If Marin County residents didn’t take California’s drought seriously before, they will now.
Gov. Jerry Brown’s executive order for mandatory water reductions calls on local water agencies to create tiered water pricing scales that will charge higher rates as more water is used.
Libby Pischel, Marin Municipal Water district spokeswoman, said the water district already has a tiered water pricing structure, but the plan is to develop new water use restrictions once the Water Resources Control Board releases the full details of the governor’s order.
She said the district was already in the process of complying with new emergency water use restrictions announced by the water board March 17 when the governor’s mandate came along.
“Water agencies have 45 days to either write their own or adopt the state restrictions. The most notable proposed restriction is a limit on the number of days for outdoor watering,” Pischel said.
The water district plans to propose its own water restrictions, which would potentially include limiting landscape watering to a specific number of days per week on a permanent basis. The district’s Board of Directors is expected to discuss the idea April 7. If adopted, the restrictions would take effect immediately.
While Marin Municipal Water District customers have voluntarily reduced their water consumption by 12 percent since July 1, 2014, compared to 2013 numbers, the state overall has lagged behind. Since the governor declared a statewide drought emergency in January 2014 and asked Californians to voluntarily cut water use by 20 percent, residents have only cut their use by 9.7 percent between June 2014 and January 2015, compared with the prior year.
Representatives with the North Marin Water District in Novato could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Marin residents can expect to do away with dark green lawns and lush street medians. Brown’s order bans watering of ornamental grass on public street medians and will require local governments to replace 50 million square feet of lawns throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping.
New homes and developments will be prohibited from irrigating with potable water unless water-efficient drip systems are used. Outdoor irrigation makes up 44 percent of water use in California’s urban and suburban communities, according to the state water board.
Brown’s order will specifically require campuses, golf courses, cemeteries and organizations with other large landscapes — of which there are many in Marin — to make significant water use reductions.
Greg Nelson, vice president of college operations at College of Marin, said the college will continue its water reduction efforts.
“College of Marin made significant water reductions last year by turning off sprinkler systems at the Indian Valley Campus for all grounds related to the college. The Kentfield Campus monitors water output on a monthly basis and we irrigate using well water on campus versus the municipal water supply, which also helps to reduce costs. The Kentfield and Indian Valley Campus pool sites use pool covers to prevent evaporation,” Nelson said.
In addition, new construction projects on the college’s campuses utilize dual-flush toilets, touchless faucets and landscaping with native and drought-resistant plants, Nelson said.
‘IT’LL BE A CHALLENGE’
Pat Sorber, general manager at Peacock Gap Golf Club in San Rafael, said Marin County is lucky in that it hasn’t been hit as hard by the drought as other areas of the state. She said her staff is in the process of determining how to respond to the executive order.
“We’re strategizing and putting things into place,” Sorber said. “Everybody is going to have to do their part and we’re certainly going to have to work and rearrange what we do here at Peacock Gap.”
Bruce Wilmott, a head golf professional at McInnis Park Golf Center in San Rafael, said he doesn’t believe McInnis Park will be affected as other golf courses because it uses reclaimed water. He said it’s going to be hard for courses to keep their grass green and lush.
“They’ll have to be aggressive with their water-saving,” Wilmott said. “We still try to conserve as much as possible.”
Kathy Curry, manager of Fernwood Cemetery in Mill Valley, said her property won’t be affected much as it’s an eco-friendly cemetery that doesn’t water the majority of its land. However, she said it’s going to be potentially difficult for other cemeteries to maintain happy customers.
“I think it’ll be a challenge for them,” Curry said. “They may have families of loved ones who don’t appreciate seeing brown grass. Others might understand.”
Buck Kamphausen, owner of Mount Tamalpais Cemetery in San Rafael, said he’s no longer watering the cemetery. At other cemeteries he manages in Napa, Vallejo and Oakland he has also stopped watering, making some visitors angry. But he said most people are understanding of the situation.
“To me, the idea is we’re in a drought. That’s a problem. We need the water for bathing, cooking and irrigating crops,” Kamphausen said.
He said he wishes the governor had signed the executive order last year.
“People just don’t realize the value of water,” he said. “Water is the most precious resource we have.”
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