Retired Zone 7 general manager dies at 86

Mun Mar led agency through drought, architect of Chain of Lakes project

Mun Mar, who served as general manager of the Zone 7 Water Agency for 33 years until retiring in 1990, died May 6 at the age of 86.

Under Mar's leadership, the Del Valle Water Treatment Plant was constructed, to complement the existing plant at Patterson Pass, and he is also credited as being the architect of the ongoing "Chain of Lakes" project, a way to replenish the underlying groundwater basin by capturing storm runoff in depleted quarry sites.

"Mun Mar's legacy is Zone 7," current Zone 7 Director Sandy Figuers told the Weekly through an email. "When he began working for Zone 7, the groundwater basin was severely depleted, flooding was a problem, the population was growing, and there was no water to supply them."

"Under his watch, treatment plants were constructed, Del Valle dam was built, the valley was connected to the State Water Project, the groundwater basin was recharged, a valley-wide water supply distribution system was built, and a flood control canal system was built," Figuers added. "He was soft spoken, a gentleman and a master of bureaucracy."

Mar immigrated to the United States from China at the age of 7, going on to graduate from Salinas High School and earn a civil engineering degree from University of California at Berkeley.

He began his career as an engineer for Zone 7's parent entity the Alameda County Flood Control and Water Conservation District in 1958. In the late '60s, he became general manager of the Zone 7, which is responsible for providing flood control and water resources to the Livermore-Amador Valley.

"He was a warm, sweet man who touched many of us in the business," said Jill Duerig, who recently retired as Zone 7 general manager. "I considered him a mentor as a young engineer at Alameda County Water District."

"He ended up building the zone," added Richard Karn, Zone 7's first engineer-manager, in the agency's 60-year memorial booklet. "I may have created it, but he's the man who really built it into what it is today."

Zone 7 staff noted too that Mar carried the agency through the drought of the 1970s.

In his online obituary, Mar's family remembered him for his "genuine warmth, diplomacy, knack for gathering people, fun on the golf course, and being a Chinese foodie before it was popular."

A memorial celebration for Mar will be held Sunday, June 3 at 2 p.m. at Bridges Community Church, 505 Driscoll Road in Fremont. In place of flowers, donations can be made in his honor to Dallas Theological Seminary ( or to the American Cancer Society (, according to the family.

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