Marin-Friendly Garden Walks: Saving Water and Energy

Marin-Friendly Garden Walks

Marin Friendly Garden Walks is a partnership between Marin Master Gardeners and Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD) to provide homeowners in the utility service area with information and advice on improving their irrigation and other water use practices to help conserve Marin’s precious water resources.
Garden Walkers have conducted nearly 2,000 walks in the 14 years of the program resulting in a measurable 5-7% reduction in the MMWD clients' water usage.  Our goal is provide 100 home garden consultations or garden walks a year. The measure below shows overall water savings, extrapolated from data generated from 2008-2021.  Water savings are presented in (millions) of cumulative gallons, compared to non-participating households of equivalent size in the same climate zones.  Our research shows that the per-household water savings last no less than two years.  We believe the savings probably last at least three years, which compounds the water savings shown below to approximately 28 million gallons (through 2021) over the lifetime of the program.
water meter
Documenting the home irrigation systems, during each of the garden walks, confirms that roughly one third have either irrigation leaks or are over watering. Working with these home owners to improve garden water use results in the majority of water savings achieved through the program. 
This program has won the Marin Conservation League Ted Wellman Water Award as well as recognition from the UC State Master Gardener organization. The Garden Walk program is expanding throughout the UC Master Gardener system and was the focus during the Statewide Master Gardener Conference recently.
Garden Walks don't just save water, they save energy.  On the whole, about one-quarter of the energy used in California is to pump water from place to place.  While that number is influenced to a large degree by the cost to pump water to Southern California, Marin county does have to pump water between various reservoirs, as no single reservoir has enough water to satisfy local demand.  In addition, about one quarter of the water used in Marin County comes from the Russian River, which also requires pumping.
Finally, research work done by University of California researcher Darren Haver has shown that the presence of home landscape irrigation runoff is as great a predictor of pesticide contamination of local waterways as the amount of pesticide applied to the property.  Thus, by carefully managing our landscape water use, we're not just saving water.  We're saving money and electrical power, and finally, we're making important strides toward not contaminating the local water systems we all depend on.
For more information, visit the Marin-Friendly Garden Walks website