New state data highlights paltry water conservation in city of Sonoma
The city of Sonoma lagged substantially behind other Sonoma County cities in water conservation efforts this summer, with savings of only 3.8% in July compared to the same month last year.
Sonoma residents also used nearly twice as much water as those who lived in other large Sonoma County cities — 165 gallons per capita per day, according to new data from the State Water Resources Control Board.
By contrast, residents of most other communities used between 70 and 91 gallons per person daily.
It’s unclear why such a disparity existed, given widespread attention to what’s expected to be the drought of record in the region, where so little rain has fallen in the past two years that it’s equal to about a single normal year in total.
“I know we’re doing everything we can,” said Sonoma Mayor Madolyn Agrimonti, whose own garden and landscaping have gone dry and whose sinks and shower now hold pails to collect water. “I’ve been out there giving out buckets.”
The new numbers are the first in what is expected to be a series of monthly reports on year-over-year consumption and reflect only a snapshot of July’s usage. Future reports will contain cumulative totals for each community and will indicate whether they are making progress or backsliding.
Many towns had already cut their water consumption dramatically by July, including Healdsburg, where residents used less than half of what they did a year earlier. They brought usage down to about 71 gallons per person per day, nearly 54% less than what they consumed in July 2020.
Cloverdale reduced its usage in July by 36.5% compared to a year earlier.
Both communities had already begun to take drastic conservation measures even before the state curtailed access to water from the upper Russian River — the main source of water for both communities — in late July.
Windsor and Petaluma both exceeded 20% water savings over the last year, while Santa Rosa and the Valley of the Moon Water District both did better than 18%.
The data is based on monthly reports required of urban water suppliers with more than 3,000 connections or those that supply more than 3,000 acre feet of water annually to consumers. (An acre foot is equal to 325,851 gallons, or enough water to flood most of a football field 1 foot deep. It’s about enough water to supply almost 3 1/2 water-efficient California households for a year, according to the Water Education Foundation.) The cities of Cotati and Sebastopol are not required to file the monthly reports.
Overall, the new data reflects a dismal statewide effort, dragged down by the staggeringly low conservation pace of the highly populous Southern California Coast hydrologic region, which is home to more than 55% of the state’s residents.
People there used just 0.1% less water in July than they did a year earlier, according to the state data.
That may be, in part, because Gov. Gavin Newsom didn’t issue his executive order asking the entire state to cut back on its water use by 15% until July 8.
By then, the U.S. Drought Monitor already had classified more than 85% of California in “extreme” or “exceptional” drought status, however, and word of alarmingly dry conditions should not have been new.
It’s true, however, that residents of Sonoma and Mendocino counties had been formally alerted to especially challenging conditions related to the Russian River watershed, when Newsom on April 21 stood in the partially dry bed of Lake Mendocino and declared a regional state of emergency.
By July, the North Coast region, which extends north to Oregon, was using 16.7% less water than a year earlier, though obviously there were significant differences between communities within the region.
The state water board says some factors to consider include: population density (highly urbanized areas tend to use water at a lower rate); socioeconomics and lot size; water prices; temperature; and evaporation.
Sonoma’s Water Conservation Coordinator Mike Brett said Wednesday he had no comment on the data.
You can reach Staff Writer Mary Callahan at 707-521-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @MaryCallahanB.