'Miracle March' a blessing for Marin water supply

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For a water district that relies almost entirely on rain, the weather of this week and last, is a gift.   

"We'll take any rain, any day," said Lon Peterson, director of conservation and communication for the Marin Municipal Water District. The agency supplies drinking water to southern and central Marin. 

About one-quarter of that supply is imported from the Russian River in Sonoma County.
But the bulk is rainwater captured on 21,500 acres of watershed in seven reservoirs on Mt Tamalpais and in west Marin. 

"Some of our lakes spill into each other. Lagunitas spills into Bon Tempe, Bon Tempe spills into Alpine, and Alpine spills into Kent Lake," said Peterson.  

Thanks to so much moisture in March, a few lakes, Lagunitas and Phoenix, are already spilling over.  

"This year had been a little scary with the dryness," said hiker Rebecca Hagan, as darkness fell at Phoenix Lake. 

"I'm a teacher, and we come to the lakes often, and last year it was absolutely flowing, but this year there was nothing, so this is going to be great."  

Hagan's hiking companion was equally thrilled. 
"I love it, because my mom had me coming up here when I was just one year old, " said Dean Holter, "so to see this much rain in March, and to see the lake overflowing, is great." 

As promising as it may be, though, it's not the deluge of last year. 
"Last year we had 96 inches of rain, this year we're at 28 inches of rain," explained Peterson, "so because of the surplus from last year, we're doing all right, but definitely need some more water."  

Eight inches of Marin rainfall would be typical in February; instead one inch fell. 

So far this month, seven inches, with another ten days to go.

Still, those who visit Mt. Tam are gratified to see it so lush and healthy. 

"I just love the lakes, I've probably been coming up here since I was seven or eight years old," said college student  Patrick Warner, fishing with a college buddy while home in San Anselmo for spring break. 

"It definitely looks better than last time I was home in December," said Warner, " and it's just so beautiful up here." 

Marin Municipal Water has 29 billion gallons of stored capacity, about two years worth, a pretty good insurance policy against drought. 

But when most of the supply is rain, no snow pack? 

"Conservation is always the watchword," said Peterson, "and that never changes."