss of habitat due to the diking that converted low-lying marshland into urban development. Another factor leading to their sharp decline is the predation of eggs by non-native foxes and rats. As adults, they have to keep a sharp eye on the sky as they are hunted by red-tailed hawks, northern harriers and peregrine falcons. It would have been “Clapp off” for the clapper rail if it wasn’t for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, which made a recovery plan in 1984 and is aiding in the recovery of the bird’s population.

Clapper rails nest close to the water’s edge and enjoy feasting on spiders, yellow and striped shore crabs, amphipods and the introduced non-native horse mussel. When you are out walking the creek you can thank the California clapper rail for taking out the horse mussel from our waterways! Feel free to watch and take pictures, but remember to keep a reasonable distance away from the birds so as not to disturb them.

The California clapper rail is yet another reason among many for us to support efforts to keep our salt waterways clean and to restore our tidal marshlands, which help prevent flooding and purify our water. Happy observing and “Clapp on” for the California clapper rail!

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by Robin McKillop

Believe it or not, the school year has already started in many areas throughout Marin—and that means it’s time to roll out another exciting year of MMWD’s water education programs. If you’re a busy teacher, be sure to reserve your place today. If you’re a busy parent, remember to encourage your child’s teacher to participate in MMWD’s water education programs. They’re fun! They’re free! They’re educational!

Mt. Tamalpais Watershed field tripLast year, MMWD’s Water Wonders environmental education programs provided outreach to thousands of students at public and private schools in Marin. Through MMWD’s programs, students learned all about water—from source to supply to conservation. Many students had the chance to reinforce classroom concepts by visiting our beautiful watershed lands and participating in restoration and conservation activities. High school students were also invited to visit MMWD’s Water Quality Laboratory where they learned about current drinking water regulations, analyses and instrumentation, as well as the specifics of water quality here in MMWD’s service area. Elementary school students continued to learn about the importance of clean water and fish habitat by hatching and releasing trout through the “Trout in the Classroom” program, offered in partnership with North Bay Trout Unlimited, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and AmeriCorps Watershed Stewards Project.

The Water Wonders brochure provides detailed information about all of our programs. This year, we are excited to introduce some new educational opportunities while continuing to offer long-term favorites. Hot off the press is our “Marin Municipal Water District” poster—a great addition to any classroom, providing a fun and informative overview of MMWD’s watershed, reservoirs and treatment plants, as well as the people, plants and animals who share our water supply. Be sure to order your free copy today. Also new this year is our expanded school bus reimbursement program. Now, all schools that book an MMWD-guided field trip to the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed can apply for a reimbursement for travel costs. A limited number of reimbursements, up to $500, are available on a first-come, first-served basis—so book your field trip today! Finally, don’t miss out on our exciting new classroom presentation, “The History of MMWD and Preservation of Mt. Tamalpais,” given by Jack Gibson, author of Images of America: Mount Tamalpais and the Marin Municipal Water District. This presentation can be tailored to the needs of your students and is a great way to enhance your students’ understanding of local history and the rich tradition of environmental protection in Marin.

Programs are offered on a first-come, first-served basis and fill up quickly. All programs are offered free of charge and are designed to support California education standards while fostering water conservation and environmental stewardship. Bilingual (English-Spanish) classroom presentations and assemblies are available. We hope you will join us this school year in educating Marin’s students all about water. Jump in and make your reservation today! Click here for contact information.

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Marin Municipal Water District Annual Water Quality Report 2013The Marin Municipal Water District has released its 2013 Annual Water Quality Report, which shows, once again, that the water provided by MMWD meets—and in fact surpasses—all state and federal health regulations.

The 2013 report is available both in English and in Spanish on our website. Printed copies of the report can be requested by calling the Water Quality Lab at (415) 945-1550.

MMWD takes numerous steps to ensure that the drinking water we deliver to customers is of high quality, from managing and protecting our watershed lands, to employing proven treatment methods, to vigilant monitoring. Each year MMWD conducts over 120,000 water quality tests from watershed to faucet.

About 75 percent of our water supply comes from rainfall collected in seven reservoirs on Mt. Tamalpais and in west Marin. The remaining 25 percent is imported under a contract with the Sonoma County Water Agency.

MMWD reports the water quality information annually in compliance with requirements established by the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The state and federal regulations require drinking water suppliers to test for 125 contaminants and to include in the report the test results for any contaminants found and at what levels. The regulations encompass both primary standards for contaminants that affect health and secondary standards for contaminants that affect the odor, taste and appearance of the water.

In the past, we mailed the full water quality report to approximately 110,000 Marin residents and businesses. Beginning this year, new regulations permit MMWD to distribute the report electronically, which will help the district save postage and printing costs and reduce our impact on the environment by using less paper.

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Big Trees Footbridge

Completed bridge over Little Carson Creek. For more pictures, see our Facebook album.

Over a three-week period in February, crews from MMWD’s Watershed Maintenance staff and Conservation Corps North Bay built a beautiful log footbridge over Little Carson Creek on the east side of Kent Lake. The new bridge, located at the foot of Little Carson Trail in an area called Big Trees Grove, was built to keep foot traffic out of the creek. It is part of a larger project designed to improve water quality and fisheries habitat while creating a safer and more sustainable hiking trail. Other future elements of the project include converting a 100-year-old logging road to a trail and removing two culverts to minimize road-related sediment delivery to Little Carson Creek and Kent Lake.

The base and footings of the footbridge were made from a large, 48-inch diameter, 50-foot long redwood tree that had fallen many years ago near the work site. Based on the tree’s rings, MMWD Watershed Maintenance Supervisor Carl Sanders estimated its age at over 300 years old when it fell. Using ropes and cables, the crews were able to drag the tree 200 feet upstream without damaging the stream and its banks.

The handrails, made from a smaller redwood tree, are attached to the log base by mortise and tenon joinery. The completed bridge enhances the natural beauty of the grove and allows hikers to cross the stream safely without damaging the stream and its banks.

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Water main flushing

An MMWD employee “flushes” a water main by releasing high velocity water from a hydrant.

MMWD’s annual water main flushing program to help maintain water quality gets underway today, January 9, in Fairfax. The 2013 program also includes the San Geronimo Valley, San Anselmo and Ross. Flushing will occur most Wednesdays through March 13 between approximately 8:00 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Water main flushing is recommended by the California Department of Public Health to remove sediment buildup in transmission and distribution pipelines because the sediment can impair water quality.

Each year MMWD “flushes” approximately 20 percent of its water mains. To flush a water main, selected hydrants along a section of the main are opened. The high velocity of the released water scours the main, removing any collected sediment. After the chloramine is removed by dechlorination tablets, the water is released onto the street and enters the storm drain system. Flushing averages about 15 minutes for each hydrant.

In the past, MMWD performed flushing at night to minimize the impact on residents. In 2011 the district began flushing the pipes during the day to save the overtime costs of sending crews out at night. This year the district will again be flushing the mains in the daytime to reduce costs without compromising water quality.

In addition to water in the street, during flushing customers may notice effects on their own plumbing, including slight pressure drops, air in the lines or “dirty” water. If you notice these effects, we recommend restricting water use during flushing and then running the cold water for a short time afterward to remove any loosened sediment in the pipeline. Be assured the temporary discoloration is not a health concern.

2013 Water Main Flushing Schedule

January 9: Western Fairfax

January 16: Southeastern Fairfax; San Geronimo Valley Floor (Lagunitas/Forrest Knolls); Upper Woodacre

January 30: Town of Woodacre; Cascade and Scenic areas of Fairfax; Oak Avenue in San Anselmo

February 6: Sir Francis Drake Boulevard from Butterfield to “the Hub”

February 13: The Alameda, Oak Springs and Fawn Drive in San Anselmo; Sky Oaks area of Fairfax

February 27: Sleepy Hollow; Scenic Avenue in San Anselmo

March 6: Downtown Ross and San Anselmo

March 13: Oak Manor and top of Fairfax Manor in Fairfax; Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Ross; Laurel Grove in San Anselmo/Ross

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by Robin McKillop

If you’re a busy parent, you already know that it’s back-to-school time! While you’re gearing up for another great school year, don’t forget to encourage your child’s teacher to participate in MMWD’s environmental education programs. They’re fun! They’re free! They’re educational!

Last year, MMWD’s Water Wonders environmental education programs provided outreach to thousands of students at 48 public and private schools in Marin. Though our programs, students sang and danced at musical watershed assemblies, learned about local ecology and water supply by hiking at Lake Lagunitas, pretended to be water drops in a water cycle game, removed French broom from watershed lands, hatched trout eggs and released fish, worked to restore and protect habitats, searched for water leaks at their homes, replaced wasteful showerheads with new water-conserving ones, and created amazing artwork to celebrate MMWD’s centennial. Our fact sheet provides more information about our 2011-12 programs.

During the 2012-13 school year, MMWD is pleased to continue to offer high quality environmental education opportunities to schools in our service area. Our Water Wonders brochure provides detailed information about all of our programs. This year, we are especially pleased to offer free “Historical Highlights” posters in commemoration of MMWD’s 100th anniversary, as well as Water Quality Lab tours for high school science classes. If you’d like your child to participate in any of our programs, encourage your child’s teacher to sign up soon. As always, our programs are offered on a first-come, first-served basis, free of charge. In addition, bilingual (English-Spanish) classroom presentations and assemblies are available.

MMWD’s Watershed, Water Conservation, Public Information, and Laboratory staff are looking forward to another great year teaching your children all about one of our most precious natural resources: water.

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Annual Water Quality Report cover

In recognition of MMWD’s centennial anniversary this year, the cover of our 2012 Annual Water Quality Report features a historical photo of Alpine Lake from the district’s archives.

The Marin Municipal Water District has released its 2012 Annual Water Quality Report, which shows, once again, that the water provided by MMWD meets, and in fact surpasses, all state and federal health regulations. The report is available in print and online in both English and Spanish.

The water quality information is reported annually in compliance with requirements established by the California Department of Public Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and as a policy of MMWD to inform our customers of the contents of their drinking water and water quality standards.

State and/or federal regulations require drinking water suppliers to test for 125 contaminants and to include in the report the test results for any contaminants found and at what levels. The regulations encompass both primary standards for contaminants that affect health and secondary standards for contaminants that affect the odor, taste and appearance of the water. Each year MMWD conducts over 120,000 water quality tests from watershed to faucet.

About 75 percent of the district’s water supply comes from rainfall collected in seven reservoirs on Mt. Tamalpais and in west Marin. The remaining 25 percent is imported under a contract with the Sonoma County Water Agency.

In recognition of MMWD’s centennial anniversary this year, the cover of the report features a 1920 photo of Alpine Lake from our archives. MMWD received its charter on April 25, 1912, making it the first municipal water district in California. The construction of Alpine Dam between the summer of 1917 and the spring of 1919 was one of the first acts of the newly formed district.

We are currently mailing this year’s report to all of our approximately 60,000 customers in central and southern Marin as a bill insert. In addition, we recently sent the report in a special mailing to over 48,000 apartment dwellers and others who do not receive a water bill. Printed copies in English or Spanish also can be requested from the MMWD Water Quality Lab at (415) 945-1550.

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by Jason Mitchell and Larry Grabow

Water quality lab tour

Senior Chemist Jason Mitchell prepares Tamalpais High School students for their lab tour with some background information about MMWD and where their water comes from.

For the past seven years during the month of February, MMWD’s Water Quality Laboratory has provided tours to local high school and college students. The majority of students have come from sections of the Advanced Placement (AP) Environmental Science course at Redwood High School, but students also have hailed from the school’s general science courses. In addition, the laboratory has provided tours for the College of Marin Environmental Studies classes, and this year for the first time tours were provided to Tamalpais High School’s Environmental Science sections.

The 45-minute tour includes general information about the water district, background on drinking water regulations, the testing and instrumentation involved with providing the required data to meet those regulations, and information about environmental analyses in general.

During and after the tour students are encouraged to ask questions related to drinking water quality. This year’s questions involved recent events of concern such as radioactivity in the drinking water supply following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan (MMWD was not affected), and algae-related taste and odor prevention during the summer months. The two teachers heading the high school programs, Mitch Cohen from Redwood High School and John Ginsburg from Tamalpais High, also asked questions related to the curriculum in their courses such as disinfection and fluoridation. Although the 8:00 a.m. tour groups looked a little tired, all the groups were attentive and had smart questions and comments.

Water quality lab tour

Students from Redwood High School get a firsthand look at some of the high-tech instruments the district uses for water quality testing.

Here is an excerpt from an e-mail from Mitch Cohen from Redwood High School after the tours in 2011:

Dear MMWD Management,

I am writing to thank you for your continuing support of high school science education. For the 4th straight year, my Advanced Placement Environmental Sciences Classes have had the opportunity to tour your water quality testing lab. It is a unique opportunity for students to be able to see a functioning laboratory that deals with the concepts we are covering in class. Thanks again to Jason Mitchell and all of the MMWD management for providing this ongoing opportunity to your high school neighbors.

Much Obliged,
Mitch Cohen
Redwood High School Science Department

If you are a teacher interested in bringing your class for a tour, please contact Senior Chemist Jason Mitchell to learn more. Tours are best suited to AP science students and are offered on a limited basis as staff time allows.

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Water main flushing

Water main flushing

If you see large quantities of water running down the street in Mill Valley, Marin City or Sausalito in the coming weeks, it is probably no cause for alarm: The Marin Municipal Water District’s annual water main flushing program is currently underway in southern Marin. Water main flushing is recommended by the California Department of Health Services to help maintain water quality by removing sediment buildup in transmission and distribution pipelines.

Each year MMWD “flushes” approximately 20 percent of its water mains. To flush a water main, selected hydrants along a section of the main are opened. The high velocity of the released water scours the main, removing any collected sediment. The water is released onto the street, the chlorine is removed by dechlorination tablets, and the water enters the storm drain run-off system. Flushing takes about 15 minutes for each hydrant.

In the past, MMWD performed flushing at night to minimize the impact on residents. Last year the district began flushing the pipes during the day to save the overtime costs of sending crews out at night. This year the district will again be flushing the mains in the daytime to reduce costs without compromising water quality.

During periods of flushing, customers may notice large quantities of water in the street, as well as slight pressure drops, air in the lines or “dirty” water in their own plumbing. If you notice these effects, we recommend running cold water through an outdoor tap or garden hose for a short time to remove any loosened sediment in the pipeline. This water can be safely used on plants.

Flushing began January 12 in Mill Valley and is scheduled to continue most Thursdays through March 22 in Mill Valley, Marin City and Sausalito. Click here for a complete schedule.

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Funding to Pay for Conservation, Recycling, Habitat Restoration and More

The San Francisco Bay Area has been awarded $30,093,592 in Proposition 84 funds to carry out projects to improve Bay Area water resources. This award complements $842,556 in planning funds from Proposition 84 to update the Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan.

Proposition 84, passed by voters in 2006, provides $5.4 billion for habitat restoration, water resources improvements and water quality benefits. Of this total, integrated regional water management (IRWM) programs in California will receive $1.0 billion in funding, of which $138 million is dedicated to the San Francisco Bay Area. The $30.9 million in implementation and planning funding announced this past week is the first allocation of the $138 million of Proposition 84 IRWM funds for the Bay Area.

“Proposition 84 funds make possible high-priority water resources management projects in the Bay Area,” noted Paul Helliker, General Manager of the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) and current Chair of the Bay Area Coordinating Committee. The Committee is the regional oversight group for IRWM programs in the Bay Area, composed of representatives of water supply, wastewater treatment, and flood control agencies and environmental regulatory, resource management and non-governmental organizations. Helliker added, “Over the next 20 years, water resources management agencies are planning tens of billions of dollars of investments in infrastructure and ecosystem improvements, and these state grant funds fill important niches.”

Integrated Management Plans

The Bay Area IRWM Coordinating Committee has received $842,556 to revise the Bay Area Integrated Regional Water Management Plan. The IRWM Plan was adopted in 2006 by Bay Area counties, cities, water and sanitation districts, flood control agencies and non-profit agencies to define priorities for regional water management projects and guide state grant funding decisions. The plan update, expected to be completed in 2013, will incorporate the latest information on climate change impacts, and will include a compilation of best practices to adapt to rising sea levels and changes in precipitation. The Marin Municipal Water District will be managing the plan update, on behalf of the Coordinating Committee.

Implementation Projects

$30,093,592 of the Proposition 84 funding announced last week will be dedicated to various water resources projects that were proposed for funding in January of 2011 by the Coordinating Committee. The Bay Area Clean Water Agencies (BACWA), a joint powers partnership among wastewater management agencies in the Bay Area, and a principal partner in the Bay Area Coordinating Committee, will manage this grant. The funding will be used for the following programs and projects:

Project

Total Cost

Prop. 84 Grant Funding

Water Conservation

   

Regional Water Conservation Program

15,359,557

8,952,685

Water Recycling

   

* North Bay

   

Marin Municipal WD Peacock Gap Recycled Water Extension

10,136,000

500,000

Las Gallinas Valley SD Novato South Service Area Project

11,631,000

500,000

North Marin WD Novato North Service Area Project

11,392,000

500,000

Sonoma Valley CSD Recycled Water Stage 1 Project

5,000,000

500,000

Napa SD State Hospital Pipeline Construction Stage 1 Project

3,057,000

500,000

* East Bay

   

EBMUD East Bayshore Phase 1A-I-80

2,186,000

741,000

CCCSD Concord Recycled Water Project

4,200,000

1,030,000

DSRSD Central Dublin Recycled Water Distribution and Retrofit Project

4,100,000

1,130,000

* South Bay

   

South Bay Water Recycling Industrial Expansion and Reliability

5,503,000

2,485,000

* West Bay

   

San Francisco PUC Harding Park Recycled Water Project

8,436,000

2,114,000

Wetland Ecosystem Restoration Projects

   

Sears Point Restoration

18,306,981

1,250,000

Bair Island Restoration

3,185,375

1,250,000

Pond A16/17 Restoration

9,300,000

1,250,000

Regional Green Infrastructure Program

   

San Pablo Avenue Green Infrastructure Spine

4,220,882

2,315,882

Hacienda Avenue Green Street Improvements

4,632,556

1,999,999

Napa Valley Rainwater Harvesting

328,335

250,000

Water Quality Improvement/Flood Management/Ecosystem Restoration in Disadvantaged Communities

   

Stream Restoration in the North Bay

265,000

200,000

Floodplain Mapping for Disadvantaged Communities

841,550

656,550

Stormwater and Flood Control Improvements Pilot Project in Bay Point

185,000

160,000

Richmond Shoreline and San Pablo Flood Control

315,000

85,000

Pescadero Creek Flood Reduction and Habitat Improvement

103,000

103,000

Pescadero Creek Steelhead Monitoring

154,810

119,310

Floodplain and Watershed Restoration in East Palo Alto

310,800

230,000

Steelhead and Coho Indicator Monitoring

503,166

378,166

Watershed Partnership Technical Assistance

203,289

150,000

Program Administration

843,000

743,000

Total

$124,699,301

$30,093,592

Other Proposition 84 Funding for Bay Area Projects

Also allocated from the Bay Area Proposition 84 funds is $1,775,000 to pay for two other Bay Area projects in eastern Contra Costa County—the Pittsburgh Recycled Water Pipeline and ecosystem restoration projects that are part of the County’s Habitat Conservation Program. These funds, as well as $449,843 to update the East Contra Costa County plan, will be managed by the Contra Costa Water District.

The total amount allocated to date from the $138 million in Proposition 84 IRWM for Bay Area projects is $33,160,991.

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