Editorial: Public pool is not a threat to water supply

The Sonoma Valley is the only area in Sonoma County without a single public swimming pool, a deficiency that has weighed on the hearts, minds and purse strings of Valley residents since the high school pool was plowed under nearly a decade ago.

For many, learning to swim is not a luxury, a convenience or a privileged pastime – it is a fundamental human necessity, almost a birthright. The vast majority of us live in proximity to water and the ability to swim is a life-saving skill.

Now, a persistent group of community leaders have led us to the threshold of a new community pool, at the site of the old Paul’s Resort, strategically located in the heart of the Valley, just across Verano Avenue from the Boys & Girls Club of Sonoma Valley.

It’s a perfect spot, a perfect size, a perfect opportunity.

Escrow is set to close on the property purchase at the end of this month, and there is a push to raise the final $500,000 needed. It’s one of the worthiest investments we can think of in the future of our unique community. It will enhance our health and fitness, add immeasurably to the recreational resources available for young and old and fill a void in our collective lives that has existed for far too long.

It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and we must all participate in making it happen.

At the same time, however, we have begun hearing timid voices of dissent, arguing that in the midst of the worst drought in modern California history we can ill-afford to waste water on a non-essential facility like a public pool.

At one level, it’s an understandable if superficial fear. But let’s do the water math.

We are told that the average, daily per capita water consumption in Sonoma County is 160 gallons, meaning that every citizen in the county uses, on average, 160 gallons a day.

The figure for Sonoma is closer to 180 gallons. We are also being asked – almost but not quite mandated – to reduce that consumption by 20 percent, a per capita reduction of 32 gallons a day. For the estimated 40,000 residents of the Sonoma Valley, that daily reduction in water use would equal about 1,280,000 gallons.

The volume of a standard Olympic swimming pool is about 660,000 gallons.

You get the picture. In one day of reducing our water consumption to 128 gallons per person, we could fill two Olympic-sized pools. The City of Rohnert Park was at 92 gallons in 2010. In Singapore they get by on 40 gallons a day. Cutting 20 or 30 gallons a day is not a lifestyle-changing sacrifice. It’s a simple efficiency, and the website of the Sonoma County Water Agency has a water-savings calculator that can lead you to that goal in a few easy steps. Cutting your shower by 2 minutes saves 5 gallons. Fixing a leaky toilet can save 30 gallons. It’s not rocket science.

So let’s not let drought dementia cloud our minds. A municipal swimming pool is not a threat to our water supply – now or ever. If anything, a new pool can inspire us to be more efficient with our personal use, more committed to reaching a level of appropriate, sustainable water consumption.

And if you want to make a cash contribution to the new pool, that’s easy too. Just go to sonomasplash.com and click on donate.

– David Bolling