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Foothill Seminar Highlights Water Quality

On a recent trip to Petaluma I read in the Press Democrat about the Parducci Winery in Ukiah, now renamed the Mendocino Wine Company. Co-owner Tim Thornhill has designed and built wetlands to recycle the winery’s wastewater.

Imagine a three acre pond, lined with grasses and boulders, seeping slowly into a babbling brook only three inches deep. The area has quickly become a wildlife habitat and is teeming with ducks, turtles, geese, herons, owls, muskrats and even otters. The newly created wetlands made it possible to save four million gallons of water this year by using the recycled water for irrigation.

As I read about this unique and creative reuse of water, I thought about Tuolumne County and our ongoing water woes. We may have a welcome break from back-to-back drought years, but drought is a recurring situation, and wise water use is the name of our game. Then I wondered about the quality of our water.

This brings me back to the Foothill-Friendly Gardening Seminar and the Tuolumne County Resource Conservation District (TCRCD), which will have an information table at the local April 17th seminar. Created in 2005 when we voters approved Measure “L,” the Resource Conservation District covers a regular alphabet soup of natural resources. Check out their website for the full picture: www.TCRCD.org.

For our purposes I want to tell you about the Stream Teams. There are over 50 trained volunteers monitoring local streams that feed into the Tuolumne River. Each month, Stream Team volunteers test Sullivan, Curtis, Woods, Sonora, Twain Harte, Turnback, Garrote and Big Creeks for various physical, chemical and biological indicators of stream health. Many of the volunteers are students from Columbia College; some are Master Gardeners.

The Stream Team was created in 2006 as part of the adoption of the Tuolumne County Water Quality Plan. Results to date show that the two primary threats to the county’s water quality are sedimentation and bacterial contamination. Failing septic systems, animal manure and erosion are the suspected causes. Proper disposal of household pet waste is also recommended.

Individual gardening practices impact the water quality in our watershed. Minimal use of chemicals is recommended, as everything we apply eventually leaches into the nearest stream. During storms we can observe the runoff from parking surfaces stained with oil and other contaminants. Sprinkler run-off-urban drool-carries fertilizers and pesticides into storm drains that lead directly into the creeks mentioned above.

All this I learned from Corinne Munger, Watershed Coordinator of our Resource Conservation District and UCCE Tuolumne County Master Gardener. A trained biologist, she completed her undergraduate studies at UC Santa Cruz, and her masters at University of Alaska at Fairbanks.

If you would like more information about any of the Resource Conservation District projects, or to volunteer for the Stream Team, contact Corinne Munger at 533-8866 or email her at Corinne@TCRCD.org. Attend the Foothill-Friendly Gardening Seminar and meet Corinne in person.

Come hear about water quality from one of its foremost California researchers; Master Gardener Stream Team volunteers will be happy to talk with you about local water quality issues. The seminar $20 registration fee includes lunch, materials, keynote address and small group sessions. For more information, call 209-533-5695 or log on to http://tuolumnemg.ucdavis.edu

There are no babbling brooks or any other water features in master gardener Joan Bergsund’s garden, where she promotes use of natives and drought tolerant species.