Agriculture, Stewardship

Making a Real Difference in Water Resilience, Now

September 13, 2021

California’s unprecedented drought is putting an incredible strain on Marin’s ranchers and farmers.

With established springs, wells and streams drying up, ranchers and farmers are scrambling to provide their animals, specialty crops and vines with enough water to survive. Trucked-in water can help, but only if there’s a way to store large quantities of it — and route it efficiently to where it’s needed.

As part of coordinated efforts by several local organizations to address this crisis, MALT launched our Drought Resilience & Water Security (DRAWS) initiative in April of this year to help bring needed relief. DRAWS projects focus on improving existing water sources, as well as on collecting, storing, distributing and using water more efficiently. As ranchers and farmers work to build more resilient and sustainable water infrastructure, the DRAWS initiative sets a longer-term path to the future as it delivers emergency relief.

“For many of the ranchers and farmers we work with, the projects they’re implementing with help from the DRAWS initiative can make the difference between surviving the current drought crisis and losing their businesses altogether,” said Eric Rubenstahl, MALT’s stewardship program manager — easements.

Unfortunately, we’ll all need to deal with this drought and its repercussions for a long time. Increasing drought resilience on Marin’s working landscape will require creative solutions from numerous resources. Thanks to our supporters, we’re grateful to be able to help our local ranchers and farmers weather this crisis.

DRAWS In Action

MALT’s emergency Drought Resilience & Water Security initiative is already helping many Marin farmers and ranchers, whether they are protected by a MALT easement or not, address the critical water shortages resulting from California’s historic drought. Here are two impactful projects that DRAWS grants are supporting.

Beef cattle at Lazy R Ranch.

Lazy R Ranch

Operated by the Righetti family since the 1940s, and located in a very dry part of the county near Two Rock, Lazy R Ranch provides pasture land for beef cattle. The DRAWS initiative is helping to fund an extensive rain catchment, water storage and water distribution project at the ranch, which is not protected by a MALT easement.

Gutters installed on two barns — with a combined roof area of approximately 4,500 square feet — collect water as rainfall and fog drip, then pipe it to a storage tank with a 5,000-gallon capacity. The tank also stores water delivered by trucks, which can offload up to 5,000 gallons at a time.

Piping from the storage tank delivers water to a pond. A local engineer who works for the Marin RCD, a MALT partner, calculated that at full capacity, and during an average rain year, the pond could supply water for the herd of about 30 cattle for a full year. Both the storage tank and the pond will be equipped to gravity-feed cool, clean drinking water for the cows once the water level has dropped a certain amount and the float is triggered. 

Dairy cows at Bivalve Dairy.

Bivalve Dairy

Bivalve Dairy, owned and operated by John Taylor and his wife, Karen Bianchini, is an organic, pasture-based grazing operation. It is located near Point Reyes Station on the 700+ acre Bianchini Ranch, which has been under a MALT easement since 2018. John and Karen are known for melding old-style farming methods with 21st century technology and marketing.

Due to the severe drought conditions and a limited supply of rain runoff water in retention ponds, the dairy requires multiple water sources, including springs, ponds and wells. Bivalve Dairy is using DRAWS grant funding to extend its existing water infrastructure.

New PVC piping and a new 3,000 gallon tank tie into existing water storage, water lines and a well. A solar pump in the new tank lifts water to the top of a hill, where it can gravity feed through pipes to troughs below. The additional water will help support the dairy’s Holstein herd, which currently numbers about 150 milking cows and 250 young-stock animals ranging from newborn calves to pregnant heifers.

Read about two other DRAWS projects that are happening just down the road!

Learn more about our DRAWS initiative and how you can help support these projects!