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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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Jun 14

Why the Mt. Tamalpias Watershed is Beneficial to Me and Many Others

Posted on June 14, 2018 at 12:13 PM by Ann Vallee

by Maria Espinoza, San Rafael High School, MMWD 2018 Water Scholar

The Mount Tamalpais Watershed has helped many families receive clean water in their homes for decades, leading to a strong county. The Marin Municipal Water District has been treating everyone equally by giving everyone the same quality water and not discriminating against anyone. High Schoolers have gained the opportunity of being in involved in internships that enhance their learning, knowledge of career options, as well as their impact on their community. Many residents have created memories and experiences in the protected reservoirs bringing joy to our county.

Through the Mt. Tamalpais Watershed I have found a meaningful way to contribute to my community by working with Linking Individuals to their Natural Communities (L.I.N.C.).  As a member of  L.I.N.C. I went to the Marin Municipal Water District every week and we met in our initial meeting place, in front of all the work trucks and laborers from the water district. The metalsmiths, office workers and other members at the workplace were always very kind and upbeat about us being there. They offered us ice cubes for our water and advice about future careers. Through their advice on different careers I learned that I can have a positive effect on others and my environment by not only participating in physical labor but also by monitoring different ecological systems in an office space. The exposure to these potential careers inspired me to choose Environmental Studies as my desired major for each university I applied to.

The Watershed is very special to me because, through L.I.N.C., I met some amazing people and made promising friendships. The women that I met are passionate students who want to improve the environmental state of our community and encourage others to do the same, just like me. I value these relationships that I've made through L.I.N.C. very much. I never see the Marin Municipal Water District as just a building, I see it as a place where I have a new family and as a place for opportunity. Through benefiting my community and restoring different areas as a member of L.I.N.C. I now hope to meet even more new people who can work together to improve the biodiversity and cleanliness of our home, Marin.

The Mt. Tamalpais Watershed is special because I value having clean water and being treated equally. Many benefits come with having clean water. Our social classes in Marin can feel equal, because we all have the same local water source. This is important to me because the distribution of wealth is oddly spread out throughout Marin. I have noticed that some areas of Marin have less fundings in their schools or have unpleasant housing. This then makes the quality of life in specific areas of Marin seem less worthy, when really it's just the lack of caring from other Marin community members. For example, I live in the Canal and go to school where other people also live in the Canal and live elsewhere. Many students who do not live in the Canal repeat stereotypes and assume that the crime rates in the Canal are so high that the Canal is unlivable. What they do not understand is that the crimes can be rumors. Yes, the Canal has higher crime rates compared to any other neighborhood in Marin, but that doesn't mean foreigners who go in get mugged. Instead of going along with the stereotype of the Canal being an unsafe neighborhood, other Marin members should spend time knowing that most people who live in the Canal aren't criminals and they should give new places a chance to help improve the reputation. The fact that the watershed treated everyone equally and gave everyone access to clean water at a low cost is very special. The watershed does not see having clean water as a luxury, but as a necessity. I am glad to know that everyone in my community has clean water they can use and depend on.

Another reason to why the Mount Tamalpais watershed is very valuable is because they have been able to provide clean water for Marin for a little over one-hundred years. Unlike the water officials in Flint, Michigan the residents of Marin are able to feel secure in always having clean water. Not having clean water can break communities apart. Having contaminated water can lead to a negative effect on the people's health and the environment. When people begin to drink contaminated or polluted water, it drags their immune system down and causes them to be sick or even go to the emergency room. The environment also gets polluted if the water is undrinkable. People begin to buy many plastic water bottles in order to compensate with the loss of clean running water. This then leads to more plastic in landfills and even water damages in natural ecosystems of Marin. Marin is able to stay united and calm knowing that the reliability of our water is valued and prioritized.

My last reason to why I appreciate the Mt. Tam Watershed is because of the reservoirs it has created and protected for the satisfaction of others. I had my 9th birthday celebrated at Lake Lagunitas and I can still remember how happy I was with my family and closest friends. The lakes compliment the hills and Mt. Tam of Marin County. They create amazing views from up above and beautiful scenery from below. Residents of Marin value nature and care for the well being of Marin, therefore having beautiful lakes to hike next to is beneficial and enjoyable. Reservoirs can create different learning environments for children on field trips. By using the reservoirs they can learn about multiple biomes and biodiversity as well as how they can make a positive affect in their community.

The Mt. Tam Watershed has made it possible for many families to have security in their water and in their community. Thanks to the existence of the watershed, youth in Marin are able to apply to programs like Linking Individuals to their Natural Communities and create new relationships and passions that will positively impact their futures. The children in Marin can use the Watershed reservoirs as learning experiences and as birthday adventures. The Watershed allows for everyone, no matter the race, age, or gender to feel equally valued on the spectrum of who gets clean drinkable water. The residents of Marin are very fortunate to have such a dependable local source of water.

Maria EspinozaAbout Maria
Hello, my name is Maria Espinoza and I am going to Humboldt State University next year to major environmental studies and minor in dance. I want to go into environmental policy to make stronger laws that protect the environment. I love being outdoors with my friends and family. Summer of 2017 I got to participate in L.I.N.C. I am very grateful for the connections and experiences I made that summer. Thank you!

Jun 13

Rethinking the Landscape

Posted on June 13, 2018 at 3:16 PM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

There are moments when the perfect, well-thought-out design for landscaping just doesn’t fit into the picture anymore. Have you ever had those ponderings, or are you having them now? I know I am.

I had always intended to put in a no-mow/low-water-use lawn in the back of the house so the dogs could rollick in the lush green grass. Last year I went so far as to outline the area and flag where the MP rotators would be placed. But winter crept in before the trenches could be dug, and the project was put on hold.

What a blessing! The thought of adding lawn maintenance—even for a no-mow lawn—to the ongoing list of things to do this spring stopped me cold from proceeding. Why not install a natural meadow instead? Wildflowers, sedges, grasses, native plants, clovers and bulbs would be perfect. The meadow would need mowing just twice a year. It would require very little water compared to a formally trimmed lawn. With the right mix of plants, flowers could be enjoyed for months at a time. And the dogs would be just as happy lying in the cool meadow as on a lawn. Why didn’t I think of this before?

Our thought processes tend to hold onto old fashioned ideas. For example, would you consider planting lettuce in with your annual color during the summer months? Some lettuce leaves have amazingly beautiful bronze foliage. Or what about planting basil near a pathway so the fragrance wafts up to greet you as you brush by it? It’s odd that we don’t have a problem intermixing marigolds and other flowers in our veggie gardens to attract beneficial insects, but we shy away from adding edibles to other parts of the garden. 

creeping thyme
 Creeping thyme
Thinking outside of the proverbial box in the garden can open up new worlds including low-maintenance and low-water-use garden concepts, not to mention repurposed materials. I have seen rubble walls constructed out of broken concrete with empty wine bottles tucked into the crevices for added interest. Garden art can come in the form of an old door securely placed with a vine clambering upon it. I’ve seen stunning arbors constructed out of tree limbs from recent cuttings. (Be wary of using willow as they can and will sprout new trees!) Dry creek beds can give the illusion of flowing water when planted with various shades of blue low-water-using flowers such as Veronica liwanensis, Campanula portenschlagiana or Linum usitatissimum. Tuck in herbs such as woolly thyme or trailing rosemary for some added height and texture. A vertical garden of succulents of various shades and shapes can also capture your attention on a drab fence or wall. You will find many of these ideas are water-wise, but still add amazing color and delight the eye while reducing maintenance.

If this idea sounds intriguing but perhaps too much too soon, start with a very small corner of the garden to gain confidence with adding a bit of quirkiness to the landscape and venture out from there. Have some fun. Start a new trend! And a special happy Father’s Day to all those hardworking dads out there.
Jun 08

Did I Read that Correctly?

Posted on June 8, 2018 at 8:36 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

While doing some research for another project, I googled information regarding the best plants to use for erosion control. There was a bevy of websites to investigate, and I randomly picked one that ended up causing me great consternation.

As I read through the suggested list, one of the plants recommended to help hold a bank from eroding due to heavy rains or overhead irrigation was foxtail (Hordeum murinum). Admittedly this plant has an extremely dense matted root system that would hold the earth together during heavy storms. And by the looks of my place, it’s very easy to grow! However, this experience highlights the importance of considering all of a plant’s characteristics before planting—not to mention googling with caution.

dried foxtails
Dried foxtails
In my opinion, foxtail is a bane to society. Its seeds require their own line item in the household budget for trips to the veterinarian’s office for extraction from our furry friends. When it dries out, it increases the threat of ground wildland fires. Not to mention that it is a very stubborn, invasive weed.

If reading this website’s recommendation raised the hairs on the back of my neck, even worse was finding websites that sell it. I wondered why anyone would intentionally buy and plant this weed. As I gazed about the ranch and my feeble attempts to eradicate the little devils, it seemed like a case of more dollars than sense. 
As I further perused this particular website, I decided while this site might know about our California dry climates, it missed the mark regarding wildland fires and invasive plants. 

To complicate matters, there are other plants known by the common name of foxtail. These include Bromus madritensis (foxtail brome), Setaria (foxtail millets), and Hordeum jubatum (foxtail barley)—the last a native perennial grass. Perhaps these other foxtails are less a nuisance? All of this highlights the importance of finding good information.
I recommend checking your sources with Cal-IPC for invasive plants, FIRESafe MARIN for plants that are slow to burn, and your own common sense before proceeding with internet recommendations for any planting scheme. There are right plants for right places in all accounts—just be certain you’re using a reliable information source. A garden should be appreciated and enjoyed for it beauty, a place of respite from the whirlwind of life—not an avoidable task at hand.