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Marin County Water Conservation Efforts

To all water users,

Novato water users will be required to begin conserving on July 1 after a vote by the North Marin Water District Tuesday night. That means some 60,000 Novato area residents will be prohibited from washing sidewalks, driveways and patios, or refilling swimming pools drained after July 1, among other restrictions. Warnings and then fines ranging from $50 to $200 are the penalties the water district could impose on violators. Tuesday’s action came in the wake of last week’s announcement by the Sonoma County Water Agency mandating reductions in water use by its customers after it received an order by the state Water Resources Control Board ordering a 15 percent cut in water use.

The North Marin Water District gets 80 percent of its water from the Sonoma agency. North Marin’s remaining 20 percent of supply comes from Stafford Lake in Novato. The issue is not about a drought as much as it is about keeping fish healthy in the Russian River and surrounding waterways.”It’s all about maintaining water supply for the fish,” said Chris DeGabriele, water district general manager. Less water has flowed from the Eel River into Lake Mendocino this year to protect fish in the Eel. As a result there are “dangerously low water supply levels”expected in Lake Mendocino this summer and fall, according to the Sonoma County Water Agency. Rather than releasing what water there is to cities like Novato, it must be held and let out in the fall into the Russian River to allow threatened Chinook Salmon migrate, DeGabriele said. Lake Sonoma is full of water, but it can’t be released down Dry Creek and to the Russian River for municipal use because it would wash out endangered coho salmon in the creek.

Now Novato residents must deal with repercussions. Watering any lawn, garden, tree or shrub must be done with a hose equipped with an automatic shut-off nozzle and sprinkler systems will be allowed to run only between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. of the following day. Pools and hot tubs must also be covered to limit evaporation. North Marin Water Board member John Schoonover, a pool owner, found the pool rules onerous. “This is not something you can do overnight,” said Schoonover, who cast the lone vote against the conservation measure. “Pool covers can be an expensive proposition.”But board member Dennis Rodoni said, “I think we are doing the right thing by doing this.”North Marin officials said they will use discretion and take a gentle approach, first starting with a verbal, then written warnings before meting out fines.”This puts enforcement to water prohibitions,” DeGabriele said. The restrictions will last from July 1 through Oct. 28, unless the board rescinds them. West Marin communities that the North Marin Water District serves will not be affected because they do not get Russian River water.

The Marin Municipal Water District is joining other Bay Area water suppliers in asking customers to conserve water this summer, but it’s not calling for water rationing or for a specific reduction level although it gets some water from the Sonoma County Water Agency. The district gets 75 percent of its water from its own reservoirs on Mount Tamalpais, which are at 79 percent of capacity. The district imports the remaining 25 percent from the Russian River in Sonoma County through an agreement with the Sonoma County Water Agency. But summer deliveries of Russian River water represent only 5 percent of MMWD’s annual water production. Reductions in this water use by Marin Municipal customers will make a minimal contribution to the goal of reducing use of Russian River water this summer by 15 percent, MMWD officials said. But Marin Municipal’s Board of Directors asked for conservation efforts from Marin residents this spring because of this year’s below-average rainfall. The board is concerned about water supply in spring 2008.”Clearly, we need everyone in the community to be conserving water this summer,” said Cynthia Koehler, water board president.