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Water agency: ‘Drought is on’

SUTTONFIELD LAKE, on the Sonoma Developmental Center campus, is showing the effects of a lack of rain. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

SUTTONFIELD LAKE, on the Sonoma Developmental Center campus, is showing the effects of a lack of rain. Robbi Pengelly/Index-Tribune

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In response to dry weather, low reservoir storage levels and drought-like conditions, a group of nine local water utilities is kicking off a unique winter water conservation campaign. The partnership has one simple message: The drought is on. Turn water off.

The Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership, which includes the Sonoma County Water Agency and the cities of Cotati, Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, Sonoma, Windsor, and the North Marin, Valley of the Moon, and Marin water districts, hopes to increase water conservation through public outreach and water-saving tips.

“Last year was one of the driest years Sonoma County has seen in 120 years,” SCWA spokesman Brad Sherwood said. No significant rainfall is forecast through mid-January, he explained, leaving local water supply reservoirs at record lows, including the region’s two largest reservoirs, Lake Mendocino and Lake Sonoma. Toward the end of 2013, Lake Mendocino and its low levels became a particular concern for the agency, so much so that SCWA asked the State Water Resources Control Board to allow for reduced flows in the upper Russian River to preserve water storage during the drought.

Mendocino County’s Board of Supervisors declared a drought on Tuesday, Jan. 7, hoping to receive state funds and assistance developing a drought plan. Cities like Ukiah and Hopland use water from SCWA-managed Lake Mendocino, which is at a record low. Meanwhile, the California Department of Water Resources announced that Gov. Jerry Brown, who convened a drought assessment task force late last year, is considering declaring statewide drought as early as next month.

Sonoma Department of Public Works Director and City Engineer Dan Takasugi said the city is addressing drought conditions on a conservation front with water savings rebates and public outreach through the Sonoma-Marin Water Saving Partnership.

“In addition to those conservation measures,” Takasugi said, “we are taking extra care to watch for water waste and are closely monitoring the potential for water leakage in the city’s system.” He added the city would also cut back on parks irrigation, which will soon be noticeable as areas of dry turf appear.

The campaign, which augments the group’s existing conservation efforts, will include a series of advertisements with outdoor water conservation tips, which will rotate in local and regional publications, radio stations and online media. The advertisements take a lighthearted approach to prompting community members to conserve. One pictures a broom being pushed across the sand with the tagline, “The official hose of 2014.” Another shows a hand dripping water onto a plant with an eyedropper and reads,” “The official drip irrigation of 2014.”

Water agency Director Efren Carrillo said, “The drought is on. Turning your water off and having a dirty car is completely acceptable and shows that you are doing your part.”

“We hope this campaign will create a buzz in the local coffee shops and get our community to not only talk about saving water, but take action by following some easy water saving tips,” said Jake Mackenzie, Rohnert Park Councilmember and chair of the Water Advisory Committee. “Every drop of water matters at this point.”

For more information about conservation programs and water-saving tips, go to wateroff.org. To find out more on the drought, visit sonomacountywater.org/current-water-supply-levels.

  • The Village Idiot

    This water conservation thing won’t effect vineyards owned by corporate wineries and the 1%, who will still be able to pump all the water they need out of the ground. It probably won’t stop new wineries from being approved in the Valley, since they probably won’t use much water. It probably won’t stop forests from being bulldozed for more vineyards either, since everyone knows those trees just suck up lots of water that could be used for grapes. Fortunately for the tourists, it won’t stop even more wine tasting rooms from being OK on the Plaza, and certainly not big new hotels. None of those things use water.
    But the 99% better do their part & get out the chamber pots & start recycling their pee, because they can be sure that Trickle Down economics will apply to water conservation, too. Literally.

    • Phineas Worthington

      Underwater supplies can be managed better within the context of private markets that include that resource using the model that already exists with underground resources in the oil industry.

      • Chris Scott

        This is really unfortunate.

      • Chris Scott

        This is a perfect example of how oil and water don’t mix.

        • Phineas Worthington

          Though only one model is working effectively, the private model.

  • Fred Allebach

    Growth and resource depletion are a vicious cycle, a regressive situation where the little guy subsidizes the big guys, just like with taxes and wages. Why would I want to save water so someone else can have a hobby vineyard or for a new development in Rohnert Park? I want to conserve for environmental water, when does that happen? The powers that be need to state an explicit rationale about why growth and resource depletion is OK, how is what some see as vicious virtuous? Explain it. Otherwise folks will just see the inertia of business as usual.

    • Phineas Worthington

      CA is an irrigated desert. Were it not for the great achievements of mankind in producing water, none of this would even be here. We will learn to manage the resources through trial and error so long as government and law don’t act as obstacles to that end.

  • puff n tuff

    they should tap into the eel river and help you guys out for a while…now what ya gonna do??

    • puff n tuff

      hopefully the demand for raisins increases huh

  • Phineas Worthington

    Time for more recycled waste water and desalination.

    • Phineas Worthington

      Who on earth is opposed to new water resources? You types are just nuts.