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Bay Friendly Water Walks Teach Public to Conserve

The Issue

Marin County, located just north of San Francisco over the Golden Gate Bridge, has limited water resources, like much of California. Marin County relies on the rainwater stored in its seven reservoirs, supplemented by water piped from the Russian River, to meet the water needs of its residents. After two years of less-than-average rainfall, Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) had a pressing need to encourage Marin County residents to conserve water.

What Has ANR Done?

Through an innovative partnership between the UCCE Marin Master Gardeners and MMWD, homeowners in the MMWD service area are receiving information and advice on improving their irrigation practices to help conserve water. Marin Master Gardeners began offering “Bay Friendly Water Walks” after special training from MMWD conservation specialists. A homeowner may request a home visit and during the on-site consultation the master gardeners walk through the garden or yard (hence the description "water walk")and advise the home gardener on Bay Friendly gardening practices, such as water-efficient irrigation, healthy soil management and good plant choices. “This new service combines the gardening expertise of the Master Gardeners with the technical aplomb of the MMWD,” said Ellie Rilla, UCCE Marin director. “Now Marin gardeners can improve the health of their gardens — not to mention our bay and our county - by assuring that they’re using as little of California’s precious water as possible.” The program is publicized at farmers markets, through presentations at garden clubs and libraries, at commercial sites, and in water bills.

The Payoff

Conserving water one home at a time

During 2008, Marin Master Gardener volunteers conducted over 160 client visits. The program was so successful that it has been continued for 2009. The volunteers of the “Bay Friendly Water Walk” recently received the “Ted Wellman Water Award” for protecting and preserving water resources in Marin County and the state from the Marin Conservation League.

Clientele Testimonial

“The Master Gardeners were very knowledgeable. We had just installed an irrigation system and native plants, but hadn’t finished. They made good recommendations for additional plants and cautioned us against over watering. They knew their stuff.” -- The Curtis Family, San Rafael


Supporting Unit: Marin County

Steven Swain, Environmental Horticulture Advisor, UCCE Marin County, (415) 499-4204, svswain@ucdavis.edu