Sustainable Mill Valley

Water Supply and Conservation Survey Responses

The Issue
MMWD foresees future supply reductions and increases in demand that may require building an expensive and energy intensive desalination plant or pipeline. What is our local responsibility to address our own water use and our community’s contribution to increasing demand? What do you think the City’s leadership role should be with respect to water conservation?
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Maureen Parton

Individual residents and the community of residents in Mill Valley have a significant role to play in the use of water resources. We need to make a strong individual and collective commitment to the goal of conservation of water, a precious resource.

The City should lead the way in the conservation of water by adopting policies and programs for water and energy conservation that encourage, incentivize and communicate this urgent need to reduce water consumption by residents, businesses and by the city departments themselves. I’d like to see the lead by example. The City can do that by assessing its internal water and energy use by its own departments and services. With a baseline reading of current use, we can map out and target reductions and then monitor progress toward meeting goals.

One example for leadership in water conservation would be for the City to establish a demonstration garden on City property, featuring native, low-water plants and vegetation showcasing best practices in mulching, soil amendment, plant choice and irrigation. .Of all cities in the county, the city of Mill Valley posts the largest percentage increase in water demand over the summer. Primarily, this is due to cultivated gardens that use large amounts of water during the dry summer months. We must find ways to encourage the use of more appropriate, native vegetation that thrives under low water conditions. A demonstration garden can educate and inspire homeowners to save water and plant appropriately. The City does have design review guidelines for new homes and significant remodels that require water conservation for landscape irrigation meet Marin Municipal Water District specifications and that landscape plantings be native species that use less water. It would be instructive to have a low-water use garden in the city for planning staff and commissioners to refer applicants looking for inspiration in meeting these guidelines. Documentation of water savings at a demonstration garden would alos help spur homeowners to adopt bay-friendly gardening practices that conserve water and save money.

The most powerful method for spurring behavior change comes when we have a personal relationship with our use of a resource that makes manifest our own responsibility to it. The County of Marin, fairly quickly, achieved record setting waste diversion goals after we started sorting our own trash to extract the recyclable materials. Water meters on the outside of homes seem to be giving meaningful metrics only to the meter reader. Bills for water use on a periodic basis allow comparisons only after the fact.

We should employ real-time ambient metrics to document both water usage, shortages and reminders to use less. The energy orb is a globe that sits on a desktop and flashes red when peak hours signal when power costs more. As a friend and energy expert opined recently, it could be as simple as a fountain in the City running high (see the reward here) when conservation goals are met and low (spurring us onto greater conservation) when we are missing the mark.

Ken Wachtel

The City of Mill Valley, as well as its residents, have a tremendous responsibility to reduce our demand for and use of water and the energy necessary to provide it. Again, the City Council needs to lead by education, demonstration and example.

Primary responsibility for water conservation is with the individual. In our home, we have native drought resistant landscaping. We have no sprinklers or irrigation of any kind. We have water flow restrictors on all showers and low-flow toilets. Our water usage always ranks in the lowest percentile.

Due to climate disruption, we need to do as much as possible to reduce the demand for water. Treating and pumping water is very energy intensive. It is imperative that we reduce our energy and water use. Because the largest use, by far, for water is landscaping, we can and should strongly promote the use of native and other low water use and fire-safe plants for landscaping not only on City property, but, as we do in our home, on private property throughout the City.

Education is the key and the City is in an excellent position to communicate crucial water conservation information and procedures to our community. The City should set the example. We can collaborate with the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) on educational workshops, and tours of low water landscapes. Planning guidelines should reflect the importance of native drought resistant landscaping and should set as a presumption that such landscaping should be used. The City can recognize leaders in water conservation with visible awards to homeowners who install low water use landscaping. We should also work collaboratively with MMWD on programs and incentives to reduce in-home water use.

Stephanie Moulton-Peters

Water conservation was instilled in me as a child growing up in Southern California where my father constantly checked for dripping faucets (and lights left shining) and called us on the carpet for these wasteful offenses! You never get over that kind of early training, and now, my family is on a “conservation program" as well. Our water usage consistently falls within the lowest tier of MMWD usage charts. We are careful with our water usage inside the home and outside and we have looked into grey water recycling for the garden and rainwater collection systems. I know that efficient water use is the result of many small decisions made each day that add up to big savings and I am committed to doing this every day.

Working with Marin Municipal Water District, the City must model the behavior it wishes to see in its citizenry with regard to the conservation of water and all resources. The City must look for ways to make it easy and desirable for citizens to increase water conservation in their homes. I have spoken with MMWD Board President Cynthia Kohler and have pledged to work with her and the Board to implement water conservation strategies in the City and to incent citizens to do the same. I also intend to work with MMWD and the Outdoor Art Club to promote water efficient, draught tolerant, and fire safe gardens at future OAC Garden Tours.

George Gordon

I pay close attention to the amount of water that I use. It is a simple process of doing a full load of wash instead of a number of small ones, using drip systems for irrigation and trying to have draught resistant plants in the garden. I have planted three additional trees in my back yard to add to the cooling during the summer months.

If water is to be the deciding factor when adding a structure, we might consider making it a zero sum approach. If your new structure will add to the water use, you should be responsible for establishing water conservation programs that provide a large portion of what you will consume.

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Last updated: 10/12/07