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July, 2007



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Water Supply and Conservation/West Marin
By Dennis Rodoni of Olema,

NMWD Director, Guest Editorialist for July
North Marin Water District (NMWD) West Marin customers now have a reliable water supply in normal and dry years. After more than six full years of effort, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has approved NMWD's change in place and purpose of use for our senior Lagunitas Creek water right license purchased from the Giacomini Ranch. 2007 is classified as a normal year on Lagunitas Creek pursuant to the SWRCB. However, customers are asked to conserve and use water efficiently.
In Novato, customers are being requested to reduce water consumption by 15%. This is due to the dry year conditions and low storage in Lake Mendocino. This year's Novato rainfall is 60% of normal. Yet, due to limited use of Stafford Lake last year, Stafford Lake is at normal levels (88% full) entering the summer water production season. The SWRCB has mandated 15% reduction in diversions from the Russian River.

There's ample storage in Lake Sonoma, but Lake Mendocino is at its lowest level for this period since 1977. The dry year has resulted in less runoff into Lake Mendocino, but the bigger reason for reduced storage is less Eel River water diverted through the Potter Valley project than had been historically transferred. Storage in Lake Mendocino is needed later in the year for in-stream flows for migration and spawning of Chinook salmon. Sonoma County Water Agency received a temporary urgency change from the SWRCB to reduce flows in the Russian River this summer and agricultural diverters and urban water users are being asked to reduce water consumption to preserve storage in Lake Mendocino. Without the reduction of summer in-stream flows, storage in Lake Mendocino was expected to drop to about 8,000 acre feet, the lowest level ever.

To date, the measures taken -- reduced in-stream flows and agricultural and urban water conservation -- are working. It's now expected that there will be sufficient water in Lake Mendocino to release for the Chinook salmon spawning in late 2007.

What can NMWD Customers do to save water and become more water efficient? First, learn and understand how much water you use now. The typical Novato household uses around 636 gallons per day during the summer. In west Marin this is 295 gallons per day. This equates to about 75 gallons per person in a household (indoors). Conserving water can be as simple as actively reducing current water use patterns or improving the efficiency of your water use fixtures. NMWD offers a wide variety of water conservation programs and has recently instituted conservation incentive tiered rates aimed at getting customers to use less water. Here are a few of the highlighted programs:

1) Free Water Smart Home Surveys are offered to customers and include outdoor and indoor plumbing fixture efficiency check, landscape irrigation efficiency test and minor leak detection. NMWD will send a trained technician to your house to perform these services and personally help you understand your water use and become more efficient. They may identify a high flow showerhead that can be replaced with a NMWD provided 2.0 gallon per minute showerhead, or that the amount of days per week on your irrigation system can be reduced.

2) High Efficiency Toilets (HETs) are the latest fixture technology to hit the water conservation world. These toilets use on average 1.3 gallons per flush (20% less water than a standard 1.6 gallon per flush or ultra low flush model). HETs dual flush models give users the choice of a 0.8 gallon flush for liquids and a full flush for solids. You may think that the high efficiency flush may not perform based on what you have experienced or heard about the early ultra low flow toilets, but technology and development of these HETs has come a long way since the early 1990's. NMWD has a qualified list based on a performance and durability test and NMWD rebates $150 for HETs on the qualified list. Also, NMWD customers should keep a look out for special free HET "giveaway" days throughout the year.

3) Smart Controllers are the new craze for irrigation management world. These irrigation controllers automatically adjust the irrigation schedule based on local weather patterns. The controllers receive weather data from the local weather stations, or through their own self-sustained weather station, and make schedule adjustments accordingly. When it cools down, the controller will reduce minutes of run-time or will reduce the number of days per week.

4) Native plants are recommended for new landscaping. Native low water use plants are specifically adapted to areas that receive no summer rain like our California climate. Once established, some of these native plants can sustain without any irrigation. There are many beautiful California native plants to choose from and a native plant landscape might even create a habitat element. NMWD rebates customers for removing automatically irrigated, water wasting lawns, and replacing with native low water use plants.

5) High efficiency clothes washing machines have taken over the market. Most appliance store inventory is comprised of front loading high efficiency washers and rebates are still available. These washers can use up to 60% less water than a standard top loading machine and use less soap and energy.

6) City and County approves new development, however, NMWD has taken innovative steps to ensure this new water usage is as minimized. Since 2000, NMWD has required front loading high efficiency clothes washer be installed in all new development. New development is now mandated to install high efficiency toilets, weather based irrigation controllers, drip irrigation, and turf area is limited to 800 square feet. No turf is allowed in commercial development.

The cost of NMWD water service is reasonably priced. For about the cost of a gallon of milk, customers receive 1,000 gallons of water. NMWD strives to make every opportunity available for customers to become water efficient through various conservation rebate and service programs. However, changing water use habits is up to you and we ask that you do your part to conserve. Water pricing will continue to rise due to the ever increasing environmental, capital and operations costs, and water efficient use should not be delayed. The days of continuing non-water efficient use because "it is cheaper to pay the water bill than to make the upgrades or fix the problem" are over. NMWD will continue to look at water pricing changes to achieve customer water use efficiency and conservation. The District's Water Conservation Office can be contacted at (415) 897-4133 ext. 8421.

The following TOP 10 CONSERVATION TIP LIST was developed to help customers reduce their usage by 15%:

1. Reduce irrigation by 20%.
2. Find and repair leaks now.
3. Inspect and tune-up irrigation system monthly.

4. Irrigate between midnight and 6:00 a.m. to reduce water loss from evaporation and wind.

5. Use a broom, not a hose, to clean driveway, deck or patio.

6. Use a bucket and a hose with an automatic shut-off nozzle when you wash the car, or take your car to a carwash that recycles.

7. Cover pools and hot-tubs to reduce evaporation.

8. Use front-load washing machines.
9. Run the dishwasher and clothes washer with full loads only.

10. Prevent and report water waste.

At the end of the day conserving water means using less fossil fuels, releasing fewer greenhouse gases, and maybe avoiding more severe floods or droughts.

Dennis J. Rodoni
NMWD staff contributed to this article.

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