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With Reservoir Levels Low, Mandatory Water Restrictions Loom For Marin Residents

KENTFIELD (KPIX) -- Mandatory water restrictions are looming for nearly 200,000 Marin County residents. The Marin Municipal Water District is set to make the decision Tuesday evening.

The water board will likely approve the restrictions that would take effect in days. For months, the agency has been asking people to conserve water voluntarily, but starting May 1, it would be mandatory, with reservoir levels so low.

"I mean this looks like the lowest I've ever seen it," said San Anselmo resident David Franzoia, who was hiking 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 likely mandatory rules.

Among them, watering lawns would be limited to once a week, no re-filling pools, and no home car washes. First-time violators would get warnings, then fines of $25 and up to $250 for multiple infractions.

"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.

Unlike other districts, the Marin agency draws most of its water from seven local reservoirs, and doesn't rely on state or federal water sources, making mandatory rules an urgent matter.

The official vote by the board is expected Tuesday evening.

If approved, it would be the first time in more than 30 years, this area would be under mandatory conservation rules.

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