Bay Area drought

Marin Water Officials Approve Mandatory Use Restrictions for 195,000

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With drought conditions likely for another year, mandatory restrictions on water use were unanimously approved Tuesday by the Marin Municipal Water District board, and more restrictions may be enacted soon.

The 195,000 people in southern and central Marin County served by the district are prohibited from non-essential uses such as washing vehicles at home, power-washing homes and businesses, flooding gutters, watering grass on public medians and using potable water for dust control, sewer flushing and street cleaning.

According to the district, mandatory restrictions are triggered when reservoir levels drop to 40,000 acre-feet by April 1. Levels are currently at slightly more than 41,000 acre-feet with the driest months still ahead.

The district will discuss more irrigation restrictions in two weeks, officials said.

Last year was the second-driest on record, with only 20 inches of rainfall, and followed a dry year in 2019.

The district declared a drought in mid-February and launched a campaign asking customers to conserve water voluntarily.

"Persistent warm, dry weather lowered Marin Water's reservoir storage capacity to 52 percent -- the lowest level in nearly 40 years. Storage levels for this time of year are typically more than 90 percent," the district said.

"Our goal is to reduce our overall districtwide water use by 40 percent," said Cynthia Koehler, president of the district board. "Our community has been through droughts before, and they have always risen to the challenge. Our most affordable reservoir of opportunity to address drought and grow our climate resilience is outdoor water use, which doubles during the summer months. Marin is a community that pulls together and knows how to conserve, and I have confidence that we will reach our water use reduction goal."

The district said it would delay enforcement of restrictions until May 1 to allow customers time to prepare.

The district said it plans to focus on education to encourage customers to follow the rules. A first violation would result in a written warning, with subsequent violations subject to a $250 fine.

The district offers water conservation programs and incentives that include rebates for replacing lawns with drought-resistant landscaping, discounts on graywater kits that reuse water for irrigation, and free water-efficient nozzles, showerheads, and faucet aerators.

"Our priority is to partner with the community around building greater water use efficiency now and in the future," Koehler said. "Water is a limited resource and Marin Water will be providing a range of programs and incentives to support our residential, business and institutional customers with opportunities to conserve."

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