The Sonoma County Board of Supervisors has ended the local drought emergency it declared two years ago, but officials are encouraging residents to continue conserving water.
The board’s unanimous vote came Tuesday and accompanied a series of measures to continue the county’s water conservation and drought preparation efforts.
As California continues to grapple with recurrent droughts and the impacts of climate change, Sonoma County is implementing innovative water conservation strategies to ensure water security and promote sustainability. By investing in wastewater recycling and rainwater harvesting initiatives, the county aims to build resilience and safeguard water resources for its residents and industries.
If you wanted to measure California’s change of water fortunes, the boat ramp at Lake Sonoma would be one place to do it.
The lake is the scene of an incredible four-month turnaround, for the very water system where the drought officially started.
“As you recall, three years ago, the governor literally was up at Lake Mendocino,” recalled Grant Davis with Sonoma Water. “Declaring the start of the drought basically, basically April 2021.”
Their timing wasn’t great.
After moving to Sonoma County from Santa Monica in 2020, Kim and David Lockhart purchased River’s Edge Kayak & Canoe in Healdsburg. Heavy rains across the region the year before had caused widespread flooding, especially along the lower Russian River.
Water supplies are dipping and the outlook for the coming rainy season is iffy at best. That’s the main takeaways from Thursday’s online drought town hall held by Sonoma County.
In a move that activists hope could shift how water regulators statewide manage dwindling groundwater basins, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors this week banned the drilling of all new wells for six months countywide while they draft a set of longer-lasting rules on using groundwater.
As the current drought stretches into its third year, demands to desalinate ocean water rise, especially in such places as Sonoma County and its more than 55 miles of coastline. But putting a desalination plant on the Sonoma County coast seems unlikely, especially after the California Coastal Commission in May rejected construction of a desalination plant in Huntington Beach that had been studied for more than 15 years, said entrepreneur John Webley.
Hailed as a complex and historic step, Sonoma County supervisors on Tuesday unanimously endorsed plans to guide use and governance of groundwater relied on by rural residents, farmers and cities.
The plans, required by a 2014 state law crafted amid California’s past drought, will eventually include well water use fees in three basins underlying the Santa Rosa Plain and Sonoma and Petaluma valleys.
The Santa Rosa City Council approved mandatory water-use restrictions for its residents and businesses starting Thursday, becoming the sixth city in Sonoma County to cut back on water.
The motion to approve the water-shortage contingency plan — which mandates residents and businesses reduce water use by 20% — passed with five ayes from Council Members Eddie Alvarez, John Sawyer, Tom Schwedhelm, Mayor Chris Rogers and Vice Mayor Natalie Rogers. Council Members Victoria Fleming and Jack Tibbetts were absent.