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Apr 15


Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on April 15, 2016 at 9:02 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Hardy plants are now disclosing their ability to survive years of drought followed by a wetter winter and spring this year. A walk around the garden or neighborhood may surprise the most advanced gardener to learn which plants can survive harsh conditions.

violetsI had a revelation of this kind this past week while visiting my daughter Lynette and her family in Petaluma. As I walked through her yard I first noticed a familiar fragrance wafting from the corner of the garden. It didn’t take long to find sweet violets in full bloom under the large rose bush. I was impressed with the amount of ground these little plants covered and how well they appeared to have endured the drought. It was then that I learned these little jewels of perfume completely disappeared during the long years, months, and days of drought. My daughter thought for sure the violets were gone for good and was pleasantly surprised when they reappeared this year during the wet winter months.

Violets have always been a favorite of Lynette’s, and needless to say she was sorely disappointed to see the consequences of the lack of water over the past several years. She wasn’t surprised by the violets' disappearance since the thin leaves resemble high-water-use plants. But unlike high-water-use plants, violets have underground rhizomes (instead of tender root systems) that can serve as life support during times of duress.

Violets have the ability to survive not only a drought but freezing weather. I discovered this after moving to Lassen County as this delicate beauty poked its classic heart-shape leaves up through the spring snowfall and promptly produced showy pinkish-lavender flowers. I could not figure out how this plant came into existence on our ranch until I found it surprisingly is classified as a California native!

The other amazing bit of news is this plant is listed as an herb and has a multitude of healing properties. In the culinary world, the flowers are used in salads. My son-in-law Jeff also informed me that the flowers can be made into a delicately flavored, dark purple liqueur.

While doing research on this plant, I learned some butterflies thrive on the honey-like nectar of the violet flowers. This bit of information made me laugh, as I knew butterflies are not the only creatures with a taste for violets. I recalled how Lynette’s lop-eared rabbit devoured every single flower of the patch of violets growing alongside of our house the day she came home for spring break from Cal Poly. Needless to say, these plants are not rabbit resistant!

Sweet violets (or Viola adunca) may look delicate, but the plant is tough and withstands the harshest of growing conditions. Might this be something to fill in a vacant spot in the garden?
Mar 25

FAQ: Can MMWD Build Bigger Reservoirs?

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on March 25, 2016 at 4:26 PM by Ann Vallee

Especially  in  a  rainy  year  like  this  one,  customers  ask  if  we  can  enlarge  our  reservoirs to hold more water by raising the dams. While creating additional storage may seem like good insurance against drought, it is not as simple as it sounds.

MMWD’s rights to divert and store water are granted by the State of California. The state has authority over how much water we can legally take from our local creeks to store in our reservoirs. As part of our agreement with the state, MMWD is required to maintain a certain amount of water in the creeks for fish habitat. This means  we  actually  release  water  every  year  from  our  reservoirs  into  the  creeks,  but  with  good  reason.  Endangered  coho  salmon  and  other  species  living  in  the  creeks need an adequate flow of water to ensure their health and survival. In 1980, when the district last requested state permission to expand storage, the result was 15 years of studies and hearings prior to reaching a court-ordered agreement that required  us  to  release  more water  annually.  In  summary,  since  the  state  will  not  allow MMWD to divert and store more water, increasing the size of our reservoirs would not provide any benefit.

The  simplest  and  least  expensive  way  we  can  maximize  our  water  supply  is  through conservation, not by creating new or bigger reservoirs. That’s why we ask our customers to use water wisely and why we offer a variety of conservation programs and rebates to help. Thank you for doing your part!
Sep 10

Customer Conservation Success Story: TCSD Isn't Resting on Its Laurels

Posted to MMWD Blog: Think Blue Marin on September 10, 2015 at 11:11 AM by Ann Vallee

In response to MMWD's call to customers to help us achieve a 20% reduction in water use from June - February compared to 2013, the Tamalpais Community Services District (TCSD) has risen to the challenge … and then some! TCSD—which manages parks, recycling, sanitation, and other services for Tam Valley residents—isn't new to conservation. In fact, the district was one of MMWD's first "Customer Conservation Success Stories" when we launched the program in 2011. But in the face of California's ongoing drought, TCSD has continued looking for even more ways to save.

Like many customers committed to conservation, TCSD spends a lot of time studying where and how they use water. They started by cutting watering times with the awareness that they could fine tune as needed. After dialing back the irrigation, TCSD noticed many plants were getting by just fine with less water while others needed a little bump up. This approach let them see where they had been unknowingly overwatering and make adjustments for long-term water savings.

With a careful approach that included monitoring landscaping and reading six separate meters every week, they were able to reduce water use 46.7% for the June-July period compared to 2013. Just as importantly, their water costs dropped by 66%—over $2,000 for just one billing period! Says TCSD General Manager Jon Elam, "While the drought is a challenge, the overall benefits of taking the time to study your water use can pay off in dollars and water saved."

Are you an MMWD customer with a conservation success story to share? Tell us in the comments below, or email us and we may share your story on our blog.