County of Marin - News Releases - Drought

For Immediate Release
May 13, 2021

Supervisors to Consider Drought Emergency

Water districts in Marin to provide update on conditions and conservation

San Rafael, CA – The Marin County Board of Supervisors has invited representatives from the county’s two largest water districts to provide a public update about local drought conditions during its May 18 meeting. During the session, the Board also will consider declaring a local emergency and imminent threat of disaster.

Marin Water, the municipal water district serving the majority of water customers in Marin County, will discuss the drought not long after the meeting begins online at 9 a.m. along with an official from the North Marin Water District (NMWD), which serves Novato and some communities in West Marin. Both districts have declared water shortage emergencies and enacted mandatory conservation measures.

Cattle walk in a pasture with ranch buildings in the background.In the rural areas of West Marin, ranchers have been importing water by truck to keep their animals alive.

On May 10, Governor Gavin Newsom expanded California’s drought emergency to 41 out of 58 counties. Marin is not on the list, although Sonoma County – an important source of water for Marin customers – has been under a state of emergency since April 21 because of dry conditions within the Russian River watershed.

In the rural areas of West Marin, ranchers have been importing water by truck to keep their animals alive. With far less vegetation for grazing because of the drought, animals are also eating imported feed shipped from other states at high costs to the ranchers. Dry conditions are also degrading water quality, hurting commercial fisheries and biodiversity, and will impact residents in coming weeks and months as conservation measures are enacted.

“It is important that our community hear directly from our largest water agencies about Marin’s current drought conditions,” said Supervisor Dennis Rodoni, the Board President and a former NMWD Board member. “This drought will soon begin to impact our daily lives and we must prepare accordingly.”

Marin Water, established in 1912, serves more than 191,000 customers in central and southern Marin. About 75% of its water supply comes from reservoirs on Mount Tamalpais and in West Marin, with the remaining supply from the Russian River watershed.

Formed in 1948, NWMD serves a customer base of about 64,000 in and around Novato, Point Reyes Station, Olema, Bear Valley, Inverness Park, and Paradise Ranch Estates. About 75% of NWMD’s Novato Service Area water comes from the Russian River and the remainder from Stafford Lake, a reservoir just west of the Novato city limits.

Marin Water’s board of directors recently voted to limit spray irrigation to two days per week, drip irrigation to three days per week, and to require swimming pool covers. The district was also the first in the region to adopt mandatory restrictions in April. Details are on its water rules webpage.

NMWD’s board recently requested a 20% voluntary reduction in customer water use from May 1 through June 30 and adopted an amended emergency water conservation ordinance that mandates a 20% reduction from July 1 through November 1, which is enforced with strict water waste and non-essential water use prohibitions including a limit on overhead irrigation to three days per week. NMWD details are on its water rules webpage.

Newsom is proposing a $5.1 billion package of immediate drought response and long-term water resilience investments to address immediate emergency needs, build regional capacity to endure drought and safeguard water supplies for communities, the economy, and the environment. But it is not clear if the package will include relief for agricultural producers in Marin. 

The Board of Supervisors meeting starts at 9 a.m., and the drought agenda item is slated to be heard after open time for public expression, a COVID-19 update, and several other matters. Viewers can watch on the County’s website and learn how to participate in the session. In addition, viewers can watch the Community Media Center of Marin’s webcast, and Comcast and AT&T U-Verse subscribers can watch on Channel 27.

For disability accommodations, please phone (415) 473-6358 (voice), CA Relay 711, or e-mail the Digital Access staff at least five business days in advance of the event. The County will do its best to fulfill requests received with less than five business days’ notice. Copies of documents are available in alternative formats, upon request.


Daniel Eilerman
Assistant County Administrator
County Administrator's Office

3501 Civic Center Drive
Suite 325
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7364
Email: Daniel Eilerman
County Administrator website