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'conservation'

Jan 13

In the News

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on January 13, 2017 at 2:58 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Misty
 Misty checks out a nature-made rain garden
Lately not a day goes by without weather warnings notifying me of blasting blizzard conditions, flash flood warnings, ice on the roads and recommendations to stay indoors. The warnings, however, are not exclusive to us here in Lassen County. While watching the Bay Area news this week, I saw highway and road closures throughout Marin, evacuation and flooding in San Anselmo, and Corte Madera Creek rising to flood stage. I even saw videos of people surfing and boogie-boarding down rain-swollen Mill Creek.

These news warnings are a reminder that we need to be extremely careful when landscaping to keep our homes safe. Standing water or flooding can be an indicator of drainage design flaws. Sometimes these flaws do not reveal themselves until we experience what is known as the 100-year-storm scenario. A mild or modest rainfall may have no ill-effects on our property, but then an unusually big storm exposes the problem. An example of this occurs when water can no longer percolate down into the soil before running off. If the runoff exceeds the drain capacity on the property, or if the grading was crowned or sloped toward the house, excess water can end up under the house—or in the house if the home is on a slab. A good drainage design calculates for the worst historical rain conditions to draw water away from the house.

There are steps we can take to correct design flaws and help stormwater "slow down, spread out and soak in." If you live on a hillside, you can create multiple bioswales, such as bark-filled troughs, along the width of the hillside. Stormwater collects and slowly percolates into in each swale before continuing to the one below, thus eliminating the rush of unrestrained water flowing off the hillside. 

dry creek bed
Functional dry creekbed
Trenches designed as functional dry creekbeds can divert water away from the house and into a rain garden—a simple, shallow, pond-like area where the water can safely collect. Landscape your rain garden with plants able to withstand a lot of water in winter and minimal irrigation in the summer. Many iris, Monarda, asters and even the monarch-butterfly-attracting Asclepias are great for sunny rain gardens. Or choose ferns, blue-eyed grasses and Mimulus for shade. For more plant ideas, visit: raingardenalliance.org.

If you live in a flood zone, be prepared to evacuate if instructed to do so. In addition, plan ahead by stocking cupboards with extra food and water in case you are told to "shelter in place," lose power or are unable to get to a store. Keep extra warm clothing and shoes in your autos and do not attempt to drive through flood waters.

Be safe and have a great weekend.
Jan 06

By the Numbers

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on January 6, 2017 at 1:44 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Let's face it: It is cold outside, and my idea of the perfect way to pass the time is to sit in front of a roaring fireplace with a warm beverage and good book instead of facing the biting chill. My vacation time in Bend, Oregon, with my son and grandchildren found me doing just that. The roads were covered in ice and several feet of snow. Despite the weather, the brave-souled kids still managed a trek up to Mt. Bachelor for snowboarding. Meanwhile, good books and baking held this grandmother inside the warm house.

One of the books I read told the history of Nevada miners working in a very remote and arid environment. The conditions were so tough that they could collect no more than 53 gallons of water per family per week. At first my eyes skimmed over these figures, until it dawned on me that this was not per person per day, but per family per week. The book said they did without bathing and irrigation. I could only imagine it would take more than just eliminating those two items!

Reading this account was a reminder of how fortunate we are to have safe, reliable water delivered to our taps 24/7. It also was a reminder about not taking this precious resource for granted. When rain is falling from the sky and our reservoirs are full, conservation may be far from mind. But wet or dry, conservation should be a way of life. I am certain everyone’s irrigation system is turned off now, but where else can we look for water savings?

A 2016 U.S. study found that the biggest indoor water use is toilet flushing, which consumes an average of 33.1 gallons per household per day (gphd). This is followed by showers (28.1 gphd), faucets (26.3 gphd), clothes washing (22.7 gphd) and leaks (17.0 gphd). To get the biggest bang for your buck, start by replacing older showerheads with new high-efficiency models and adding aerators to your faucets. Both are available for free from our office at 220 Nellen Avenue in Corte Madera. To help with replacing the more expensive items, MMWD offers rebates for high-efficiency toilets and clothes washers, as well as many other products. 

And while picking up your showerhead and aerator at MMWD, don’t forget to pick up free dye tablets to test your toilets for leaks, as toilet leaks can account for thousands of gallons of lost water per month. Wouldn’t those old miners have made good use of that amount of water!
Dec 28

Green Resolutions

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on December 28, 2016 at 10:12 AM by Ann Vallee

by Christina Mountanos, Water Conservation Specialist

In addition to my typical New Year's resolutions to sleep, exercise and floss more, I've been making small changes to do my part to help the environment the past few years. Since we're already pretty frugal in my household with water, I typically focus on saving energy. We purchased a heating blanket for our bedroom last year, so we no longer heat the entire room. This year, we put "sweeps" under our doors and bought a new energy-efficient refrigerator. I often find that these changes, ones that don't even require daily practice, help me conserve year round with no ongoing effort.

Along the same lines, if there were actions you could take right now to save water would you do them? What if you could do something that only took a single day of work, a few hours, or even seconds? Here is a list of simple "green resolutions" you can implement this year:

  • Double-check that your irrigation controller is in the OFF position for the winter.
  • Use a simple shower timer to become aware of how long you're typically in there. Set a goal of five minutes or less.
  • Locate your water meter and spend a few minutes checking for any movement. Learn more about how to use your water meter to check for leaks.
  • Locate the main shut-off valves to your house and irrigation system so you'll know how to quickly shut off the water if a leak should occur. 
  • Put a shut-off nozzle on your garden hose.
  • Use food coloring or dye tablets to test your toilets for leaks. Find step-by-step instructions here.
  • Replace an old toilet with a new, more efficient model. (We have rebates!)
  • Check if your showerheads are efficient, and replace any that have a flow rate of more than 2.0 gallons per minute. (To check the flow rate, turn on the shower and catch the water in a 1-gallon bucket. If it takes less than 30 seconds to fill the bucket, the flow rate is more than 2.0 gallons per minute and the showerhead should be replaced.)
Regardless of the significant rainfall we've received so far this year, fresh water is still a limited resource. We are fortunate to have a fresh, clean supply available to us, ready for our use at any given timehelp us conserve it.

Happy New Year!