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Drought-Stricken Marin Putting Into Place Tough Water Use Restrictions

KENTFIELD (KPIX) -- As another drought grips the San Francisco Bay Area, Marin County has become the first local municipality to adopt tough new water use restrictions as local reservoir levels continue to drop to alarming levels.

Unlike other counties, Marin depends only on reservoirs located in the coastal range and not from the Sierra for its water supply. With only 20 inches of rainfall last year, 2020 marked the second-driest year in 90 years for the county.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, the county is currently locked into moderate drought conditions which will likely worsen as the year progresses. Even showers in the weekend forecast will not bring enough relief to the parched conditions.

"At this point it doesn`t appear to be a big storm by any means, but much needed rainfall will be possible," the National Weather Service said.

On Tuesday night, the Marin Municipal Water District -- which provides water to Southern and Central Marin -- voted to put in the tough water-use standards starting May 1.

At that time, nearly 200,000 residents will be restricted to watering their lawns just one day a week. Backyard pools will not refilled and they will no longer be able to wash their cars at home. First-time violators will get warnings, but any further violations will result in fines ranging from $25 to $250.

The ordinance also restricts golf courses to watering tees and greens, but those provisions would not take effect until May 20.

"Our goal is to reduce our overall districtwide water use by 40 percent," said Cynthia Koehler, president of Marin Water's board of directors. "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."

For months, the agency has been asking people to conserve water voluntarily. But that has not been enough as millions of gallons continue to be pumped out the reservoirs with no relief coming from Mother Nature.

"I mean this looks like the lowest I've ever seen it," said San Anselmo resident David Franzoia, who was hiking Tuesday near Phoenix Lake in Kentfield.

Lake Lagunitas is one of the seven reservoirs the county gets water from. It normally gets more than 50 inches of rain per year. This season, it's gotten less than half that amount.

"It's the driest year in 90 years. It's not quite record-breaking but we've had an incredibly low amount of rain. You just have to walk around the watershed to see what the situation is so," said WaterNow Alliance Director and MMWD Board President Cynthia Koehler.

Reservoir storage, according to the Marin Municipal Water District on Tuesday, was at 52 percent capacity. Last year it was at 89 percent, prompting the mandatory rules.

"People need to conserve and use what's needed instead of the desires fulfilling your life, what you need and going from that," said San Anselmo Resident Crystal Hatzimichael.

"I think it's ridiculous. People are suffering enough right now with this pandemic and all these mask rules and this and that," said Franzoia.

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