Posts Tagged ‘drought’

Ten months after the governor, and then MMWD, asked for reductions in water use, MMWD customers continue to respond well. Average consumption for mid-October 2014 was approximately 25% lower than it was last year. The total water savings achieved since the beginning of the year have helped to keep our reservoirs at close to normal levels.

Here are the current water statistics:

Reservoir Levels: As of October 19, reservoir storage is 49,579 acre-feet,* or 62% of capacity. The average for this date is 52,290 acre-feet, or 66% of capacity. Total capacity is 79,566 acre-feet.

Rainfall: Rainfall this year to date (July 1-October 19) is 1.12 inches. Average for the same period is 2.33 inches.

Water Use: Water use for the week of October 13-19 averaged 21.98 million gallons per day, compared to 27.86 million gallons per day for the same week last year.

Creek Releases: During the month of September 2014 MMWD released 160 million gallons, or 490 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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drought watch stickerWe have new stickers, fliers, and posters in English and Spanish to help you remember to conserve water and spread the word. The materials are free for MMWD customers.

The sticker is 3 x 3 inches and can be placed on a mirror, wall, or window; it is “low tac” so it’s easy to remove.

The flier and poster include the prohibited outdoor water uses that went into effect August 19. The flier is 3.5 x 8.5 inches. The poster is 11 x 17 inches.

Click here to order online. Thanks for conserving!

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MMWD’s reservoirs are currently at 94% of average storage for this date and 64% of capacity. Consumption is down 14% this week vs. this same week last year.

Drought Watch Infographic week ending 2014-09-28 - website version

As a reminder, new outdoor water restrictions are in place. In addition, the MMWD Board of Directors’ call for 25% voluntary rationing is still in effect. We encourage customers to take advantage of the district’s many conservation programs and rebates. Get more information here.

Thank you for continuing to conserve!

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by Charlene Burgi

The drought should not hold us back when it comes to planting fall bulbs. These little treasures are wrapped up with all that is needed, except soil, to bring splendor to our gardens. They can even be planted in areas that are void of irrigation. And we are in prime time to acquire some amazing future color for the garden without the worry of what the winter weather holds in store. Local nurseries should have large selections of various color combinations of classic daffodils, tulips, and crocus in addition to bulbs not so well known.

Chionodoxa glory-of-the-snow

Chionodoxa, or glory-of-the-snow, provide striking color in a rock garden.

You see, there are so many other bulbs that do not get the press that the aforementioned bulbs receive. For example, Chionodoxa, known as glory-of-the-snow, is a tiny bulb that blooms early in the spring and produces short, small iridescent flowers that are stunning against a rock outcropping. The first blooming flowers in the garden found me scurrying outdoors last spring to get a better look at their magnificent bell-shaped flowers.

Alliums, on the other hand, can grow as tall as four feet depending on the variety chosen. They carry their bulbous flower atop the stem looking much like a tightly clustered Agapanthus sitting proud above the leafless stem. They are related to the onion family. These bulbs make more of a statement when they are clustered together and add height to a drab area.

To add interest to those giants, throw in a few Fritillaria whose large, pendulous, bell-shaped flowers gently sway in the spring breeze. These flowers come in striking shades ranging from yellow to orange to chocolate brown. There is even a checker-patterned flower for the whimsical garden.


Daffodils are deer resistant.

Puschkinia scalloides, otherwise known as striped squill, is on my list, along with daffodils, for bulbs that deer won’t devour. These fragrant blue beauties will naturalize in the garden if given moist, well-drained soil. Placing them toward the bottom of a slope will assure they receive enough water from the natural drainage of the slope. Mixed together, the combination of yellow- and blue-colored bulbs will be stunning.

And speaking of well-drained soil, bulbs, like most plants, do not like sitting in water. Make certain that the heavy clay soil — famous in Marin — is well amended for quick drainage. Some folks add bone meal to the area before planting to improve drainage.

Are you unsure where to place your bulbs? Your garden can help you decide. Some people prefer a formal multi-row appearance, which works well in a garden with hedges. Others take the wild, meadow-like approach and toss the bulbs in the air, then plant them where they fall. Others plant in drifts by removing the soil to the depth required for each bulb type (usually three times the depth of the bulb), placing the bulbs within that area, and covering with the soil that was removed.

Don’t be afraid to layer your bulbs. Some require planting to a depth of six inches, while other bulbs may only need two inches of soil for cover. Plant them on top of each other and look for early, mid-, or late season bloom times to extend the flowering period. And don’t forget your containers. Pick up a few bulbs and tuck them into containers to set alongside your doorway. Many bulbs are fragrant, and nothing beats the whiff of an old-fashioned Freesia to greet you coming and going.

Planting bulbs in the fall requires so little of our time and gives so much in return. Try it, you won’t be sorry!

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Goats on Mt. Tamalpais

Goats on Mt. Tamalpais

As a direct response to the drought, the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) is dramatically increasing its efforts to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire in the communities adjacent to the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed by adding extra crews of people and, this year, goats. A 12-person crew began the first week of September and will continue working into October grooming the existing fuelbreaks bordering the communities of Fairfax, San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, and Mill Valley. The work is funded by an $80,000 drought relief grant from PG&E, with administrative support from FIRESafe MARIN.

Later in the fall, MMWD will also receive an additional $75,000 in fuel-load reduction work, courtesy of the Conservation Corps North Bay (CCNB). Funding for this work is part of a $678.4 million drought relief package approved by the state legislature. The CCNB crew will concentrate their work in the hills above Bon Tempe Reservoir where sudden oak death has negatively impacted forest health and increased the risk of wildfire.

In partnership with Marin County Parks, MMWD is conducting a six-week trial using a herd of 30 goats to reduce fire fuel loads in the hills above Deer Park in Fairfax. The trial period began the first week of September. The goats will be grazing native fuels and invasive weeds on both MMWD and Marin County Parks land. Staff will be monitoring the goats’ productivity rate, long-term ecological effects, and cost. The goal is to evaluate the role of goats in MMWD’s integrated pest management program.

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by Charlene Burgi

Low water at Shasta Lake

Shasta Lake on August 25, 2014, looking west from Pit River Bridge (California Department of Water Resources)

The email messages and news about drought conditions are flooding my inbox and my senses. Pictures of Lake Oroville and Folsom depict mere ribbons where large bodies of waters once resided. Driving by Shasta Lake and the Pit River, I experienced a shocking eyewitness view of the voids where water once lapped banks and rippled along the water course. All around are signs of extreme drought conditions.

MMWD is faring better than much of the state, with reservoirs at 92% of average storage for this time of year. Those numbers reflect the great job everyone in Marin is doing right this minute. What amazes me is that the district’s seven reservoirs are totally dependent on rainfall. They are not fed by large rivers or snowfall from afar. The water saved in those reservoirs is the direct result of local weather conditions and local water conservation. With that said, congratulations on the job you are doing!

And what are you doing to help others find tricks to employ in their homes? I know MMWD is offering a variety of resources from on-site water-use surveys, to rebates for water-saving devices, to free shutoff nozzles for garden hoses (pick up yours at the Corte Madera office). But my curiosity and thirst for knowledge want to get more personal. What are you doing? How are you educating your family about water conservation? What tips can you share that others can utilize?

I, for one, sadly let the vegetable garden go. Not only are we conserving water by eliminating the irrigation to that area, but the multitude of squirrels and rabbits have devoured every fruit and veggie that began to resemble something edible. The mild winters have made way for prolific garden predators looking for anything to eat. Except for the asparagus, no vegetation was spared from the night marauders. Chain-link gates across the greenhouse door (left open for ventilation) made a perfect ladder for visitors to gain entry to coveted tomatoes. Nothing was spared including the basil, parsley, and Swiss chard. Forgive my rant. Once again, I digress!

Peony before and after pruning

Peony before and after pruning

You might be interested in another conservation method that works. You can slightly stress perennial plants that will go dormant, such as peonies. Keep roots just moist enough, but cut back or thin out vegetation to minimize the irrigation needed to keep viable what little foliage is left. The remaining canopy will still provide shade for the roots and crown. The smaller canopy of the plant will reduce the water needed. (The Weekly Watering Schedule lists irrigation needs for different canopy sizes.) Be advised not to remove more than a third of any plant when pruning, and make your thinning cuts back to an outside bud.

Thanks for taking the time to share what led you to a successful conservation effort. Keep up the great work!

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by Robin McKillop, Water Conservation Specialist Supervisor

With the “lazy” days of summer almost over and schools throughout Marin already starting the 2014-15 school year, there’s no better time than now to start thinking about MMWD’s Water Wonders education programs. Our fun, informative programs offer something for everyone, including indoor and outdoor educational opportunities, hands-on water conservation and restoration activities, whole-school assemblies in English and Spanish, service learning projects, and school bus reimbursements. Last year, MMWD’s Water Wonders programs provided education to thousands of K through 12th students throughout Marin. This year, we expect similar demand, as water seems to be on everybody’s mind with California’s ongoing drought. By participating in the Water Wonders program, students will learn about drought, and gain an understanding that droughts are an unpredictable and naturally recurring part of California’s variable climate. Students will also learn about simple, positive actions they can take to conserve water at home and at school.

MMWD classroom presentationThrough MMWD’s “Do-It-Yourself Water Conservation” program, students are empowered to take water conserving actions at home—something that’s always important, but even more so now, during these times of drought. Students learn to evaluate their household’s water use and identify ways to conserve water by checking their toilets for leaks, installing water-efficient showerheads and faucet aerators, and reviewing their irrigation systems, among other things. MMWD provides free showerheads and faucet aerators to households that need them.

The Water Wonders brochure provides detailed information about all of our programs as well as contact information for making reservations. 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.

We hope you’ll join us this school year! The first step is to make a reservation for one or more of our water education programs.

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In response to the continuing drought, the State Water Resources Control Board announced new emergency regulations in July designed to reduce outdoor water use statewide. To fully comply with the state, on August 19 the MMWD Board of Directors adopted an ordinance amending the water waste section of the district’s code.

Most of the new state regulations mirror water waste restrictions MMWD has had in place for some time. However, two changes may affect you: Irrigating between 9 a.m. – 7 p.m. is prohibited, as is using a hose without a shutoff nozzle. We’ve long recommended that our customers follow these water-saving practices; now, these recommendations are requirements.

We appreciate your cooperation!

Prohibited Water Uses

Under state and district water conservation regulations, the following are prohibited:

  • NEW: Irrigating between 9 a.m. – 7 p.m, except for system testing and repair
  • NEW: Using a hose without a shutoff nozzle
  • Allowing irrigation water to runoff or overspray the irrigated area
  • Hosing down sidewalks, driveways, and other hard-surfaced areas
  • Non-recirculating decorative fountains

FREE hose shutoff nozzles are available at MMWD’s Corte Madera office (one per household, please).

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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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by Dan Carney

help your trees survive the drought thumbnail

Infographic: Help Your Trees Survive the Drought. Click for a downloadable PDF. (Courtesy of the California Urban Forests Council)

According to the Department of Water Resources, California usually receives 75 percent of its annual precipitation between November and March, and in many parts of California landscape plants need little or no winter watering during this time. When rain doesn’t show up, plants become stressed and need an occasional drink to survive. If you’re trying to decide how to meet your conservation goals, consider letting lawns and other less-essential landscape plants go dry and focus on keeping the trees healthy.

Trees bring incredible values to the community that increase every year. Literally, money grows on trees in the form of water, soil, and energy conservation; habitat value; air quality improvements; carbon sequestration; and quality of life. It’s hard to find a better economic deal anywhere worth the gallons of water required to keep trees alive.

Mature trees, with access to groundwater and broad extensive root systems, usually are better adapted to periodic droughts—100-year oaks have weathered some tough times—and may actually be harmed by supplemental irrigation. Please consult your local UC Cooperative Extension office, certified arborist, landscape professional, or MMWD if you have specific questions about your trees.

For most newly planted and newly established trees, here is a simplified method you can follow to ensure they get enough water to survive the drought: Rule of thumb—10 gallons per week per inch of trunk diameter.

♦ Using a garden hose:

Newly planted trees: Place the hose on the ground near the root ball. Turn on the faucet to medium flow. Give the tree 10 gallons of water for every inch of tree trunk diameter (measured 6” above the ground). Since newly planted trees have limited root systems, they may need to be watered 2-3 times each week. For example, a 2-inch diameter tree will get a total of 20 gallons of water each week. If the hose flows at 5 gallons per minute, water for 1-2 minutes several times a week. (Use the second-hand on your watch and a bucket to measure gallons per minute.)

Newly established trees (1-5 years old): Place the hose on the ground as near as possible to the outside edge of the branches (the drip line). Follow the same watering guideline (10 gallons per inch of trunk diameter), but measure the trunk diameter at chest height. Because established trees have a more extensive root system they can be watered less frequently (about once every 7-10 days) depending on the soil type and time of year. For example, using a hose flowing at 5 gallons per minute, a 5-inch diameter tree would be watered for 10 minutes (50 gallons) every 7-10 days.

♦ Using drip emitter tubing:

Newly planted trees: Place the drip emitter tubing directly on top of the soil and in a circle near the root ball. A typical drip emitter hose with one-gallon-per-hour emitters spaced one foot apart would need to operate for about 40 minutes 2-3 times a week.

Newly established trees (1-5 years old): Place the drip emitter tubing directly on top of the soil and in a circle near the outside edge of the branches (the drip line). For a tree that was planted 1-5 year ago, run the drip emitter tubing for 90 minutes every 7-10 days.

Important note: If water starts to runoff or pond, reduce the flow, move the hose to a new location around the tree every few minutes, or water for fewer minutes at a time so that all water infiltrates completely into the soil. Finally, apply a generous 4-inch deep layer of organic mulch under the tree (keeping the mulch 6 inches away from the trunk) to preserve the moisture in the soil.

Taking the time to correctly water trees helps preserve scarce water resources and maintains a healthy environment for everyone.

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