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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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Jul 07


Posted on July 7, 2017 at 9:07 AM by Ann Vallee

by Charlene Burgi

Ken, a fellow MMWD retiree, and his wife Peggy came to visit me at the ranch in Lassen this week. When at MMWD, Ken worked on backflow prevention and recycled water. Our jobs would also often find us working together with customers to reduce water waste.

The memories of those days came flooding back to us as we picnicked with other friends in the local town park. As we sat around chatting, the automatic irrigation system came on nearby. The large expanse of lawn was being watered by rotary heads that threw their sprays out 30 feet. We wondered how long the controller was set before the spray reached our locale and we would be forced to evacuate.

irrigation with head-to-head coverage
Irrigation system with good head-to-head coverage … unlike the park where we picnicked.
Ken and I both smiled as memories of water audits and things to look for immediately presented themselves. Ken first noted the dry spots indicating areas where the spray heads would not reach. Immediate action was taken to move our chairs into those unirrigated fringes. I subconsciously noted the irrigation system lacked head-to-head coverage, meaning the lawn was not being watered uniformly. As a result, the controller would be forced to run longer to maintain the lush green. A call to our local public works department may be in order!

Our observations brought a bevy of questions from the local ranchers, who were curious about our landscaping backgrounds and the best practices that pertain to this type of irrigation. They were interested to learn how, within MMWD, we’re stretching our supply by recycling water for landscape irrigation and toilet flushing. And that many of our customers are re-using graywater via laundry-to-landscape systems to water ornamentals and fruit trees.

We were just as interested to learn about their water world. They spoke of water in terms of wheel lines, pivots, pumps and wells. They understood the importance of soil conditions, fertilizers, spray heads, and application as it pertained to hundreds of acres of crops. 

In many areas our water experiences overlapped. The ranchers knew about protecting water sources from contamination by using backflow devices. In addition, they used sensors in their fields that determined the dry spots that required more water—a concept that had a familiar ring to my experience with smart irrigation controllers. 

Sharing our experiences opened up new perspectives and a new appreciation for the many ways in which we all use water. Water is a precious commodity on many levels and in many lives. All of us left with a greater awareness of that fact.

Be aware of your own water usage this week as warm temperatures and long days mean evapotranspiration (ET) is at its peak. Water in the cool of the evening or early morn to reduce evaporation. (That’s why MMWD water conservation regulations prohibit irrigation between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m.) Mulch to hold the moisture in the soil and keep the roots cooler. Talk with others about how you each use and save water. What else can you do to raise your awareness?


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