Vignette 249 > Drought

Nicasio Reservoir

In 1973, the MMWD Board pondered where and how to secure water to meet the demands of an increasing population. Their plan to pipe in Russian River water failed at the polls. It was therefore decided to impose a temporary moratorium on new water hookups. In 1975, just as the moratorium was about to expire, Marin entered its greatest water crisis in modern times. For two consecutive winters, 1975-76 and 1976-77, rainfall in MMWD’s watershed was below 20 inches, less than half of normal. Water rationing ordinances affected 42,000 MMWD customers. Family members were encouraged to shower together and to reduce the frequency of toilet flushing. Lawns died. A pipeline was installed on the upper deck of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, where the bicycle path is now, to bring water from the East Bay to Marin. Pumps were installed at Phoenix Lake, not normally a water source. The very wet winter of 1977-78 with 67 inches of rain eased the crisis. In the post-drought years, MMWD increased storage capacity by raising the Kent Lake dam, and adding the new Soulajouile Reservoir. In 2005, MMWD constructed a desalination pilot plant near Point San Quentin to test the possibility of using San Pablo Bay as a water source.