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MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin

Welcome to our blog! Written by staff at MMWD, “Think Blue Marin” explores all things water in south and central Marin—water supplies, conservation, new projects, watershed management, and more.

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Dec 02

The Wrappings

Posted on December 2, 2016 at 9:10 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

A conversation among friends yesterday had me awake in the wee hours this morning. The discussion centered around wrapping presents. In my dream state, however, the thoughts focused not on wrapping gifts, but water pipes! Just before I went to bed, the newscasters had foretold of temperatures plummeting into the teens here in Lassen County. 

But strangely, my midnight musings were not about the ranch here but haunting memories of freezing temperatures experienced in years past in Marin. You might ask, why the concern wouldn't be as great in snow country? The outdoor hose bibs we use in Lassen are constructed differently than those found in Marin. In the middle of the frost-proof pipe is a type of plunger that pushes the water down below the frozen ground so the pipes don't burst. This type of assembly eliminates the need to wrap the pipes.

In Marin, where winter temperatures are a bit warmer, regular hose bibs are the norm. However, winter temperatures in Marin are known to drop below freezing. Those low temperatures can cause exposed hose bibs and water pipes to freeze and burst, resulting in water spewing freely until the water is shut off and the pipes are repaired. 
pipe insulation
 Pipe insulation
There are several things you can do to prevent those nightmares. First, wrap pipes that are exposed to the outdoors. The hardware stores carry a foam insulated tube that slides around pipe. After wrapping, secure the slit in the foam using duct tape to hold the foam in place. This simple procedure takes just a few minutes.

If you have a backflow device on your property, cover it with a special blanket made for protecting the device from freezing weather. If a backflow blanket is not available, an old blanket or sleeping bag will work equally well.

If your pipes do freeze and burst, you'll want to turn off the water promptly to prevent water waste and damage to your property. Hopefully, whoever installed the irrigation or plumbing on the property installed a shut-off valve after the meter. If you can’t turn off the water yourself, call MMWD’s 24-hour emergency line at 415-945-1500 and we’ll send someone to turn it off at the meter. 

If you find you don't have a shut-off valve after the meter and another where your irrigation valve system begins, it's worth installing them. This step will save you time and trouble over the long run, allowing you to work on any future plumbing or irrigation problems without the need to turn off water to the entire property.

Be prepared for those cold winter nights so you won't be awakened by thoughts of wrappings that do not constitute gift-giving.

Dec 01

Controlled Pile Burning is Back on the Mt. Tam Watershed

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 4:59 PM by Emma Detwiler

From December 1 through June 1 2017, MMWD’s Watershed Maintenance crews will be burning piles of cut brush and forest slash to help reduce “fire fuel” on Mt. Tam.

Controlled burning of these piles of cut vegetation improves the overall forest health of Mt. Tam by reducing the risk of wildfires and creating more defensible space.

The first controlled burn was conducted today, on December 1, 2016 and took place on West Ridgecrest Boulevard near the Laurel Dell gate on MMWD watershed lands.

MMWD crews will continue to burn piles intermittently across 13 different watershed sites – BAAQMD (Bay Area Air Quality Management District) and weather permitting, through June 1, 2017. On each burn day, MMWD will notify the public, BAAQMD, and local fire agencies with the location and duration of the pile burning.

Controlled burn days will only take place on BAAQMD “permissible” days, which will be determined on the morning of the proposed burn and take into account local weather and air quality conditions.

Dec 01

Water Conservation: More than a California Concern

Posted on December 1, 2016 at 10:35 AM by Ann Vallee

by Alyssa Pfluger, MMWD CivicSpark Water Fellow

Conservation has become a way of life in California. But even in other states or countries with more abundant freshwater supplies, water efficiency is still critical. 

Here’s why:

Limited resource: In Marin, we’re used to thinking of water as a limited resource. But globally, too, there is only so much freshwater available. Although 75% of the earth is water, 97.5% of that water is saline ocean water. That means only about 2.5% of earth’s water is freshwater, and most of that is frozen in icecaps and glaciers, or trapped too far underground to reach. Only 1% of all freshwater worldwide (liquid and frozen) is available for use.

Watershed health: Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) customers aren’t the only ones who depend on MMWD water: For every two gallons of water we provide to our customers, we release about one gallon of water for fish habitat. Elsewhere, too, it’s common for lakes and rivers to be shared by communities both inside and outside the watershed, as well as local fish and wildlife. Saving water helps to ensure there’s water when we need it. 

Variable weather: Rainfall in Marin varies widely from year to year; since we started keeping records in 1879, we’ve received as much as 112 inches in a year and as little as 19. We never know when the next dry year will be, so using water wisely is always important. This is true elsewhere, too: Every region in the world receives a variable amount of rain each year. As climate change alters global weather patterns, precipitation may become even more unpredictable—and conservation even more important. 

Energy savings: Even in places with abundant freshwater, it takes energy to pump water from its source, as well as treat, distribute, and heat it. Every time we save water, all the energy involved in the process is saved as well—which in turn saves money and reduces pollution.

Water conservation isn’t just a California issue; it’s a global necessity. So if you’re traveling this season, remember the importance of worldwide conservation. With your California-conservation habits already in place, you’re good to go!