The Great Drought of ’22

Day 7 – The Cavalry arrives |  photo by Ernie Hubbard  |  post by Rich Kiisky

Water is something we all take pretty much for granted … until we don’t have it anymore.

That lesson came home to Commodore Marina residents once again last month, when water to the community of 25 humans, five dogs and four cats went kaput for seven days from October 12 to 18.

The weeklong drought began in the early afternoon of Wednesday, October 12, when (according to rumors circulating at the time) a Caltrans crew working near the Sausalito–Mill Valley path accidentally ruptured a pipe belonging to the Marin Municipal Water District (MMWD), which resulted in the shut off.

Calls were made by residents to neighbors and nearby businesses to determine who had water and who didn’t. Initial word had it that the whole area was shut down; later it was determined that only Commodore Center and Commodore Marina were impacted.

On Thursday, the MMWD was contacted, and a crew sent to inspect. According to investigators, the break in the waterline was on the “consumer side,” meaning it’s the marina’s problem. Once that had been determined, Commodore’s management team began looking around for vendors to do the repairs.

On Friday, a neighbor offered to share water he had stored in his hull as ballast to aid neighbors in flushing their toilets. That same generous neighbor also allowed the dock gardener to draw off enough of his liquid ballast to lightly water some of the many plants on the main dock. Another dock mate suggested using bay water for flushing toilets. Yet another quickly opined that bay water would stink up the toilet tank … something to do with, uh, bacteria, and the like.

Residents kept pressing management to come up with a solution. Later in the day, marina management informed us that there would be no water until Monday, October 17.

Realizing that meant at least two more days without water, several residents started gaming possible workarounds. About 15 years ago, we experienced a similar water outage, which lasted four days. After day one, we were able to connect several garden hoses together and supply water to the main dock and all 11 boats. That option was no longer available, as the Powers That Be had shut off access to the previous source of water.

Other suggested workarounds included renting a water truck to set up in the parking lot; another temp–fix suggestion was to ask the fire department to hook us up to one of those yellow hydrants you see here and there until the problem could be resolved. “Ah, that’s a negative, good buddy!”

On Saturday night, after a day of mostly bad news, we had a brief frisson!

According to a notice from management, water would now be available for one hour, only, between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. for whatever we chose to do with it. To make a long story shorter, water was delivered… but only for about 15 minutes and only at a trickle. It was, however, enough to get the toilets flushed and a few dishes washed.

One thought that dawned later than earlier (but better later than never) was the threat of fire. As occupiers of primarily wooden homes, we all know fire is the most serious threat to our existence. With this in mind, one resident called the fire department and asked what steps had been taken to combat a possible fire on the dock. We were assured that all necessary steps were being taken.

At another point, one of the neighbors contacted the fire department and asked if it would be possible to bring some water to the marina for drinking and washing, etc., and was politely told, “We don’t provide water. We fight fires with it!”

By now, you’re probably wondering, as we were, what the hell was taking the Powers That Be so long to fix the damn problem and get the water running again.

Well, as might be expected, it was a number of things, having to do mostly with management’s lack of experience with this type of situation, and bureaucratic red–tape. The marina owner is new. This was an as yet unexperienced situation. Management didn’t know quite what to do. Oh, and then there were the work permits.

Also, it turns out, the major obstacle to getting water running again was the multi–use path itself—that ribbon of pavement running between Sausalito and Mill Valley—which is subject to a heap of oversight by a variety of government agencies: city, county, state and federal government, to name a few.

For example, before any work can be done on the path (formerly a train track), it is necessary to obtain one or more permits from one or more government agencies. Only later did we find out that in the case of an emergency—which our situation clearly was—the necessary permits can be obtained after the fact, online.

Meanwhile, things dragged along, without water until Monday, October 17, when one of our more proactive residents called the Sausalito–Marin City Sanitation District, whose representative was not aware of the situation, but who swiftly swung into action.

It was after that the wheels of the machinery started turning.

The call to the Sausalito–Marin City Sanitation District was followed by an even more productive call to a county official who explained that the plumber who had been waiting for permits could begin work immediately and apply for a permit later.

Thus, on the morning of Tuesday, October 18, the areas on either side of the bike path were teeming with workers from the plumbing company, several trucks and a backhoe. Marina management was on the scene. Residents watched from the side.

According to one eyewitness, a horizontal tunnel was bored under the bike path, through which a tube was inserted, followed by a water line, which was then connected to the array of pipes, in the bushes, that supply water to the marina.

It took the better part of the day, but when 3:30 p.m. finally rolled around, Commodore Marina had water again. Some folks were so stunned by their new good fortune, it’s been reported, that they even waited an hour or more before taking a shower.

So what’s the big lesson from the Great Drought of ’22? Don’t be taking water for granted anymore.

Not for a while, anyway.