Water woes prompt questions

Every week, Fourth Street East resident Maria Lobanovsky gets down on all fours and reads her water meter, pulls out a weathered piece of scratch paper and logs how much water she has used. She has been doing this since November 2012.

Not far down the street, neighbor Moira Watts has a similar log, and around the corner Sidney Scholl and Jo Anne Largent are also keeping a close watch on their water meters.

Lobanovsky and many of her neighbors are members of a committee of Sonoma citizens concerned about water bills and usage. The group was formed by Lobanovsky and two friends – Scott Pace and Marilyn Kelly. Pace and his wife live part-time in Redding and also maintain their family’s home on Larkin Drive. Kelly is a former superintendent of the Sonoma Valley Unified School District and lives part time in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and in a house on Fine Avenue. The three started comparing water bills and other water-related charges in 2012 and have serious concerns about bills they feel are erroneous and lack clear and specific information to easily understand charges.

The eastside residents are concerned about alarmingly high city water bills and over-the-top water usage readings with little or no explanation from the city as to the cause. Their experience has prompted questions about the transparency of Sonoma’s local government and its accountability for water system billing and record-keeping.

The national average water usage for a household of four people, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, is 400 gallons a day, or close to 12,000 gallons for one month. The Valley of the Moon Water District, which serves the greater Sonoma Valley and contracts water from the Sonoma County Water Agency, as does the City of Sonoma, estimates the average Valley household of four people uses close to 200,000 gallons of water in a year. Even with its highest-in-the-county per capita daily water use in 2008, Sonomans averaged 262 gallons per person per day. That expands to just over 16,000 gallons in two months – the city’s billing period.

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