Dry Times Ahead

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Here in Marin, we’re all watching the skies from November through April, since we depend upon rainfall for our water supply. After a few wet years, we officially moved into drought conditions this week, with reservoirs at historically low levels. While the promise of a late-season storm is very welcome, it’s nevertheless time for all of us to work on reducing water use to conserve what we have now, and to recognize that a changing climate may mean more dry years ahead.

Marin Art and Garden Center is fortunate to have a well on-site, which provides the majority of the water we use for irrigation. Using well water doesn’t mean we can ignore conservation measures, of course. Situated at one of the lowest points on the grounds, the well recaptures any runoff, which helps reduce water waste but does also make our commitment to using organic fertilizer and natural pest control all the more essential. 

The dry winter this year made it possible for us to find and fix leaks in our extensive network of underground irrigation; in rainy years, it can be hard to find a break and too muddy to make a repair. There will always be more leaks, though, so our garden team needs to be constantly vigilant. We check for water pooling anywhere, patches of damp soil, or higher than expected use on any line. If you have drip irrigation, you can do the same.

It has become common to replace thirsty lawns with more drought-tolerant plants better suited to our climate; our reliably rain-free season means lush grass needs a lot of water for almost half the year. While we have retained several grassy areas for events and enjoyment, your help is needed to keep them looking their best in these challenging conditions: please do not use blankets or chairs on the lawns, and leave strollers on the paved paths. It’s likely that we’ll all have to tolerate a little less verdant look as we cut back on watering.

There are so many wonderful, hardy plants that thrive in low water conditions, the glass is definitely half full even in a drought. California native plants are accustomed to long dry summers, and plants from Australia and South Africa are well adapted to our climate as well. Low-water doesn’t mean compromising on good looks or easy maintenance, either. Check out the new planters at the arbor for some inspiration; the Succulent Garden by The Studio is also a fantastic showplace for these dramatic varieties. And watch this space: the beds at the main entrance off Sir Francis Drake will soon be 

replanted with a selection of plants that have been chosen to flourish in this dry, exposed area so that visitors will get a much more welcoming sight as they arrive.

Indoors, drips and leaks are a fact of life in our historic buildings, with their equally vintage plumbing. Replacing older fixtures, especially toilets, with modern low-use versions is best over the long term, but it’s important to stop any drips as soon as you can. It’s surprisingly simple to fix many problems, a search on YouTube and a trip to the hardware store may be all you need to stop wasting water.

We are all responsible for conserving our shared water supply, and there are many resources to help you find ways to lower your water use so that more drastic measures aren’t needed. The Marin Municipal Water District is a good place to start; the East Bay MUD also has a collection of recorded webinars that cover some great conservation topics. If we each do our part, we can reduce the impact of these dry years for all of us.

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