Sonoma continues to lag in water conservation efforts
The rolling, grassy hills of Sonoma Valley turned their iconic color of California blonde months ago as the parched landscape and its residents wait for the first significant rainfall, which may be months away amid the state’s mega drought.
But a year after being named one of the worst performing cities in Sonoma County in terms of water conservation, according to California state water resource control board data, the city of Sonoma is starting to catch up, although more drops are needed to meet local conservation goals.
In November 2021, the Press Democrat reported the city of Sonoma had only reduced its water use by 3.8% from its levels in 2020 — a far cry from the 20% reduction called for by state and local water board officials. A year later however, city residents have put more effort into turning off the tap.
“City water customers’ water conservation efforts from July 2021 through June 2022 have resulted in a 15.3% overall reduction in water use,” the city water department shared. “Our goal is to reach a 20% overall reduction.”
It may have helped that the city provided 21 water waste enforcements over the past year, according to city water conservation coordinator Mike Brett, targeting scofflaws of the city’s water usage rules. The city met its goals in February (20.1%), the only month to hit the target in 2022. But with much smaller reductions in January (6.2%), March (4.5%) and May (9.1%), there is still work to be done to see a 20% reduction citywide this year.
Things are fairing better over in the Valley of the Moon Water District to the north of the city, which is meeting conservation goals. Water usage “is down 30% both for the month of May and year-to-date,” the district reported at its August board meeting. VOMWD General Manager Matt Fullner credited residents with meeting the challenge.
“Valley of the Moon Water District has been under stage-two drought restrictions since July of 2021 … which stipulates a 20% reduction in diversions from the Russian River over 2020 figures,” Fullner said. “Our (VOMWD) customers are doing a great job and are on track to meet and exceed the conservation targets once again this year.”
The city of Sonoma sits in the middle of the pack in water conservation among Sonoma County cities. The best of which, Healdsburg, has shrunk its per capita water use 36% from 2020 levels. On the opposite side of the spectrum, Rohnert Park is currently failing to meet current drought standards with a 2% reduction from its 2020 water use levels.
The water cutbacks by Sonoma County cities help to preserve stored water in the region’s two major reservoirs, Lake Sonoma and Lake Mendocino, during the dry season.