Taking Stock of the Drought and Water Restrictions    

A View of the Mt. Tam Watershed

As the drought stretches into another year, water restrictions remain in place for Marin and Sonoma County. Despite a promising start to the rainy season in the fall, a historic dry January and February leave many water supplies severely constrained. Here is a look at some of the current water restrictions and their impact on new landscape projects.

Sonoma County

Petaluma: The City gets its water from Sonoma County Water Agency, and has set up restrictions on outdoor watering. With the city’s stage 4 restrictions currently irrigation is only allowed Tuesday and Saturday evenings with an objective to reduce water use by 30%. Additionally, and important for new landscape installs, no planting is allowed for those customers that use municipal water supplies. We had several projects where we needed to defer plantings until the restrictions were lifted. Read more on the City of Petaluma Drought Page 

Santa Rosa: Has also established a 20% use reduction goal. There are no restrictions on watering days, other than night time watering is required. There are no restrictions on new plantings. More at the City of Santa Rosa Drought Page

Marin County

Novato: Novato is separate from Southern Marin County and is served by North Marin Water District. Current restrictions were established in October. Watering is only allowed 3 days per week, with a conservation goal of 20% reduction. Hand watering and drip irrigation is currently exempt. There is no specific prohibition on new plantings. However new plantings would need to establish under the required restrictions and any future conservation requirements, which are likely. Read more at North Marin Water District. NMWD also has surcharges in place to encourage conservation- more here

Southern Marin: San Rafael to Sausalito are served by Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD). MMWD is an interesting case, as it’s reservoirs empty first and fill first, with high rainfall events in the Mt. Tamalpais watershed. Restrictions were loosened after the districts reservoirs filled to near capacity. Watering is allowed two days per week (not assigned). More information at MMWD

Unless we have a miracle end of March and April, storage conditions will only get worse and restrictions will increase. Adaptive strategies like removing turf, high water use plants, overhead irrigation, and other higher water use elements are critical to meeting the required water conservation measures. A water audit of use per irrigation zone in a great way to get an idea of how much water each area of your garden uses. Updating your controller to a weather adaptive smart controller that you can review, turn on, and edit via smart phone and computer is another great tool. Synthetic turf, very low and low water use plants, and native plants are key to creating successful landscape installations in what will be a drier and hotter California.